SUKKUR: Excessive use of fertilisers and water has rendered nearly 15 per cent of agricultural land in Upper Sindh and 25 per cent in Lower Sindh unusable for farming activities. The practice of crop monoculture, in which the same crop is grown at the same spot year after year, has also been cited as reasons for the barren condition of farmlands in the province.
Saeed Ahmed Mohammadi, who works as the assistant chemist at the District Soil and Water Testing Laboratory in Rohri, told The Express Tribune that agricultural lands in the country were facing two types of problems, salinity and alkalinity. The former involves salts becoming easily soluble in water. Excessive use of fertilisers mean that a higher proportion of chemicals in them would be absorbed in the saline soil, which could prevent seeds from germinating properly. Alkalinity, meanwhile, is a measure of the capacity of water to neutralise acids.
Alkaline soils have the potential to absorb additional sodium, and hardening the soil as a result.
Mohammadi said that farmers should do their research about type of fertiliser to use, coupled with their proper dosage and time of application. Farmers should also take care to cycle their high yielding crops every season, and avoid sowing the same crop every year. The change in sowing pattern would help return necessary salts and nutrients back to the soil.
Mohammadi also lamented that growers had almost stopped using manure these days, which he termed a “natural way” to boost the soil. Farmyard manure, in its organic form, contains 16 nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, iron, zinc, sulphur, magnesium, and others.
He appreciated that some experienced growers were using gypsum to reduce the soil’s alkalinity, and encouraged others to adopt the practice as well.
Mohammadi said that excessive use of water had decreased nitrogen content from one percent to 0.03 per cent. Low nitrogen levels affect the production of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that absorbs sunlight and uses it to synthesise carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water.
Low phosphorous counts, meanwhile, hamper root development and fruit formation.
The government has established the Agriculture Research Institute in Jamshoro, and water and soil testing laboratories in Rohri, Khairpur, Naushahro Feroze, Sakrand, Sanghar, Tando Jam, Mirpur Khas, Karachi, Shikarpur, Naudero and Dokri, to provide technical assistance to the farmers. The labs advise farmers about the type of fertilisers to use, after analysing the soil on their lands. Meanwhile, Sindh Hari Committee Comrade president Mandhal Shar claimed that farms in Ghotki were damaged by the flow of effluent water from Punjab, which was full of industrial waste. “More than 70,000 acres of land has been affected by the water, while more than 15,000 acres of land had become barren due to the rising of the water level.” He added that groundwater in the area was also contaminated and had unfit for human consumption.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Sukkur Agriculture Director Sukkur Riaz Ahmed Dayo confirmed that excessive use of water and fertilizer were damaging agricultural lands, and also encouraged farmers to keep switching crops every season.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.
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