A forum to highlight the need for a soil health policy for Ghana has been held in Accra.
When developed, the policy will outline soil health diagnostics and management tools for improved agricultural advisory services.
Additionally, it will also lead to an increase in agricultural productivity through sustainable farming practices for improved soil fertility.
The renewed calls for the policy followed the implementation of the Research for Development and Innovation Agriculture and Learning (ReDIAL) project which identified that soil fertility of arable fields in most agricultural areas have low and moderate fertility levels, hence the need for immediate interventions to address the challenge.
Funded by the European Union (EU), the project was being implemented by Tropenbos Ghana in collaboration with Friends of the Nation, an environmental advocacy organisation and the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
The project aims to contribute to transformation and innovation in agriculture and food systems in Ghana through action research, application of innovative technologies and organisation of farmers and multi-stakeholder platforms as well as generate discussions on alternative soil nutrient improvement to inform policymakers and stakeholders about best practices for sustainable soil nutrient enrichment.
Speaking at the event, Professor Kyere Boateng, lecturer at the Department of Renewable Resources, KNUST, explained that, the continuous use of arable lands for farming without a corresponding measure to improve soil fertility as well as poor soil fertility in the tropical zones of the country negatively impact on food production.
He said, the situation had compelled some farmers to try the use of chemical fertilisers, organic fertilisers, crop rotation and mixed cropping to improve soil fertility.
However, the application of the various methods have been met with various challenges which had impeded the efforts of the farmers.
“Chemical fertilisers is expensive for farmers and comes with soil and environmental effect. Organic fertilisers are not easily available. Mixed cropping is not properly guided. Mulching also comes with high labour cost and scarcity.
These factors have worked against the efforts of the farmers to replenish the nutrients that have been lost in farm soil,” Prof. Boateng stated.
He said there was the need for soil nutrient amelioration through fertiliser application and adoption of good agricultural practices that would improve and sustain the soil fertility.
The project, he noted, also involved the development of soil fertility maps which will be used as baseline reference by stakeholders for making major soil fertility management decisions for the country.
In dealing with fertility losses, he noted that, organic fertiliser had been found to have better prospects of adoption and positive impact on soils and the environment.
Dr Edward Yeboah, Director of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Kumasi, said, the centre acknowledges the importance of soil health policy to agricultural development in the country saying that it was in discussions with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture on the introduction of the policy.