Farmer-friendly kit to measure N, P, K, S, soil pH, organic content in soil

Sun Online Desk

22nd December, 2018 06:13:44 printer

Farmer-friendly kit to measure N, P, K, S, soil pH, organic content in soil

The soil-testing kit modified under the HEQEP subproject titled “Development and commercialisation of municipal solid compost waste and soil-testing kit by BAU-ACI collaboration” in the Bangladesh Agricultural University now can measure the level of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and sulphur (S) potassium (K), soil pH and organic content in soil within 10 minutes once the sample is collected.


ISM of the subproject Professor Dr M Mazibur Rahman while talking about the technology mentioned that a Soil Testing Kit developed in the department of Soil Science was being used since 1976. The facilities included in the kit were for analysis of soil pH, available N, P and K in the soil. But the soil-testing kit developed under the subproject was able to measure the level of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and sulphur (S) potassium (K), soil pH and organic content in soil.

The Technology Transfer Office established in the Bangladesh Agricultural University under the HEQEP subproject has already submitted an application to the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks, Bangladesh to get the patent rights of the invented technology.

ACI Limited, one of the reputed industrial organisations of the country and also the industry partner of the subproject, has started commercialising the soil-testing kits.

Soil testing can be done is two ways -- following standard laboratory methods or using soil-testing kit. Farmers in Bangladesh have little access to the laboratory soil tests which are time consuming and expensive. It requires several months for getting laboratory soil test results. Farmers are not interested to wait long time for soil test results. The limited access to lab testing of soils has resulted in farmers following broad-based fertiliser application that do not take into account the site-specific soil conditions of the fields. Broad-based fertilisation results in under or excess fertilisation of crops which reduces the profitability and sustainability of the farm and also pollutes the environment. Alternately, use of soil-testing kit has an advantage of doing soil test directly at farmer's field with a minimum cost and time. Soil-testing kit can be used for rapid, on-the-spot determination of chemical properties of soils in the field. It is simple, quick and convenient to use. It is especially helpful where soil testing lab is not available or not accessible to farmers.

Dr. M Mazibur Rahman mentioned that about 100 soil samples could be analysed using the reagents provided with soil-testing kit. Re-filling of the reagents was also available at lower price. “It is convenient because the kit can be kept in a small box which is easy to carry even to the most remote rural field locations. It is much cheaper than laboratory testing facilities; therefore it is available for the use of farmers. The test can be carried out on the spot where the problem exists and the facts and conditions related to the problem are fresh in mind”, he further said.


The field testing provides the kit user with immediate answers to nutrient problems. It cuts down the cost of time, transportation and materials that may be needed to carry soil samples to the laboratory for analysis. It provides a much better guide than blanket fertiliser recommendations that may be adopted in the absence of a functional and accessible soil testing laboratory. It can be used as a rough guide until soil testing laboratory facilities are available. It enables the literate and enlightened farmers to conduct their own on-the-spot analysis and interpretation of the test result without the assistance of an official extension agent.

Professor Mazibur also termed BAU Soil Testing Kit farmer-friendly and portable to evaluate the nutrient status of a field and hence to estimate fertiliser requirement of a crop.

He expected that the use of soil-testing kit help overcoming the imbalanced application of fertilisers although it was not 100 per cent accurate.

The research team led by Professor Dr. M Mazibur Rahman is also working on to produce quality compost based on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) mixed with cow dung, mustard oil cake and press mud (by product of sugar industry), the mass being mixed in and treated with Trichoderma for rapid composting. This MSW based Trichocompost has undergone a series of field of field trials with cereal and vegetable crops in different agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh. The results of the field trials are very promising and encouraging in comparison with sole chemical fertilisers or chemical fertilisers plus commonly used manures or composts. The fertiliser value of this compost is much higher since it contains 3.0 - 3.5 percent N while other composts contain 1.0 - 1.5 percent N, and similarly this variation occurs for other nutrients.

In Bangladesh, urban waste is a serious issue. Inadequate collection and uncontrolled disposal of solid waste cause a serious health hazard to inhabitants and environment. It is simply thrown on the roadside that creates environmental pollution, spreads diseases, creates respiratory problems and clogs the drains with plastic materials inundating the roads and houses causing enormous troubles to pedestrians. The volume and complexity of waste generated now-a-days intensifies this problem and creates tremendous pressure on the disposal capacities, forcing the city authorities to continuously search for optimal and acceptable ways to deal with this problem.

The soil fertility status of Bangladesh soils is low mainly due to low organic matter content. Municipal solid waste (MSW) compost would be a potential source for maintaining or increasing soil organic matter level. It will solve both the problem of waste management in the city area and upon application it can help improve and restore soil fertility.

Composting can solve both the problem of waste management and soil fertility maintenance.  More than 70 percent of the city wastes are degradable and can be used for composting. Composting generally results in a 50 to 70 per cent reduction in volume, and a weight loss in the order of 40 to 80 per cent. Some of the shrinkage and weight loss is due to the transformation of loose, bulky material into finely textured compost and the loss of CO2 and water to the atmosphere. Despite some losses, composting does retain most of the nutrients provided by the raw material, and stores them as stable organic compounds.