Baseline Study of Soil Nutrient Status in Smallholder Farms in Limpopo Province of South Africa


  • M.J. Mokgolo Tompi Seleka Agricultural College
  • J. Mzezewa


P Deficiency, Smallholder, Soil analysis, Soil fertility


An assessment of soil nutrient status based on farmers’ samples was carried out in the Capricorn, Sekhukhune, and Waterberg Districts of the Limpopo Province of South Africa. A total of 336 soil samples were collected and analysed for pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg). The results showed that the pH of more than 80% of the submitted soil samples was suitable for the production of most field crops ,while less than 20% required liming to make them productive. Phosphorus levels were very low (<8 mg kg-1), with most soils (≥95%) needing P fertilisation to improve crop yields. Potassium was adequate (>250 mg kg-1) for most districts' crops. Between 70% and 74% of soils from Sekhukhune and Waterberg Districts were deficient in Ca (<200 mg kg-1). Magnesium was adequate (>300 mg kg-1) in more than 60% of the analysed samples. Apart from soil pH, all soil properties showed a high degree of variability across all districts. Further studies are needed to investigate the role of field management, crop rotation, field position in the landscape, lithology, and socioeconomic conditions of the farmer on the observed trends of soil nutrients.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


BAIPHETHI, M.N. & JACOBS, P.T., 2009. The contribution of subsistence farming to food security in South Africa. Agrekon., 48(4): 458-482.

BANARD, R.O. & DU PREEZ, C.C., 2004. Soil fertility in South Africa: the last twenty-five years. S. Afr. J. Plant Soil., 21(5): 301-316.

BRAY, R.H. & KURTZ, L.T., 1945. Determination of total organic and available forms of phosphorous in soil. Soil Sci., 59: 39-45.

BUHMANN, C., BEUKES, D.J. & TURNER, D.P., 2006. Plant nutrient status of soils of Lusisiki area, Eastern Cape. S. Afr. J. Plant Soil., 23(2): 93-98.

CHIKOWO, R., ZINGORE, S., SNAPP, S. & JOHNSON, A., 2014. Farm typologies, soil fertility variability and nutrient management in smallholder farming in sub-Saharan Africa. Nutr. Cycl. Agroecosyst., 100: 1-18.

CHINODA, G., MOYCE, W., MATURA, N. & OWEN, R., 2009. Baseline report on the Geology of the Limpopo Basin Area. Waternet working paper 7. Amsterdam, Netherlands: WaterNet.

DEPARTMENT OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM (DRDLR)., 2016a. District Rural Development Plan. Capricorn District Municipality Limpopo Province.

DEPARTMENT OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM (DRDLR)., 2016b. District Rural Development Plan. Sekhukhune District Municipality Limpopo Province.

DEPARTMENT OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM (DRDLR)., 2016c. District Rural Development Plan. Waterberg District Municipality Limpopo Province.

DU PREEZ, C.C., VAN HYSSTEEN, C.W. & MNKENI, P.N.S., 2011. Land use and soil organic matter in South Africa 1: A review on spatial variability and the influence of rangeland stock production. S. Afr. J. Sci., 107(5/6): 1-8.

FARINA, M.P.W., CHANNNON, P. & PHIPSON, J.D., 1983. Genotypic differences in the potassium requirements of two maise cultivars. J. Crop Prod., 12: 84-86.

FERTILIZER ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA (FERTASA)., 2016. Fertilizer Handbook. 7th ed. Lynnwood Ridge, Pretoria, South Africa.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANISATION (FAO)., 2019. Drought impact mitigation in the Limpopo Basin. [Viewed 24 June 2019]. Available from

KIHARA, J., NZIGUHEBA, G., ZINGORE, S., COULIBALY, A., ESILABA, A., KABAMBE, V., NJOROGE, S., PALM, C. & HUISING, J., 2016. Understanding variability in crop response to fertiliser and amendments in sub-Saharan Africa. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ., 229: 1-12.

