Soil Test – Assisting farmers make an informed decision

Soil is the natural medium for plant growth and development. Assessing soil types and their quality are the essential part for the agriculture productivity. Somalia has different soil types ranging from sandy, silt and clay. The clay soils are known to have more nutrients and organic matter that are suitable for agriculture production. The image on the right shows soil collected from different regions in Somalia.

Fertile soil ensures plant survival

Fertile soil provides the life-supporting nutrients that the plant requires.

Soil from: Beletweyne, Jowhar, Baidoa, Bal’ad and Afogoye (Somalia)

The most important plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).

The most important plant nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Nitrogen makes the plant greener thus enabling the plant to produce more through the process of photosynthesis. Phosphorus helps the plant establish rigorous root system, which is essential to absorb sufficient moisture required for plant growth. Potassium increases crop yield and improves quality. Potassium is also required for numerous plant growth processes.
The continued cultivation of the land and use of poor agriculture practices results in poor soil that does not support healthy plant establishment. It is important to improve the soil structure and soil nutrition content through the use of good agriculturale practices such as conservation agriculture, crop rotation, and direct application of soil nutrients using either organic or inorganic fertilizers. Soil analysis will help determine the availability of nutrients and predicts the fertilizer amendment that each crop needs.
In 2016, SATG introduced a soil kit, that provides the farmers with a quick and tailored soil and crop management recommendations, including organic and inorganic inputs and soil conservation practices. The soil fertility parameter includes soil pH, biologically active soil organic matter, electrical conductivity (indicative of general fertility as well as salinity issues), and extractable macronutrients: nitrate-N, sulfate-S, phosphate-P, and potassium-K.
SATG team has reached out to villages in nine different regions of Somalia: Lower and Middle Shabelle, Bay, Hiran, Mudug, Galgadadud, Nugal, Sool and Sanag. Soils in these regions were sampled following standard soil sampling protocols, analyzed and proper recommendations were provided to the farmers. The soils analysis revealed that Somali Soils are high in pH and low in nitrogen and phosphorus. The deficiency of both elements restricts production of most crops like maize, sorghum, and vegetables.
Soil samples were taken from different regions in Somalia.
There is also poor organic matter resulting from the poor farming practices. The soil analysis also reveals that Somali soils are rich in potassium and sulfur. Soil salinity is a major issue in most irrigated agriculture areas and this is due to excessive use of water with poor draining systems.  Appropriate soil testing allows farmers make an informed decision on their soil intervention strategies. This will help farmers increase their production and reduce their fertilizer costs.

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