Africa Interviews

About chemical fertilizer “hazard”

“Inadequate Knowledge to blame”-Expert

Report: Mohammed Abu, ADM, Ghana

Contrary to much popularized view that chemical fertilizers are bad and injurious to farm lands and is a necessary evil for farmers some contend, its wrong application in terms of quantity and under wrong soil conditions , that is rather to blame and not the chemical fertilizer per say.

Lack of initial soil test for to know its characteristics, so as to determine the corresponding right type and quantity of chemical fertilizer that should be applied, is the bane of the seeming negative impact of the application of chemical fertilizers on agriculture lands.
For instance if a given farm land is already naturally rich in phosphorus, applying phosphorus based chemical fertilizer on that same land would be an unnecessary add-on and could prove counterproductive.

These were disclosed by Professor Pedro A.Sanchez, Research Professor, Institute for Sustainable Food Systems, Soil and Water Sciences Department of the University of Florida during the recent TASI Roadshow to the NSEZ.

He was responding to questions from Journalists about the bad name that have come to be associated with chemical fertilizer application in farming especially as it relates to the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone(NSEZ)

Responding to Journalists for his take on popular advocacy for the use of plant based organic manure ,as against chemical fertilizer, Professor Pedro’s expert view was that, due to the former’s low level content of macro elements (plant food) such as Nitrogen, Potassium or Phosphorus, that warrants larger quantities of it to be applied before the desired results could be obtained .

In this context, application of chemical fertilizer is therefore economically more advantageous than organic manure he contends.In the case of chemical fertilizers, he said, they are scientifically formulated on purpose with a concentration of  selected macro elements to meet plant needs.Thus, a small amount of it applied to plants  gives much impactful results which would take many times more of that quantity of organic manure to be able to achieve same results.

To this end, he contended ,it is the lack of appropriate scientific knowledge of the application of chemical fertilizers that has given it a bad name. Its right application based on sound scientific know-how and best practice he said, would make a big difference

In this light, Professor Pedro went further to recommend the use of chemical fertilizer and manure or organic fertilizer side by side in a harmonious manner  that tends to complement each other all in the interest of plant well-being .He cited foul droppings or  poultry manure as one organic source very rich in phosphorus

Paradoxical and controversial as it may sound, he reassures that, this is the scientific fact. Professor Pedro is an expert who commands decade’s long reputation in his field of expertise not only in Africa, but globally.

Professor Pedro speaking later  during the Technical Consultative workshop in Accra called for a departure from the old ways of doing farming to a more scientific knowledge and technology driven regime where farming shouldn’t only be seen as a business but more so, as a science in order to change the African narrative.

Keep reading your favourite knowledge driven ADM online( for more insightful, educative and informative news, features ,interview stories and commentaries as it relates to the new dawn of farming to be used by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to unlock the prosperity of the African Savannah beginning with Ghana under its Feed Africa Strategic plan.

About the author


Chief Correspondent,,West Africa Region,African Development magazine

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