Dar es Salaam, September 7, 2023
In a groundbreaking discussion held in Dar es Salaam, agricultural experts and stakeholders have urged the Tanzanian government to intensify the use of limestone in agriculture. This recommendation, made at a sideline event of the ongoing AGRF forum, is aimed at combating soil acidity issues that have been affecting agricultural production, particularly among smallholder farmers.
The Potential of Limestone in Enhancing Soil Health
The country’s ample limestone reserves are seen as a vital resource in addressing soil acidity in key agricultural regions. Soil acidity is known to decrease the availability of crucial plant nutrients like phosphorus and molybdenum while increasing the levels of potentially toxic elements such as aluminum and manganese. This imbalance often leads to essential nutrients being leached away from the plant’s rooting zone.
Collaborative Efforts for Effective Application
Mr. Oystein Botillen, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Yara International, highlighted the importance of government and development partners collaborating to facilitate limestone application among small farmers. He stressed that this initiative should not add extra costs to farmers but rather be a supportive measure to enhance their agricultural productivity.
Government’s Role in Soil Health Management
Mr. Gerald Mweli, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, mentioned the government’s ongoing efforts in partnership with various stakeholders. This includes a soil scaling program led by the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), which focuses on determining soil nutrient levels.
The Importance of Soil Nutrients for Farming
Soil scientist Mr. David Guerena from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) emphasized the significance of nutrient-rich soil in ensuring high agricultural yield. He pointed out that besides nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), other nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are also crucial for plant growth.
Educating Farmers on Soil Acidity Management
Mr. Guerena also stressed the need for disseminating research findings on soil acidity to farmers, educating them on effective methods to reduce acidity levels. He noted that while the application of limestone is common among large-scale farmers in Tanzania, its use among smallholder farmers remains minimal.