Contract farmers with acidic soils will be compelled to apply lime in the next summer cropping season to derive maximum benefits from the expensive fertilisers they apply.

The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement is set to roll out a policy of mandatory application of agricultural lime to correct the soil pH since many Zimbabwean soils are acidic.

Soil pH is a measure of the quality of the soil and its ability to avail nutrients to the crop. When pH is very low, less than 5,0, nutrient uptake will be less than 45 percent, meaning 55 percent of the nutrients will not be used by the crop and this results in losses.

A farmer will have to apply lime to boost the nutrients uptake from the soil.

The soils conditioning programme will involve the countrywide promotion and use of lime to sweeten acidic soils starting from June to July, especially for the Government and private sponsored input schemes including the Presidential Inputs Scheme and the commercial contract farming programme led by financial services firms and targeting 5 000 highly productive farmers in irrigated areas.

Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement secretary, Dr John Basera said most soils in the country had been exposed to chemicals and fertiliser use for many years and this has led to degraded soils with low pH.

“To achieve the targeted average yields across all crop production programmes, namely the commercial contract farming programme and the “climate proofed” Presidential Input Scheme, a soil conditioning (soil pH correction blitz) programme should be mandatorily undertaken.

“Dr Basera said awareness campaigns would be held to educate farmers on the importance of pH and conditioning in up-scaling yields.

He said Government would decentralise soil testing facilities to agriculture colleges, universities and research institutions throughout the country for easier access by farmers.

“Government will also avail soil pH metres to agricultural extension workers and each extension worker will be given a target and expected to take samples, monitor the liming programme on 100 households per season,” he said.

There will also be promotion of formulation of granulated or liquid lime by the private sector.

“In the medium to long term, the recovery plan proposes to look into possibilities of using satellites for soil analytics and soil pH determination,” he said.

Government has introduced the Agriculture Recovery Plan as a result of concerns on the continued decline in maize, wheat and soyabean production levels, which is a significant threat on national food security and is imposing insurmountable pressure on the fiscus as the country’s food import requirements increase.