The government of Limpopo has urged farmers to take better care of the province’s soil. The department of agriculture and rural development made the call during a recent soil survey and fertility management workshop in Polokwane.
The department said that climate change is having a negative impact on soil management in the province as low rainfall has made it extremely difficult for farmers to produce fresh crops.
According to soil scientist Adolph Malatji soil management was crucial to livelihoods, therefore it was important for both the general community and farmers to take care of this critical component of agriculture.
“Soil is very critical to livelihoods because it delivers water and nutrients to crops, physically supports plants, helps control pests, determines where rainfall goes after it hits the earth and protects the quality of drinking water,” he said.
Malatji added that the province’s soil was rich but needed to be maintained and cared for so that it can continue producing great produce in the future.
“The awareness we are trying to raise is the importance of managing the soil not only as a natural system and vital contributor to the livelihoods through its contribution to food, water and biodiversity, but for spatial planning and as part of natural resource management,” he said.
When it comes to land degradation, Limpopo is thought to be one of the most degraded in South Africa, particularly in communal areas. This is according to a study by Robert J. Scholes on land degradation in the province.
Much of the degraded area (56%) is land primarily used for grazing by domestic animals. It is further estimated that 16% of the province is infested with alien invasive plants, which have necessitated restoration projects.
“Poor land management, combined with drought conditions, especially in arid and semi-arid ecosystems, poses a threat to the long-term productivity of the land, especially where communally managed lands are further degraded as a result of bush encroachment and the invasion of alien species,” the report states.
Fertility an issue
Ingrid Ntatamala, a junior lecturer in the agricultural faculty at the University of Venda, said that crop farmers in the province needed to invest more time and resources in making sure their soil was more fertile.
“We had instances in the past where soil tests were done by our students and [we] found that it was not fertile enough to grow certain plants.
“For instance, Limpopo is known as a province with good mangoes, but it is not everywhere where we find good mango produce. So, there are pockets of areas where soil is really good and other areas where it is just not good and nothing comes out well,” she said.
Ndivhuho Nengwenani, a serrano chilli pepper farmer in the Vhembe district, said the soil in his area was well-maintained and producing good produce.
“From the years of farming here, I have not really experienced any challenges. The soil has been friendly to me. It produces good products.”Serrano chilli farmer Ndivhuho Nengwenani
Meanwhile, the manager at Tompi Seleka agricultural college, Robert Mahlala, said there were many factors affecting soil fertility in the province. Soil contamination, erosion and soil sealing were major factors, among others, that were affecting soil fertility.
Mahlala echoed Ntatamala’s comments that not all areas have good soil fertility, which impacts negatively on local farmers.
“Yes, this leads to one area of the province producing good certain produce while others cannot produce that. So, you find that consumers have to drive long distances to get mangoes in Venda [for instance] because in Modimolle there are none.”
Mahlala urged farmers to interact with them as they have technological devices to assess soil fertility. This will help farmers to plant the right produce in the right place based on their soil assessment.
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