By Ebele Orakpo

Soil scientists have called for proper soil and crop nutrition management in addressing issues of environmental quality and land degradation if the progress already achieved in combating food insecurity must be sustained; noting that “achieving food security (availability, accessibility and affordability) in the 21st Century can only be realised through proper soil and crop nutrition management backed by effective and implementable government policies.

This was contained in a communiqué released at the end of the 37th conference of the Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN) held in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital from March 11 to 15.

Tagged Solid State 2013, the theme of the conference which attracted over 400 soil scientists, farmers, policymakers, environmentalists and students from across the country and beyond, was Soil Science, Environmental Management and Food Security.

In an address delivered at the opening ceremony, Hon. Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Bukar Tijani, urged the scientists not just to present papers but to present papers that will stand international scrutiny and add value to the lives of the people, noting that the outcome of researches should be transferable and transmittable. He called for synergy between researchers and farmers.

At the end of the conference which saw participants presenting about 250 papers in the areas of soil survey, classification, evaluation and land use management, soil fertility and fertilizer technology, soil chemistry and microbiology, amongst others, a communiqué signed by the National President of the society, Prof. Victor Chude and the Secretary, Prof. J. Adediran, SSSN resolved as follows;

“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should, as a matter of urgency, resuscitate the National Soil Survey Programme with the view to providing quality data for proper planning and utilisation of the nation’s soil resources.  SSSN has the expertise and is willing to partner with government in this regard.

“There is the urgent need for the National Assembly to expedite action on the Nigerian Soil Science Institute bill (currently before the Assembly) that will holistically address the soil resources and crop nutrition management problems as well as the environmental challenges of the country.

“Government should consider urgently the critical need to upgrade the soil research laboratories in research institutes, colleges of agriculture and universities with state-of-the art equipment to facilitate capacity-building and enhance soil, crop nutrient and environmental quality assessment and monitoring.

“As a step towards ensuring food security and environmental integrity, and also in line with the current global trends in Information Technology, government is requested to expedite action on the actualisation of the National Soil Survey Programme, a crucial database for the Nigerian Soil Information Service (NSIS) which in turn is a component part of the African Soil Information Service (AfSIS). This re-emphasizes the need for SSSN to be fully involved in the execution of the National Soil Survey Programme.”

In a keynote address entitled: Soil degradation, food security and climate change, Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo of the Department of Geography, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, underscored the importance of soil to human existence.  “Do you know that there are more living individual organisms in a tablespoon of soil than there are people on the earth; almost all of the antibiotics we take to help us fight infections were obtained from soil microorganisms; agriculture is the only essential industry on earth; over 90% of the world’s food comes from soil; soil is a nonrenewable natural resource; putting clay on your face in the form of a mud mask is done to cleanse the pores in the skin?” he asked.

Other speakers were Prof. Rattan Lal, Ohio State University, USA; Prof. Ivara Esu, University of Calabar; Prof. David N. Sasseville of AgriGuardian, USA and the Director, Agricultural Land Resources, Mr. M. M. Mshelia, represented by Mr. Olatunji O. Ojuola.

The society commended the Federal Government for the bold step in the transformation agenda to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria particularly in the area of food and nutrition security through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda.

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