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Soil health in peril, 2/3 farmlands lack organic compounds

WT24 Desk

Thanks to chemical overdoses and over-exploitation of lands for year-round farming, over two-third of the country’s agricultural lands lack essential organic elements, UNB reports.

According to a just published finding of the government’s Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI) report, almost 62 percent of the country’s arable lands are critical state having organic matters as low as below 1.74 percent. And over 21 percent of lands possess organic elements in between 1.74 to 3.5 percent whereas; ideally there should be five percent of organic matters in soil.

According to SRDI, fertile lands contain up to 45 per cent minerals, 25 per cent each of water and air, and the remaining five per cent organic elements.

But 61.6% of the 87.52 lakh hectares of farm lands in the country is currently witnessing a lack of organic substance due to the effects of excessive applications of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, not giving the land enough time to rest and factors relating to global warming and climatic changes.

Land mass used for farming (%)   Percentage of organic substances found (%)

44.5                                                                        <1


17.1                                                                  1-1.74


21.3                                                                  1.74-3.5


17.1                                                                  >3.5


Immediate-past SRDI Director Md Delwar Hossain Mollah, who oversaw the report -Bangladesh’s Soil and Organic Agriculture – noted that over-exploitation of soil for augmenting per unit crop production causing the soil to lose its fertility in the long run.

He told UNB, it’s understandable that in pursuit of feeding growing population farmers must grow three to four crops from same land a year but, at the same time they must be mindful about proper soil management.

He added that as the soil’s fertility is reliant on temperature, global warming has bearings on the soil in the form of losing capacity of natural nutrition intake. But as food production must not be stopped, farmers are inclined to apply excessive chemicals in the forms of fertilisers and pesticides.

Researchers noted that previousely farmers used to apply two to three types of chemical input but now many farmers event use 8 to 9 types of fertilizers, pesticides in the drive of higher productivity and crop protection.

Sources at the agriculture ministry said that the need to meet the rising food demands is fueling the farmers use more chemicals and overmining soil’s natural nutrients.

The SRDI report also found out that many farmers tend to grow same crop over and over again on same land thereby letting their farmlands losing essential organic elements fast. Prof. Dr Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain, who teaches soil science at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, suggested for crop-rotation – for instance growing rice followed by lentils, mustards etc. – which help soil remains rich in organic contents.

“We only know how to take from the soil, but not to give back, let alone giving it rest,” he repented.

SRDI statistics show – 37 lakh hectares of the country’s land lack phosphorus, 27.2 lakh hectares lack potassium, and three lakh hectares lack calcium, magnesium etc.

Additional Director (Cash Crops) at the Department of Agricultural Extension and agriculturist Dr Md Zahangir Alom acknowledged the dip in organic substance in the soil. He told UNB that the government needs to carry out the recommendations given in the research reports without taking further time in contemplating the next initiatives.

Noted agricultural scientist Prof Zahurul Karim told UNB that “if we keep relying on chemical fertilizers, then the condition of the soil will deteriorate quickly.” He advised taking good care of the soil and using fertilizers with restrain to keep the health of the soil in check.

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