FARMERS seeking to know the pH status of their soils ahead of the 2022/23 cropping season can benefit from the free testing being conducted by Africa University at the on-going Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, with results expected within an hour.
This was said by Africa University soil science lecturer, Mr Jorum Tapfuma, yesterday, as he was busy conducting soil tests for farmers.
“If farmers are to take farming as a business, then the first thing they have to do is to ascertain the bill of health of their soil,” said Mr Tapfuma.
Soil needs to be tested for its acidity and alkalinity in order to determine the right dosage of fertiliser to apply for improved yields.
“There are 13 elements in the soil that plants require in different quantities if nutrient uptake and quality of produce is to be improved. Soil elements can be major, secondary or micro (trace),” continued Mr Tapfuma.
Plants require water, carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients for their growth. It is folly for farmers to just apply lime to their soil without testing as this can worsen rather than correct the situation, expanded Mr Tapfuma.
He stressed the need for correctly taking the samples, as soil tests can only be accurate if the samples are taken properly from the soil in question.
“Unless samples are as representative as possible of the soil being tested, fertiliser recommendations based on their analysis will not be accurate and may be misleading,” pointed out Mr Tapfuma.
Mr Tapfuma explained in greater depth how farmers can take representative soil samples for the entire field properly.
Each crop enterprise has its recommended pH level to effectively use nutrients in the soil.
Soil pH indicates the soil’s quality and ability to avail macro and micro nutrients to the crop in addition to other soil structural properties.
A one kilogramme of soil sample is taken for testing. Though pH testing is currently free for the duration of the show, farmers can get a full soil analysis for the equivalent of US$30 at the interbank rate or at the discounted cash price of US$25. It takes about two weeks to get a full soil analysis report with farmers choosing three crop enterprises for which they can get fertiliser recommendations.
At other times soil pH and texture costs US$10. Most plants require a pH in the range of 5, 3 to 7.
The main objective of soil sampling and testing is to enhance economic use of fertilisers and soil management practices, culminating in increased agriculture productivity and overall production.
This dovetails with President Mnangagwa’s push for the country to boost productivity if the country’s Vision 2030 of a prosperous and empowered upper middle-income society is to be achieved.
A farmer who had brought his soil for testing, Mr Benard Mise from Beatrice thanked Africa University for the free-soil testing and the short time taken to get his pH results back.
“I am happy that I now have my soil results and I know the lime to apply, as soon as I get home. I will buy the required bags of lime to apply within the remaining three-month period for it to work before the onset of the rain season,” said Mr Mise.
Mrs Beauty Chisvo also expressed her joy after submitting her soil for pH tests as she was awaiting the results saying the free-soil testing move was most welcome.
“I am still waiting for the pH results, which are being done for free but I intend to do a thorough full soil analysis to improve my crop production in the future.”