COMBATING TROPICAL SOIL DEGRADATION: THE ROLE OF NITROGEN FERTILIZER AS A CLIMATE-SMART STRATEGY TOWARDS MAIZE (ZEA MAYS L.) PRODUCTIVE CULTIVATION
Challenges facing humanity over the years include food insecurity, loss of soil and water resources and associated ecosystem disturbance. The rate of hungry people in developing world keeps on increasing and causing death and malnutrition. Food shortages, food insecurity or undernourishment has assumed a global dimension especially as climate change hits the globe with its negative impacts, with more severe cases recorded in the poor-resource African countries. Soil is the natural capital which drives the agricultural sector, being a strong-hole for crop/animal farming, apart-from being a medium for production of raw materials which powers industrial and domestic production. The inherent quality of soil is impaired by various factors including climate variability like excessive rainfall, which ends-up leaching nutrients downstream, thereby resulting in contamination of water bodies with fertilizer/agro-chemical residues. Like most tropical humid soils, the inherent quality of Nigerian soils is generally low, causing rapid degradation of applied nutrients and total crop failure in extreme cases. This has most often been exacerbated by most prevalent land use/agricultural systems, coupled with the problem of over-grazing and indiscriminate deforestation, alongside rapid population expansion with consequent urbanization and industrialization. For effective soil management, especially in the face of climate change, the need for Climate-Smart Strategy (CSS) towards agricultural production becomes imperative, inother to find a Sustainable Approach (SA) to man’s drive towards food production for effective survival. For efficient maize (Zea mays L.) production, application of mineral fertilizer becomes an important aspect for human/animal food production. Field experimentation was conducted at the Teaching and Research Farm of the Cross River University of Technology (Latitude 6° 06ꞌ N and Longitude 8° 18ꞌ E), to evaluate the potential of Nitrogen fertilizer as a Climate-Smart Approach (CSA) for sustainable maize production in the humid tropics. Maize seed variety: Ikom Local White were treated to one level of Nitrogen fertilizer at 0.078 kg ha-1. The treatment was laid out in a Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD). The treatment were replicated four time to give a total of sixteen (16) field plots. Data collection on plant growth parameters (number of leaves and height of maize) were subjected to Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), while significant means among treatments were separated using Least Significant Difference (LSD) at 5% probability level. Result obtained showed that plots treated with 0.078 kg ha-1 of Nitrogen fertilizer (N-Fertilizer) significantly (p˂0.05) increase growth parameter of maize over the control. Outcome of the study concluded that 0.078 kg ha-1 of N-Fertilizer applied to Maize planted at 1m spacing between plants on bed increase crop growth, and acts as a CSA to remedy the rapid degradation of humid tropical soil productivity, and for environmental sustainability.
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