Land degradation continues to contribute to the declining soil fertility especially in the smallholder farms. Thus, soil fertility depletion in the smallholder farms will continue to be the biophysical root cause for reduced food production if farmers do not implement best agricultural practices. It is expected that when farmers understand the current soil fertility status on their farms, they would make informed decisions considering appropriate soil fertility restoration and other conservation technologies. Soil fertility status of selected sites was determined in Northern, Central and Southern regions of Malawi. The overall objective of the study was to document current soil fertility status in smallholder farmers’ fields. And that specifically, this study was meant to provide a basis for the promotion of soil fertility restoration interventions in Malawi. A total of 33 participating farmers’ fields were selected for soil sampling and from each site soil samples were collected at two depths, 0 to 20 cm and 20 to 50 cm, using an auger. Soil chemical and physical analysis was carried out on all the sampled soils. Statistical analysis on the data was done using Genstat 14.1. The statistical analysis revealed that soils in all the selected sites are slightly acidic with most of the sites having pH <5.5. Another important finding is the low %OM (<2%) in most of the sites especially in Dedza and Mzimba. Soil organic matter (SOM) is important for healthy plant growing as it maintains favourable conditions supporting soil moisture retention, temperature, nutrient, pH, and aeration. The low %OM contributes to the low and moderate levels of N (<0.2%) in most of the sites. Sustainable soil management practices are therefore required to rebuild the soil fertility resource base.
Key words: Soil fertility, soil organic matter, acidic soils, nitrogen-fixing trees.
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