DAR ES SALAAM: AGRICULTURAL stakeholders have advised the government to widely utilise limestone as a means of addressing the challenge of soil acidity to up agricultural production among smallholder farmers in the country.
The stakeholders who gathered on Monday at one of side-events here to discuss about the soil health at the ongoing AGRF forum in Dar es Salaam, argued that the abundant limestone available in the country could be solution to the issue of the soil acidity in some of the food basket regions.
Acidity decreases the availability of plant nutrients, such as phosphorus and molybdenum, and increases the availability of some elements to toxic levels, particularly aluminium and manganese. Essential plant nutrients can also be leached below the rooting zone.
Mr Oystein Botillen, the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Yara International, proposed that effective application of the limestone among small farmers could be possible if the government and development partners jointly work together to support the farmers use the limestone.
“The issue here is not to add another cost to the farmers on the agricultural production, so the government and development partners may partner in this to support farmers apply the limestone,” Mr Botillen stated.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gerald Mweli, said the government currently conducts a programme in collaboration with stakeholders for soil scaling to determine nutrients. The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) leads in this programme.
Mr David Guerena, soil scientist from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), said it is important for the soil to be nutrient to assure the farmers high production.
Soil is a major source of nutrients needed by plants for growth. The three main nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Together they make up the trio known as NPK. Other important nutrients are calcium, magnesium and sulphur.
Mr Guerena argued that it was important for the research reports on acidity in particular areas be shared to farmers and educated on means of reducing the acidity.
“When you apply limestone in soil it helps to reduce the acidity. So far, there are few farmers, particularly those engaging in large scale farming in Tanzania apply the limestone, but the application among smallholder farmers is minimal,” he said.