The Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) this week is conducting a one week training for Research and Extension officers on the use of Mid Infrared (MIR) spectroscopy for soil analysis.
Acting Deputy Secretary Agriculture Development, Jone Sovalawa while officially opening the training at Koronivia Research Station yesterday said soil is one of the fundamental resources that we all rely on for survival and Fiji’s soils were now under threat.
“Mid Infrared spectroscopy is a rapid soil analyzer which gives instant readings. I believe this is the way forward when it comes to decision making and it is very critical for Field Officers to receive a quick response from laboratories to be able to make prompt and sound decisions in terms of fertilizer requirements or suitable crops to be planted,” Sovalawa said.
“Fiji is blessed to have approximately 13 percent of arable land however, that too is shrinking at an average of 0.45 percent. Most of our productive lands are under threat, Taveuni is a typical example. Before Taveuni used to export 80 percent of the total volume of Fiji’s taro worth almost $22m and the reject rate is almost 40 percent now,’’ Sovalawa said.
He said the chemical properties of soil such as soil pH, available Phosphorus, Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), Nitrogen and Carbon levels are gradually declining and the main causes of land degradation are deforestation, overgrazing, poor agricultural practices such as burning and mechanization, industrialization and urbanization.
“It is our duty to intervene and ensure appropriate technologies are developed to address the soil fertility issues in Fiji. Technologies that are practical, affordable and resilient to mitigate climate change and improve soil health and fertility,’’ said Mr. Sovalawa.
Sovalawa acknowledged ACIAR for being collaborative research partners over the years as they’ve helped to enhance agricultural development and built capacity.
“ACIAR through Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and the Ministry of Agriculture Fiji has embarked on a project title “Soil Management in the Pacific Islands: investigation nutrient cycling and development of soils portal.
This project site will be in Taveuni and will be coordinated by the Ministry’s Research Division.
The one week training is part of the project and the participants will be introduced to the latest innovation in the field of soil analysis.