Scientists urged to stop soil salinisation

The Acting Director, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Soil Research Institute, Kumasi, Dr Edward Yeboah, has called on scientists to take steps and stop soil salinisation to boost soil fertility in Ghana.

He explained that soil salinisation is the overuse of fertilisers, accumulation of salts due to poor drainage, movement of salt by capillary action from underground waters and the accumulation of salt from the atmosphere.

Dr Yeboah made the appeal at this year’s World Soil Day (WSD) Seminar and the Annual General Meeting of the Soil Science Society of Ghana (SSSG), zoomed online last Thursday, on the theme: “halt soil salinisation, boost soil  productivity”.

WSD was unanimously endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Conference in June 2013, and was officially adopted at the 68th UN General Assembly, which is held in December every year.

It hoped to raise awareness on the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil salinisation, increasing soil awareness and encouraging societies to improve soil health.

Dr Yeboah said, “There is an urgent need to stress that desertification, land degradation and drought are challenges of global dimension, posing serious challenges to the sustainable development of countries, especially developing countries.

“Healthy soils constitute the foundation for agricultural development, essential ecosystem functions and food security and hence are key to sustaining life on Earth. The sustainability of soils is key to addressing the pressures of a growing population.”

Saline soils, Dr Yeboah said, contained excessive amounts of soluble salts, making it difficult for plants to absorb water from the soil, thereby limiting plant growth.  

Examples of common salts in saline soils include, chlorides, sulphates, carbonates, bicarbonate and Nitrates. These salts affected plants growth, reduced the availability of water by lowering the osmotic potential (physiological drought), he explained.

Dr Yeboah said sodic soils which were alkaline contributed to causing the dispersal of soil organic matter, thereby further weakening the soil structure.

Soil salinisation and sodification, Dr Yeboah identified, were major soil degradation processes, threatening ecosystems and were the most important and oldest problems at a global  level for agricultural production, food security and sustainability in arid and semi-arid regions because of insufficient annual rainfall to flush accumulated salts from the crop root zone. 

“As already stated, salt affecting soils are a serious challenge to millions of people and their livelihoods around the globe. In Ghana, soils affected by salts are mostly observed in the coastal areas such as, Ada, Anloga, Afife and in some irrigated sites,” Dr Yeboah said.

He suggested that advocacy and support for promoting sustainable management of soils could contribute to “healthy soils, stable and sustainable use of ecosystems and food-security in the world.”


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