Africa Cover

Enhancing soil Phosphorus Availability

Pro Mohamed Badawi,GM of EBFF
Prof Mohamed Badawi,GM of EBFF

Report: Mohammed Abu,ADM,Accra.

Professor Mohamed Aly Badawi of the Soil Science , Soils, Water and Environment Research  Institute,who also doubles as the General Manager of the Emirates Bio Fertilizer Factory( EBFF), Al-Ain, UAE, has noted that ,with increasing demand of agricultural production and as the peak in global production will occur in the next decades, phosphorus (P) is receiving more attention as a nonrenewable resource.

One unique characteristic of Phosphrus(P) Prof Badawi intimated, is its low availability due to slow diffusion and high fixation in soils. All of this means that P can be a major limiting factor for plant growth

Soil P exists in various chemical forms including inorganic P (Pi) and organic P (Po) albet,it,the two  forms differ in their behavior and fate in soils

Prof Badawi disclosed this in his paper titled,”Role of Phosphorus Solubilizing Microorganisms in the Growth of Date Palm Trees and Soil Fertility” during the 5th West Africa Organic Conference and Exhibition which  ended at the campus of Ghana’s  premier university, Legon, Accra, over the  weekend..

The importance of phosphorus to crops

Phosphorus (P),Prof Mohammed said, takes its rightful place alongside Nitrogen and Potassium among the three primary macro-nutrients essential to successful plant growth.

“Without Phosphorus, photosynthesis could not occur. Phosphorus plays a key role in complex energy transformations that are necessary to all life, as a main ingredient in ATP (adenosine triphosphate). It is also a central component of DNA and RNA – and is necessary for building proteins and other compounds.

“That is just the beginning. Phosphorus is required by the plant from the seedling stage through to maturity – and has a measurable impact on crop quality and yield.

Phosphorus and Plant well-being

Ten ways phosphorus aids in plant growth and plant health he said, includes,enabling photosynthesis (energy transformation),building  nucleic acids, proteins and enzyme

facilitating  root growth,strengthening of  stems and stalks,improving  flower formation and seed production,promoting  crop uniformity,contribututing  to earlier maturity,increasing  disease resistance,improving  overall crop quality and facilitating  nitrogen fixation abilities of legumes.

Phosphorus Facts

Total  Phosphorus content in surface soils,Professor Badawi  disclosed, is very low: only 0.6% on average (compared to 0.14% for Nitrogen and 0.83% for Potassium).Only 10% to 30% of a crop’s Phosphorus requirements come from fertilizers. The remainder comes from the native soil.

Scientific Study in UAE

Prof Badawi said a three months  study was conducted in the year 2016 at al-ain UAE,to establish the effect of biofertilizers on solubization of phosphorus in sandy soils.

“Al-Nawaya organic fertilizer used for the study contained 2.5 %, P2O5 of phosphorus which was derived from rock phosphate and 55% organic matter. All biofertilizers were produced at Emirates Bio Fertilizer factory at AL-Ain UAE.

“Materials were mixed thoroughly around the tree in the 15 cm depth and irrigated immediately. Plant leaves were taken at zero time and after 90 days for the evaluation of nutrients uptake mainly nitrogen and phosphorus in plant leaves and fronds.

“Soil content of organic matter was 0.34, pH value was 8.7 total phosphorus was 0.33% and calcium carbonate was 18.6 %. 25 identical date palm trees of three years old were selected and divided into five groups each treatment of five replicates.

“Soil samples were taken at the intervals of 7- 30- 60 and 90 days to study the effect of treatments on soil microbial activity, organic acids generated, pH values in the soil and at the end of experiment the level of phosphorus and nitrogen uptake has been reported and compared with the initial values in the tree leaves and fronds.

“All biological analysis followed the standered methods after APHA, 1998. Chemical analysis followed Chapman and Pratt, 1961”.

Study Conclusion

 “Since most of alkaline soil with high pH values and high content of lime (Calcium carbonate, phosphorus elements are less available for uptake by plants because it is combined with calcium cations and become unavailable to plants.

“Therefore, a great amounts of phosphorus could be released to plants using bio-fertilizers which is low cost and environment friendly product and will contribute to protect the environment and reduce the application of chemical fertilizers. In the same time we can use rock phosphate instead of synthetic forms.

“Bio-fertilizers being essential components of organic farming play vital role in maintaining long term soil fertility and sustainability by fixing atmospheric di-nitrogen (N=N), mobilizing fixed macro and micro nutrients or convert insoluble P in the soil into forms available to plants, thereby increases their efficiency and availability”.

The Ghanaian Respective

 On the Ghanaian perspective,Prof Badawi qouting existing results of local scientific study by Bationo in 2015, noted that most of Ghana’s soils are developed on thoroughly weathered parent materials,are old and have been leached over a long period of time .

“Their organic matter content is generally low, and are of low inherent fertility. The two most deficient nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorus “

The study covered soils in the country’s six agro ecological zones namely,High Rain forest,Forest Transition,Semi Deciduous Forest,Coastal Savannah,Guinea Savannah and Sudan Savannah.

The Emirates Bio Fertilizer Factory(EBFF) is the largest organic and bio-fertilizer products  manufacturer in the Arab Gulf,Middle East region with over 500 MT daily  production capacity. .

The EBBF’s numerous products range enjoys great patronage in this region and beyond because of  their efficacy and environmental friendliness, has been  time tested and proven over the years.

To ensure that the EBFF walks its talk as an organic and bio-fertilizer manufacturer,the company owns and operates a subsidiary,the Emirates Bio Farm(EBF).

It is the UAE’s largest 100 hectares(250 acres) organic farm and first of its kind where over 50 vegetable varieties as well as maize is produced using the company’s  ISO and ECO certified  organic and bio-fertilizers it has been producing for the past 25 years..