Somali Agricultural Technical Group (SATG) – Phosphorus as the Most Important Factor Limiting Crop Production

A study by SATG members has confirmed the role of soil phosphorus deficiency in limiting crop yields. Phosphorus was found to be the single most important factor determining crop yields in the Bay Region of Somalia. Experimental results obtained from sorghum and mungbean trials showed that crop growth and yield significantly increased between 100% and 400% when Triple Super-Phosphate (TSP) was properly applied. Similar results were obtained when animal manure was incorporated into the soil during land preparation. Phosphorus fertilizers were shown to promote early seedling vigour and crop maturity of both sorghum and mungbeans.

The subsistence nature of farming in the Dryland Agriculture of the Bay region is based upon the exploitation of soil nutrients using a sorghum monocropping system. The effect of this type of farming on soil degradation and nutrient depletion is widely reflected in the poor yields of both sorghum (the main crop) and other crops grown in the region. The availability of phosphorus to plants is determined by the soils’ ability to supply nutrients and by plants’ ability to utilize the supplied nutrients. Phosphorus deficiency impairs the normal crop growth and yield through complex biochemical and physiological mechanisms.

The application of phosphorus can therefore be expected to increase crop production and thereby alleviate the acute shortages of staple grain which currently affect Somalia. The study found that the ideal method of phosphorus placement was simple and cost-effective for farmers: placement of phosphorus directly into the hole with seed, using simple and affordable technologies such as Coca Cola bottle caps, was found to be more efficient than broadcasting the fertilizer. However, phosphorus management practices need to be continuously improved and evaluated. Given the importance of phosphorus for crop yields in Somalia, there is an urgent need for more research on its application and effect.

This piece is taken from the website of the Somali Agricultural Technical Group (SATG).

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