The knowledge of soils is the essence of agriculture and the key to achieving food and nutrition security across the globe.
Soils are strongly connected to the human existence and well being and as such some persons have described soils as the genesis of human civilization and this is because soils have social, economic and environmental benefits in improving livelihoods through agricultural activities, serving as a source of income and major contributor to national economies through agricultural activities as it serves as a medium for plant growth and storage of nutrients and protection of biodiversities as well as contributing meaningfully to climate change adaption and mitigation.
The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) in a report on the status of world soil resources reports that majority of the soils across the globe are either in only fair, poor or very poor conditions leading to soil degradation as a result of soil erosion, soil salinization, soil sealing, soil compaction, soil biodiversity loss, soil acidification, soil contamination, soil organic carbon loss and nutrient inbalance. They further state that there are evidences that show that the world is fast approaching its limit of total fixation of Nitrogen and Phophorus use implying that to stop soil degradation, one major effort will be to stabilize and reduce Nitrogen and Phophorus fertilizer use.
In view of the fact that soils have been taken for granted over the years and considering that soil’s are one of the world’s most fragile resources especially in the face of climate change and increasing demands for more sustainable food production, soil fertility management as a sustainable soil management practice is imperative to the achievement of food and nutrition security all around the world, this is because the quality and quantity of food produced is hinged on the status and health of soils and that’s why the Sustainable Development Goals identify the need to restore degraded soils and improve soil health greatly. Nigerian soils are not left out of this degradation status as Chude and Odunze (2015) stated that Nigerian soils are higly leached, resulting in moderate to high acidity, medium to low cation exchange as well as low to very low organic carbon content leached as a result of soil erosion.
Precision nutrient management, a soil fertility and sustainable soil management practice ensures the supply of nutrients to balance up cases of insufficiency and unavailability in the right quantity and quality and at the right time too. Soil testing ensures efficient precision nutrient management; it is a practice that involves the analysis of soils to ascertain the nutrients therein, to guide for proper fertilizer recommendations and use. Soil testing also ensures that the additional application of fertilizer improves crop performance in terms of quality and quantity significantly, without excessive waste or adverse environmental effect.
The adverse effects that arise from neglecting soil testing include excessive application of nutrients to soil, pollution of water bodies, destruction of soil biodiversity and shortage of plant nutrients which could lead to poor crop performance. This reduces the income of farmers and affects their livelihoods as well as amplifies food-price volatility resulting from food shortages. Soil testing facilities should be made readily available to farmers of all categories especially for small-holder farmers who make up the bulk of farming population but may not be able to afford to pay for this service in regions where it is not free
- Esther Ogbole is a graduate of Agricultural Economics. She is a prolific writer who enjoys research and has great passion for sustainable growth and development in Africa. Her writings focus on changing perceptions and motivating all hands to be on deck in the re-definition of the Nigerian agricultural sector.