To combat soil degradation and decline in agricultural productivity in the country, soil scientists have focused their researches on a chemical free farming, says an agronomist.
According Dr Oluyemisi Fawole, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agronomy, University of Ilorin, said in Abuja on Wednesday, that soil scientists were researching on alternative inputs that farmers could use to boost their yields in place of chemical fertilizers.
She said that researchers were working hard to develop inputs that would enrich the soil and not pose a threat to human health, unlike the chemicals which were hazardous to both the soil and human health.
“We are looking at the possibility of using some of the organic materials to amend our soils instead of just putting chemicals’’
She expressed regret that Nigeria had imbibed the culture of chemical usage on the soils, thereby, not only polluting it, but also destroying its structure and quality.
Fawole, however, noted that although chemicals were used to improve farm yield and enhance crop production, the consequence of its usage far outweighed its benefits.
“The major problem we have is faulty soil management practice.
“In an attempt to have good yields, we apply fertilizer indiscriminately. With this, we are destroying the structure of our soil and that is what is responsible for the low yield we are experiencing.
“What we have now is not what we had about 30 years ago.
“ Over the years, we have a case of land degradation and the quality of our soil has deteriorated because we have introduced some things that were not there before.
“With the Green Revolution, we started the use of chemical inputs which actually improved the crop yields but later, we discovered that all these chemicals we are putting into our soils are actually polluting our soils.
“So, we have soils that have been denatured, degraded and no longer as productive as they used to be.’’
According to her, soil scientists are working hard to address this issue so that the country can revive its soils and produce chemical free foods.
The agronomist said that genetic modification could help the country reduce chemical usage on farmlands. Genetically modified seeds, she said, might require little or no fertilizer before they would yield well.
Fawole urged the government to pass the Biosafety Bill into law as soon as possible so that genetically modified foods could be scrutinized before releasing them into the market.
“It is necessary that the Biosafety Bill is accented to very soon because whether we like it or not, these genetically modified foods are in our markets; they have found their way into our markets.
“Even though we have fears about these foods, the truth of the matter is we need this kind of technology to tackle the problem of food insecurity.
“For this to be effective, we need in place biosafety laws in Nigeria because the advantages of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) far outweigh the disadvantages.
“A GMO is an organism whose genetic material has in turn been altered using genetic engineering techniques.
“I have not seen any person whose particular illness has been associated with genetically modified food.
“ We cannot run away from genetically modified foods because the population is growing and we need to increase food production and this is one of the ways we can get that done.
Highlighting the need for Nigeria to embrace agricultural biotechnology, Fawole said: ‘There is no way we can move forward in the country, especially in the agricultural sector without embracing biotechnology.’’