An expert in Soil Physics, Professor Kolawole Salako, has disclosed that Conservation Agriculture remained the solution to sustainable crop production and food security in the nation. Professor Salako stated this while delivering the 48th Inaugural Lecture of the University titled, “For Soil to Oil the Nation: Advancing the Frontiers of Conservation Agriculture in Nigeria”.
He defined soil as a “collection of natural bodies occupying parts of the Earth’s surface that is capable of supporting plant growth and that has properties resulting from the integrated effects of climate and living organisms acting upon parent material, conditioned by topography, over periods of time”, noting that soil was not the same thing as dirt, but could be compared with crude oil because they are both natural resources. He added that soil functioned as a medium of plant growth, regulator of water supplies, recyclers of raw materials, habitat for soil organism, an engineering medium and an interface for various components of the environment. The Don said although soil conservation had traditionally been considered as Applied Soil Physics with focus on soil erosion, tillage and irrigation studies, it had now been expanded to cover “environmental issues such as soil pollution, remediation, carbon sequestration and climate change coming to the fore as parts of the responsibilities of the Soil Conservationist or Soil Physicists”. The Inaugural Lecturer, who is of the Department of Soil Science and Land Management, College of Plant Science and Crop Production (COLPLANT), recalled that Agriculture was the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before and after independence up to the period of the oil boom (1971-1983), where agriculture was practiced at the subsistence level with the resultant effects of reduction in food export, while the importation of crops like rice increased. He lamented that ‘oil boom became oil gloom’ as more money was accrued from oil, while the lives of many Nigerians became miserable.
The Professor of Soil Physics and Soil Conservation, who said his contribution to knowledge was in the area of the Concatenation of Catenae, observed that the problem of unemployment in Nigeria and in other parts of the world could be solved by engaging in commercial, large scale agriculture and agro-allied industries with a virile investment in natural resource conservation to guaranty food security. According to him, cover cropping, alley cropping, fallowing for about six years and the judicious use of organic manure with inorganic fertilizers were options that could sustain crop production if soil erosion or degradation was prevented from land clearing. He called for the use of soil conservation planning in Nigeria on the platform of the Isoerodent Maps, which he developed. This, he added had removed the major obstacle involved in the use of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), while irrigation agriculture should be practiced in Nigeria, because of the advantage to conserve from the savannas to the humid forest when compared with what was obtainable in other countries.
He also called for proper soil management that should be decided before embarking on any land clearing or conversion of land process, proper soil survey and land evaluation which should be handled by experts of all sub-disciplines that had contributed to the work. Professor Salako maintained that there was the need for Universities and research institutes to invest in field and laboratory equipment, as well as computer software regularly, for meaningful researches to take place as there should be adequate funds with specific mandate attached while requesting for more seriousness in the collation of research results and their applications in solving societal problems. The Inaugural Lecturer, who is also the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development of the University, commended the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for providing funds for researchers, adding that “the reasons why the funds are not being accessed may be extra-ordinary and should be investigated before the Nigerian researcher is crucified. This is not ignoring the truth that there is a need for the re-orientation of some researchers to be more productive when funds are available and adequate”.
He also recommended that funds be provided for the establishment of first-class central laboratories in the various Universities with well-trained technologists to handle (specialised) equipment. He said, “without being pessimistic, we cannot really get to the promised land in science and technology, if basic needs like electricity and clean, potable water cannot be taken for granted”, stressing the need for the existing government institutions to be strengthened to provide efficient and effective services for the growth of the agricultural, science and educational sectors. Professor Salako concluded by appealing to all to make the institutions work, noting that for soil to oil the nation again, farmers or agriculturists in Nigeria should adopt and practice Conservation Agriculture for sustainable crop production and food security.