By AbdulAzeez Faisal Ishaq
Crops need nutrients just like people do. A well fertile soil should contain all the major nutrients for basic plant nutrition (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), as well as other nutrients needed in smaller quantities (e.g., calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, zinc, copper, boron, molybdenum, nickel). The term soil fertility is the intrinsic ability or capability of the soil to provide plant nutrients and water in adequate amount and when required, for good growth and development of the crops (Agboola, 1986).
Soil that is rich in these nutrients is fertile. Soil provides the support or foundation for plants and most of the nutrients and to have a successful crop production the fertility of the soil should be optimum. Fertility of the soil determines the productivity of the crop, a fertile soil will produce more crops unlike an infertile soil like the ones found in Nigeria. According to FAO (2001), Nigeria is one of the countries with high declining soil fertility. The country was estimated to be losing an average of 24 kg nutrients/ha per year (10kg N; 4kg P2O5, 10kg K2O) in 1990 and 48 kg nutrients/ha per year in 2000, that is, a loss equivalent to 100kg fertilizers/ha per year.
As a result of the low fertility of most soils found in Nigeria, the crop production is low and this increases the rate of importation of agricultural goods. According to the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi ‘Nigeria spends a total of $2 billion annually to import agricultural products into the country’
’ “Poor soil fertility is the fundamental cause for low agricultural production in hunger-endemic areas,” notes Alfred Hartemink of World Soil Information (ISRIC) in Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Apart from the low production of crop, the quality of the crops produced is generally perceived to be low standard, because the crops while growing did not receive enough nutrients that will enhance their quality and most of the crops are prone to attack by pest and diseases. Just as in the case of humans, nutrients are needed to boost the defense system against foreign organisms like virus, it is also similar to the plants, when the plants are not getting enough nutrients, they can be easily attacked by pest and disease leading to possible total crop failure or poor quality of fruit/seeds.
Causes of soil infertility
(Bush burning on the left and deforestation on the right) photo credit: Eduresource
How to improve soil fertility in Nigeria
The secret behind most fertile lands is a good soil management practice, Soil management is the application of operations, practices and treatments to protect soil and enhance its performance such as soil fertility or soil mechanics (Wikipedia). The advantages of soil management are numerous, they include maintaining of soil fertility, reducing of soil erosion, helps in increasing yield, restoring of soil fertility e.t.c. With good soil management practice the fertility of most of our soils can be restored and will help to increase the quality of crops produced. Soil management practice includes
Crop rotation, bush fallowing, minimum tillage, mulching, afforestation e.t.c.
Ahmad G. Hussain
Received: 26th July, 2017; Accepted: 31st July, 2017
Most farmers in the country (especially cereal farmers) will be familiar with the ugly sight of the worm in their farms especially during the wet season. Earlier this year, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture had raised alarm of the impending attack of the pest on crops – especially maize which is the primary host of the pest and cultivated in almost all parts of the country.
Picture. Armyworm, larva of a lepidopteran moth.
Armyworm is the larvae of moth belonging to the order lepidoptera, family noctuidae and genus Spodoptera with species all having a very wide host range. The common one in Africa being S. exempta also known as African Armyworm. The first report of the S. frugiperda, the Fall Armyworm which is native to America was reported by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 2016 to have entered the country through Ibadan, southwestern part of the country as being the first of its occurrence on the West African soil. It didn’t take the deleterious caterpillar much time before it spread across the country. It’s high fecundity and ability to produce large number of eggs enhanced it’s survival. The adult typically lay about 1000 eggs in her lifetime with six larval instars but cycles do overlap which makes them very devastating as you can have up to 3 generations in a season.
Picture B. Typical Damage Caused by Armyworm on Maize
In June 2017, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture through the Deputy Director of horticulture, Dr. Mike Kanu in his presentation, “The African Army Worm infestation and proposed control strategies in Nigeria” said that the ministry had projected a total of N2.98 billion for the intervention on 700,000 hectares across the states of the country. Details on how this is going to be carried out was not disclosed.
During my visit to one of the farms managed by Nexus Farm Planet, I came across the ‘little tiny devil’ (I was actually looking out for it, Lol! Don’t blame me) and there it was taking dwelling on the leaves of the young plants. The client had earlier complained about the leaves of few stands been ‘eaten up’ and looking like a mesh with of course the armyworm as the culprit. The worm is very devastating in the sense that it eats up almost anything that comes its way.
Controlling the worm can be quite tricky, if the infestation is detected at an early stage and the farm size is not very large, the farmer can resort to handpicking of the caterpillar. However, for the benefit of those with higher infestation on the farm, and covering some considerably high hectares, it is advised that you spray the pesticide Ampligo or Mixed Force late in the evening and frequently too (about 3 times) (Trade names are no necessarily endorsements by Momasfarm). Yep! That should do help. More importantly, is to quantify whether the infestation has reached an economic injury level.
For further information and advice or if you have a similar problem on your farm, you can reach this writer through the comment section!]]>