Exploring the possibilities of improved soil health and management

Exploring the possibilities of improved soil health and management

Agriculture in Israel is being practiced under unique and extreme conditions, including long, hot summers, many cycles of drought years, and shortage of good quality water that leads to extensive use of marginal water. All that while having to provide food security to an unprecedentedly growing population – from 9,000,000 nowadays and expectedly 18,000,000 by the year 2050.

Israeli agriculture therefore needs to be modern and intensive, with nearly half the cultivated area demanding irrigation. In turn, the pressure on Israel’s soil resources increases continuously – hence leading to greater soil sensitivity to water and wind erosion, depletion of soil organic matter and an increase in the risks to soil salinisation.

Recent years have seen an increased awareness in Israel, by both farmers and policymakers, of the importance of employing Conservation  Agriculture (CA) practices to prevent further degradation of the country’s soil resources, and thus to secure local fresh food production and export. Common CA measures employed in Israeli-cultivated fields include minimum- or no-tillage to minimise soil disturbance; periodical addition of manure to enhance fertilisation and carbon stock; and use of service crops to maintain soil cover.

Through intensive Research and Development (R&D), several Israeli institutions have developed some of the world’s most innovative types of fertiliser and soil inoculants for all kinds of soil types and plants that increase yields and protects the soil.  For the past 10 years, Deshen Hetzafon has developed a variety of smart fertiliser compounds – solid, soluble, granular or liquid fertilisers, bio-stimulants and micronutrients – all manufactured with adjustment to the way the minerals are absorbed by the plant from the root system or foliage.  There is also Groundwork BioAg, which leverages on the natural power of mycorrhizal fungi to improve the productivity, sustainability and profitability of commercial agriculture and expand regenerative agriculture practices.

We can also talk of Or Recycling Park, one of the most advanced recycling parks in Israel and a worldwide leader in organic waste treatment and production of innovative organic products. Compost Or produces compost premium which contains a high percentage of organic matter, low moisture content and aids rapid release of the nutrients into the soil.

Compost Premium reduces soil salinity and enriches soil biota, increases soil-water infiltration and significantly increase soil aggregation beneficial and necessary for crops’ quality. Israel’s ICL Group, on the other hand, leverages its unique bromine, potash and phosphate resources to produce Polyhalite – an effective crop fertiliser. It contains readily-available Sulphur plus potassium, magnesium and calcium, which ensures increased crop yields and improved crop quality.

With these few examples coupled with several others, there is no doubt that through R&D, innovation and technology, the state of Israel has developed a niche in the experiment, production, management and treatment of soil health materials for improved and mechanised agriculture.

Agriculture is the bloodline for millions of people in Ghana. The agricultural input sector has a critical impact on the agricultural productivity of a nation, as it influences farmers’ access to and use of productivity-enhancing inputs. It is one of the important ingredients of the agricultural value chain, and must be given the needed attention and support to ensure its accessibility, availability and affordability. The quality and potency of the improved seeds and fertilisers linking to soil fertility, climate smart agric and resilience is critical to growth of the agricultural sector in Ghana.

Again, government initiatives such as the Planting for Food and Jobs are supporting Ghanaian farmers to adopt newer ways of farming including improved seeds, access to fertilisers and Irrigation schemes. Thus, soil health is becoming a limiting factor and affecting the productivity and yield of farmers. The current global phenomenon of increased fertiliser prices also poses a challenge to the Ghanaian farmer and emphasises the point of re-thinking the soil management protocols. Furthermore, proper soil management and farming routines also play an important role in climate change considerations.

It is on the back of this that the Israeli Trade and Economic Mission to Ghana has joined the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Africa Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to hold a stakeholder forum on Ghana’s soil health and management. This is to share learnings and highlight best practices to generate rapid responses to help develop better soil health practices in support of development and efficiency in Ghana’s agricultural sector.

Through this forum, the Israeli Trade and Economic Mission desires to partner with the government of Ghana and other relevant stakeholders to promote the use of innovative fertilisers, soil inoculants, best soil practices, and influence policy formulation in agriculture production by sharing the Israeli expertise and technological know-how.

Given the global rise in fertiliser prices, it is an opportune time to work together with various stakeholders, researchers and leading experts to explore ways in increasing long-term efficiency and effectivity of soil inputs in Ghana, in order to raise yields and profits for Ghanaian farmers.

The writer is the Head of Trade and Economic Mission, Embassy of Israel, Accra.


Leave a Reply