New research offers insights into impact of tillage, fertilisers on crop nutrition

Stakeholders at the presentation of findings from the research

A nutritional characterisation research on some food crops in Ghana and Nigeria has recommended that both countries should promote conservation farming approaches, including reduced/no tillage and use of organic/inorganic fertilisers.

This, according to the research, will not only affect the crop nutrient densities positively but also address the issue of climate change and food insecurity.

“We think it is important for farmers to develop a form of reducing tillage practices to help reduce nutrient loss and improve nutrient density in the crops, by considering the use of organic amendments and judicious use of inorganic fertilisers.

“If you have high density nutrients in your crop, consumers will have the opportunity of getting foods that are very rich in nutrients,” the research team said.

This was disclosed when agronomist/environmental specialist Dr. Abimfoluwa Olalaye and Climate-smart agriculture expert Dr. Idowu Atoleye presented findings from the ‘Nutritional characterisation of major food crops in Ghana and Nigeria’ research to stakeholders in Kumasi, Ashanti Region.

The project was funded by the United States Department of State through the US Mission to the African Union.

The project characterised nutritional qualities of five to six major food staples across agro-ecoregions in Nigeria (rainforest, savannah, guinea savannah) and Ghana (rainforest, guinea savannah) at the sub-species level.

These include cassava, corn, cowpea, rice, green amaranth (callaloo) and okra. The objective was to correlate mineral concentration of the food crops with management/agronomic practices. Samples were collected from farmers and a full nutritional profile analysis was conducted on the collected grains.

Given the importance of these crops in the region’s food system, characterising their nutritional qualities allows for a comprehensive assessment of their mineral concentrations. By studying the crops across different agro-ecoregions and correlating them with various management and agronomic practices, the project aims to gain a deeper understanding of their nutritional content and identify potential strategies to enhance their nutritional value.

The findings from the research noted that of the farmers sampled, 58 and 85 percent for Nigeria and Ghana respectively still use full tillage while 15 and 13 percent respectively have adopted the no-till practice – while 28 and 2 percent respectively used reduced tillage.

About 50 percent of the farmers in both countries reported no fertiliser use while 25-38 percent used synthetic fertilisers, and less than 6 – 16 percent farmers used organic fertilisers.

Furthermore, management practices varied in their impact on the nutrient density of crops with manure/fertiliser usage enhancing it.  Irrespective of fertiliser application, tillage practice had the most significant effect in predicting the nutrient density of crops evaluated.

The research team further added that by comparing data obtained by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the same food crops, it was observed that the locally-sourced food evaluated during this project had higher nutritional density.

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