‘Possible to improve soil nutrient balance even during planting period’ Mr Emmanuel Chikwari

Ashton Mutyavaviri

THERE is no harm in applying lime to improve soil nutrients balance even during the planting period, as this is key in boosting the production of safe and nutritious food necessary for addressing food security.

Head of Chemistry and Soil Research Institute (CSRI) Mr Emmanuel Chikwari yesterday urged farmers to improve their soils’ nutrient balance by testing their acidity and applying lime.

He said around 70 percent of the country soils were acidic with pH values ranging from 4 to 5,4.

“We need to raise the farmers’ awareness on the benefits of improving soil nutrient balance,” said Mr Chikwari.

He urged farmers who had not applied lime totally to do so even now saying there was no harm in doing so.

“Farmers should lime acidic soils to improve chances of optimising soil productivity. If we add fertiliser to balance soil nutrients, the efficiency of the soil will be reduced,” he added.

He said farmers should have already applied lime three months before the onset of the rains because it requires time for reaction.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) Secretary General Mr Paul Zakariya said assessment of the nutrient status of the soils was critical in farming.

“The soil needs to be tested for its acidity and alkalinity to determine the right dosage of fertiliser to be applied for improved yields,” said Mr Zakariya.

For farmers to score improved yields, the process has to start by fixing soil health since each crop enterprise has its recommended pH levels to influence the effective uptake of nutrients in the soil, he added.

Soil testing is pivotal in improving crop yields and securing a bumper harvest. Most soils have become very exhausted and fatigued and farmers need to conduct regular soil testing to determine ways of nourishing it.

Soil management is a critical aspect as far as improving agricultural productivity is concerned. The goal of soil management is to protect it and enhance crop performance, so that farmers can farm profitability and sustainability.

Meanwhile, in a recent X (formerly twitter) post, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) revealed that improving soil nutrient balance was an effective way to ensure safe nutritious food for all.

Agriseeds agronomist Mr Social Shava also urged farmers to practise good agricultural practices to improve soil nutrient balance.

“Good soils should have hydrogen content of less than 10 percent, 12 to 25 percent magnesium, less than one percent sodium, 65 to 80 percent calcium and four to eight percent potassium,” said Mr Shava.

He urged farmers to do soil analyses and base saturation tests to check the balance of nutrients in relation to each other.

This is the only way of giving farmers accurate results, said Mr Shava.

“Nutrient balance is affected by soil pH. At a low pH, that is acidic soil, phosphorus is not available to plants. Mono-cropping also negatively affects nutrient balance. Best agronomic practices like crop rotation, minimum soil disturbance and mulching help to maintain soil balance,” he explained.

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