WORRIED about the low productivity of soil due to its acidic nature, a fertilizer company OCP Africa has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Institute of Soil Science (NISS) to improve soil fertility.
In the MoU, OCP will provide the financial support needed project, while NISS will provide the needed technical support for the project.
Speaking at the event, Country Manager of OCP Africa, Caleb Usoh said the average productivity per hectare on farmlands in Nigeria is very low, which is as a result of the soil condition.
Usoh who was represented by the Production and Technical Manager of OCP Africa, Oluwatoba Asana said due to poor productivity, there is food insecurity and poverty within the farming population.
“We know that average productivity per hectare of farmlands in Nigeria is very low and has been attributed mostly to soil conditions. This invariably is one of the reasons for food insecurity and poverty within the farming population”, he said.
Usoh explained that “problematic soils come in one or two of acidic or alkaline or saline Soils. They are soils in which plant root system does not grow normally due to toxic hydrogen ions, permeability of plant membranes is adversely affected due to low soil pH; enzyme actions may be altered since they are sensitive to pH fluctuations.
“They are soils in which Aluminum (AI), Manganese (Mn) and Iron (Fe) are available in toxic quantities. In problematic soils, phosphorous gets immobilised and its availability is reduced and most of the activities of beneficial organisms like Azotobacter and nodule forming bacteria of legumes are adversely affected as acidity increases”.
He said management of the problematic soils should be directed towards enhanced crop productivity either through addition of soil amendments to correct the -anomalies-or by manipulating the agronomic practices depending upon the climatic and edaphic conditions.
“However, this calls for a multidisciplinary approach (agronomy, breeding, nutrition and pedology) as it is required to breed specialized root system types which match the most urgent constraints of the different locations (most of all P deficiency, N deficiency, and aluminum toxicity). There is therefore a dire need to maintain good soil health for increased and sustained agricultural production.
“Soil health, which is often referred to as ‘soil quality, is the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. This definition speaks to the importance of this project.
“Managing soils so they are sustainable for future generations is our collective responsibility and there is no better time to rise to the challenge than now”, he added.
The Registrar of NISS, Professor Victor Chude said the aim of the project is to address problem soils in the country and make them productive.
“We are targeting acidic soils, saline soils, alkaline soil, there are other problematic soils like soils with very thick latrite soil, crops find it difficult to penetrate.
But the major problem soils which is the acidic soil, cover about 75 per cent of the country, then the alkaline soils, the don’t support soils.
The implication is farmers facing these limitations suffer from making good yields”, he said.
In his speech, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe said the proposed project is focusing on the correction of problematic soils for disseminating technologies.
He said there is undisputable evidence that Nigeria has a large areas of land with soils that are no longer productive or have very low productivity.
“We have the dry land soils in the extreme northern part of the country and the wet land and acid lands in the South.
“This initiative will certainly address these problems and restore the productive capacity of the soils in this category. We are all aware that the areas of land available for farming in this country is not increasing because of the heavy pressure on land for many non-agricultural purposes as a result of our rapidly growing population.
“We therefore have to explore ways and means of reclaiming our previously productive arable land and take necessary steps to prevent abandonment of farm lands as a result of low productivity.
“We need to ease the pains and drudgery experience by our farmers who are compelled to cultivate this problematic soils.