‘Prioritise soil health for sustainable and profitable agriculture’ Mr Emmanuel Chikwari

Fildah Gwati

THE impact of soil health cannot be overstated through reduced tillage, maintaining permanent crop cover and implementing proper crop rotation in the push to achieve profitable and sustainable agriculture, an expert has said.

Head of Chemistry and Soil Research Institute (CSRI) Mr Emmanuel Chikwari said recently said it was imperative to prioritise soil health in farming operations to ensure the land remained productive for future generations. He said this could be enhanced through practices such as reduced tillage, maintaining soil cover and crop rotation.

“Soil health encompasses numerous other factors crucial for maintaining a healthy soil, which include the retention and supply of soil nutrients and water, the promotion of beneficial soil organisms and the provision of a conducive physical environment for crop root growth,” observed Mr Chikwari.

He added that any conditions impeding favourable crop growth rendered the soil unhealthy, as he highlighted the multifaceted nature of soil health.

“Poor soil health directly correlates with reduced crop productivity and neglecting soil quality can lead to continuous deterioration of soil structure thereby compromising sustainable crop production. It is therefore crucial to preserve the chemical, physical and biological attributes of the soil. This includes ensuring that soil nutrients are sufficient to support crop growth and yields,” said Mr Chikwari.

He also explained that organic matter played a vital role in improving the soil’s capacity to regulate its health by enhancing its buffering capacity against shocks that may accelerate soil health deterioration. Organic matter supplies nutrients to the soil and improves nutrient and water retention, contributing to overall soil health improvement.

Mr Chikwari explained that conservation agriculture (CA) was one practice, which had been widely adopted for sustainable agricultural production and has emerged as a farming system that places soil health at the forefront.

“Conservation agriculture principles of reduced soil disturbance, permanent soil cover and crop rotation with nitrogen-fixing legumes has proven effective in improving soil quality, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, and reducing soil erosion. These practices not only contribute to sustainable agricultural production but also hold promise for climate change adaptation and mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting soil carbon build up,” he said.

The Government’s adoption of the Pfumvudza/Intwasa system in 2020 represents the domestication of CA practices aimed at addressing these challenges and enhancing household food self-sufficiency. By implementing CA practices, Zimbabwe and other regions globally have demonstrated the potential to build resilient agricultural systems to combat the effects of climate change.

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