Farmers' view on soil organic matter depletion and its management in Bangladesh
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Bangladesh is an agricultural country. About 80% of the total population lives in rural areas. The contribution of agriculture to the gross domestic product is 30%. Rice is the major food crop while jute, sugarcane and tea are the main cash crops. Other important crops are wheat, tobacco, pulses, vegetables and fruits. Overall productivity in Bangladesh is stagnating or declining. The implication of yield stagnation or declining productivity is severe, since these trends have occurred despite rapid growth in the use of chemical fertilizers. Depletion of soil organic matter is the main cause of low productivity, which is considered one of the most serious threats to the sustainability of agriculture in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, most soils have less than 17 g/kg and some soils have less than 10 g/kg organic matter. Farmers realize that there is a problem with soil fertility related to organic matter depletion. Farmers say that organic matter increases yield, reduces the production cost, improves crop growth and the economy, increases water-holding capacity and improves the soil structure. They recognize soil with higher organic matter content by darker brownish to black in colour. Some farmers are using fast-growing trees such as Flemingia macrophyla, Ipilipil (Leucaen leucophala), Glyricidia sepium, Boga Medula (Tephrosia candida), Dhol Kolmi (Ipomoea fistulosa), etc., as living fences, which can be used as fuel, fertilizer and fodder. To increase the soil organic matter, farmers use green manure crops, compost, quick compost, cow dung, azolla, etc. However, fuel for cooking purposes is limited and cow dung and crop residues are largely used as fuel. Crop residues are also used as fodder for livestock. Farmers expressed the wish to learn more about organic fertilizer management. However, sufficient food should be produced to keep pace with population growth. To alleviate the hunger and poverty is to increase the intensity of agricultural production and maintain favorable ecological conditions. Therefore, more organic matter should be used in the farmers' fields to sustain the soil fertility in an intensive farming system.