TZ soil infertile due to lack of potassium, scientists say

Tanzania’s soil fertility is under threat due to over-cultivation and mining and the country’s food security is at risk as a result, soil scientists warned Tuesday in Dar es Salaam.

Attending a two-day first National Potash Symposium, the scientists concluded the country’s soil is at crisis level and has run out of vital of vital mineral nutrients particularly potassium.

African Fertilizer Agribusiness partnership (AFA) Country Director Dr Mbette Mshindo Msolla said there’s a burgeoning crisis in the country’s agricultural soil that requires bold action to mitigate.

He noted already the side effects of potassium deficiency are evident on plants and human beings.

“Farmers are heavily complaining of poor yields. The deficiency has not been well documented by professionals,” he said adding “short of potassium on horticulture diminishes quality of fruits, size and taste. On coffee for instance it also reduces the quality of leaves, affecting productivity and market competence.”

Prof John Msaky, Soil Scientist at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) made it clear the problem is serious in the country.

He says access to potassium fertilizers is another challenge especially for local markets. “This is because people were told potassium is available and does not need replacing.”

Msaky indicated that most of fertilizers recommended to farmers are outdated and that shortage of macro nutrients in the soil have serious consequence on the government’s attempt to transform the agriculture sector.

Experts say the country is struggling to increase agricultural productivity to feed the population of about 50 million.

The challenge to Tanzanians is to boost productivity small pieces of land using improved practices.