Use of fertiliser is on the rise and it is affecting the organic constitution of the soil across Bangladesh
Farmer Moslem Uddin of Sherpur district is least bothered about the consequences of applying excessive chemical fertilisers on his croplands. For Moslem and other farmers of his locality, only good harvest matters.
But the latest study by soil scientists brings an alarming news for the farmers.
"Percentage of acidic substances in soil is increasing and the trend will affect soil fertility," officials of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council revealed.
In Nokla upazila, where Moslem Uddin lives, acidic area constituted more than 60 per cent of the total land in 2014, which was only 6 per cent in 1986.
Like most of the farmers in his village, Moslem Uddin is also unaware of soil condition in his land. He doesn't think about testing the soil, niether do his peers have any inkling of how soil can turn ineffectual by becoming too acidic.
"As there is no soil test laboratory center in rural area, we faces various difficulties to recommend farmers about fertiliser use," admits Golam Rabbani, sub-assistant agriculture officer, works in a remote union of Dinajpur district.
Without having the means to test the soil quality, farmers are using chemical fertilisers consecutively with the hope of increased production from their lands.
And Nokla is not the only locale where disproportionate chemical fertiliser usage on land continues to degrade the soil quality. All over the country arable land faces nutrient imbalance drastically affecting the soil-plant system.
Between 1998 and 2010, the 'very strongly acidic' and 'strongly acidic' land area has increased by 13 per cent in Bangladesh.
According to the 'Fertiliser Recommendation Guide 2018', soil acidity is experiencing an increasing trend and this may constraint crop production in more than 30 per cent of land in this country.
Continuous use of urea application is a major cause of increasing soil acidity, the recommendation guide says.
Dr M Jahiruddin, professor of Soil Science Department of Bangladesh Agriculture University, told The Business Standard that the farmers apply fertilisers to their land without testing the soil and this is the key point regarding soil degradation. He suggested that before using fertiliser soil test should be made.
Serajul Islam a farmer of Nawabganj, Dinajpur said "we use fertilisers following our own experience. Sometimes we get good amount of crops and sometimes we don't." This is the common expression of the farmer community in his village.
"We recommend that the farmers use the fertiliser to a certain measure, but very few of them pay their attention what we have to say," said Md Yeamin Haque, sub-assistant agriculture officer, who works at a rural area of Hatibandha upazila, Lalmonirhat.
Farmers purchase fertiliser completely on the basis of assumption. In most cases, they discuss with the dealers who hardly know about the soil quality. Thus the practice of adding fertilisers to the land without knowing its need continues in the country.
Not only Yeamin, two of his colleagues working in other rural areas in Dinajpur have shared their experience to The Business Standard, which were more or less the same.
Experts say if this trend of fertiliser use continues the productivity of our soil will be seriously affected.
Dr Md Mohsin Ali, CSO and Head at Soil Science Division of Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture said, "Soil acidity has an adverse effect on soil fertility and crop production."
Due to this non-management of soil, the country now faces different kinds of problems.
For soil to be healthy, it should have at least 2.5 per cent organic matter. But 'Fertiliser Recommendation Guide 2005' says in Bangladesh most of the soils have less than 1.5 per cent. Soil in some areas even has less than 1per cent organic matter.
Updated in 2018, the guide shows no improvement of it. It says as time advances, organic matter content in soil declines.
There are also other deficiencis of soil nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, zinc, boron etcetera in different areas in our country.
There are only 16 permanent and 10 travelling soil test laboratories in different districts under Soil Resource Development Institute (SRDI) in our country. Which are not enough according to Dr Md Altaf Hossain, principle scientific officer at survey section of SRDI.
By preserving soil nutrients along with the organic matters in our lands, we can enhance its productivity. Keeping soil acidity at a neutral level is also important. There is no alternative to using fertiliser maintaining right ratio, which can only done by testing the soil quality, says Altaf Hossain.
Professor Jahiruddin puts emphasis on creating awareness among farmers about the proper use of fertiliser. Moreover, he believes, soil test service should be on the doorsteps of the farmers at cheaper rate.