Soil nutrients critically low in Bangladesh

Soil nutrients critically low in N dists Deficiencies hinder growth of plants, crops, scientists tell workshop, suggest massive motivation campaign Rafique Sarker, Rangpur Essential soil nutrients like calcium, magnesium and sulfur have dropped to an alarming level in northern districts, reducing fertility and crop yield. At places these are now below the 'critical level', mainly due to farmers' ignorance about fertiliser use and crop management.

Use of inorganic fertiliser and repetition of same crops for years have led to the situation. These were revealed by scientists and agriculturists at a workshop, organized by PETRRA (Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance), held at the RDRS's auditorium in Rangpur on Friday. Scientists and officials from Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BARRI), Grameen Krishi Foundation (GKF) and RDRS (Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service) took part in the workshop, attended also by representatives of NGOs and farmers' bodies.

They gave startling results of soil tests done in Pirganj in Thakurgoan district, Sader upzila in Kurigram district and in some other places. Acute deficiency of calcium in soil in Kurigram Sader and Pirganj is "hindering growth of any kind of plant". Calcium in soil in the region is bellow 2 ppm whereas 4.5 ppm is the minimum requirement for growth of plants.

Magnesium deficiency is also acute in the soil of the region, reducing crop yield, specially rice, wheat, potato and maize. The minimum requirement of the ingredient is above 3 ppm whereas it is bellow 2 ppm in the region. Soil acidity, which is harmful for crops, is also increasing due to lower rate of magnesium.

Though deficiency of sulfur, aluminum and manganese is not as alarming as calcium and magnesium, the situation may deteriorate soon, the scientists said. Soil tests in other areas in the four northern districts gave results close to those, they said. The workshop suggested launching of a massive campaign right now to make farmers aware of the situation, use organic fertiliser and change cropping pattern.

(Daily Star, July 4, 2004)

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