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5 December, 2018 10:36:51 AM

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Declining soil fertility in country worries experts

ANISUR RAHMAN KHAN, Dhaka
Declining soil fertility in country worries experts

As Bangladesh sets out to observe World Soil Day today, there is a growing concern about the fertility status of the country’s soil, which is said to have reached a critical low due to organic matters, nitrogen and potassium deficiency.  Almost all upland soils across the country are low in organic matters and deficient in nitrogen, soil resources experts say.

 They told The Independent yesterday that the presence of organic matter in the country’s soil was now 1–1.5 per cent against a requirement of 5 per cent. They also expressed concern over an alarmingly low content of potassium.

They said improper use of chemical fertilisers has caused a decline in soil fertility in Bangladesh.  “There is no fertility in Bangladesh’s soil. The nation is importing huge quantities of chemical fertiliser every year. But is has been proved that there is lack of nutrition in the soil. So, we must feed the soil to improve its health,” Prof. Imamul Huq, teacher of the soil science department of Dhaka University, said.

There is abundant water, temperature and sunshine in the country to grow crops, but soil nutrients are not being adequately provided to grow four to five crops a year, he noted.

 “Proper nutrition is essential for satisfactory crop growth and production. It is needed to maintain soil fertility at a standard level. Dhonchey and pulses, which help to improve soil fertility, are not cultivated in the country. Organic matters provide soil nutrients,” he added.

 Dr Aminul Islam, chief scientific officer of the  soil resource department of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), told The Independent that at least 16 elements were known to be essential for plant growth. They are: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, water, sulphur, calcium, magnesium, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese and zinc.

“There is a huge shortage of nitrogen and potassium in the soil. Besides, a sizeable quantity of phosphorus is being build up in some areas in Bangladesh,” he said.

There is a good presence of organic mattesr and nitrogen in low-lying areas like the ‘haor’ regions, Habiganj, Netrokona, Kishoreganj, Faridpur and Gopalganj, but the same was not true for upland areas, he observed.

 “Plants can take up only 20 per cent of the phosphorus, and the remaining quantity builds up in the soil. This is harmful for crop nutrition,” the soil expert added.

 He also said huge quantities of potatoes and maize are being cultivated in Thakurgaon, Rangpur, Dinajpur and some other areas where TSP is being used. The unused TSP remaining after consumption by plants was building up in the soil, he added.

 “Potassium is necessary for every crop. But potassium in the soil has dropped to alarming levels in Bangladesh because farmers take away the straw from their fields to burn them as fuel or use them for other purposes. Straw contains at least 80-90 potassium and their removal results in a negative balance,” he added.

He said a judicious use of chemical fertilisers in combination with organic matters would help improve soil fertility. But Dr Begum Samia Sultana, chief scientific officer of the Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI), took a different view. “Soil fertility depends on various elements. And there is no need to be worried about Bangladesh’s soil fertility,” she said.

“Farmers are now very conscious about manure use. They are growing various types of crops, making the nation self-sufficient in food production,” she added.

Proper soil management was crucial, she said, adding that a balanced use of every ingredient would help improve soil health, including its fertility.

 “Now we are working on quality. If crops are cultivated on healthy soil, quality crops would be produced,” she explained.   

In several parts of the country, crop rotation has been intensified to three crops a year to meet growing food demands and earn additional cash income. But declining soil fertility is a major concern for agriculture in Bangladesh, according to experts. They say vegetable crops are very sensitive to soil fertility status.

So, nutrient management strategies should be used in vegetable farms to maximise the benefits of fertiliser application for crop yields and fruit quality while minimising nutrient loss to the environment, they suggest.  Against this backdrop, Bangladesh will observe World Soil Day today (Wednesday). The Agriculture ministry has drawn up various programmes to observe the day including rallies, seminars and workshops.

BK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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