KIRSTEN, J.J. & VAN ZYL, J., 1998. Defining small-scale farmers in the South African context. Agrekon., 37(4): 551-562.


MANICUS, R.A.F., 2009. Evaluation of Soil Fertility in the Sekhukhune District, South Africa. J. Dev. Sus. Agr., 4: 141-148.

NEVES, D. & DU TOIT, A., 2013. Rural livelihoods in South Africa: Complexity, vulnerability and differentiation. J. Agrar. Chang., 13(1): 93-115.

NYAMANGARA, J., MUGWIRA, L.M. & MPOFU, S.E., 2000. Soil Fertility Status in the Communal Areas of Zimbabwe in relation to Sustainable Crop Production. J Sustain Agr., 16(2): 15-29.

ONI, S.A., NESAMVUNI, A.E., ODHIAMBO, J.J.O. & DAGADA, M.C., 2003. Executive summary of a study of agricultural industry of Limpopo Province. In A.E. Nesamvuni, S.A. Oni, J.J.O. Odhiambo & N.D. Nthakheni (eds.), Agriculture as the cornerstone of the economy of the Limpopo Province. Johanessburg South Africa: Livhu’s Printing Enterprises.

RANKOANA, S.A., 2016. Perceptions of Climate Change and the Potential for Adaptation in a Rural Community in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Sustainability., 8: 672 – 682. doi:10.3390/su808067.

ROBERTS, V.G., ADEY, S. & MASON, A.D., 2003. An investigation into soil fertility in two resource-poor farming communities in KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa). S. Afr. J. Plant Soil., 20(3): 146-151.

SANCHEZ, P.A., SHEPHERD, K.D., SOULE, M.J., PLACE, F.M., BURESH, R.J., IZAC, A.N., MOKWUNYE, A.U., KWESIGA, F.R., NDIRITU, C.G. & WOOMER, P.L., 1997. Soil fertility replenishment in Africa: An investment in natural resource capital. In R.J. Buresh, P.A. Sanchez, & F. Calhoun (eds.), Replenishing soil fertility in Africa. Madison: SSSA Special Publications, 1-46.

SMALING, E.M.A., NANDWA, S.M. & JANSSEN B.H., 1997. Soil fertility in Africa is at stake. In R.J. Buresh, P.A. Sanchez, & F. Calhoun (eds.), Replenishing soil fertility in Africa. Madison: SSSA Special Publications.

SNAPP, S.S., 1998. Soil nutrient status of smallholder farms in Malawi. Commun Soil Sci Plan., 29(17&18): 2571-2588.

STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICA., 2016. Community Survey 2016 Agricultural households, Report No. 03-01-05. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.

VAN BILJON, J.J., 2010. Maise fertiliser research over the last 25 years- a review. S. Afr. J. Plant Soil., 27(1): 32-36.

VAN NIEKERK, A.I., 1989. Opening address: Proceedings of the Phosphorus Symposium, 2-5 September, Department of Agriculture & FSSA, Pretoria, South Africa.

VAN REEUWIJK, L.P., 2002. Procedures for Soil Analysis. 6th ed. Wageningen, Netherlands: Technical Paper/International Soil Reference and Information Centre.

WHITBREAD, A.M., MACLEOD, N., MCDONALD, C.A., PENGELLY, B., AYISI, K. & MKHARI, J., 2011. Farming systems, emerging farmers and land reform in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. In P. Tow, I. Cooper, I. Partridge, & C. Birch (ed.), Rainfed farming systems, Dordrecht: Springer, 433 – 449.

WIGGINS, S., 2009. Can the smallholder model deliver poverty reduction and food security for a rapidly growing population in Africa? Paper for the Expert Meeting on How to Feed the World in 2050. Rome: FAO.

ZINGORE, S., MURWIRA, H.K., DELVE, R.J. & GILLER, K.E., 2007. Influence of soil management strategies on variability of soil fertility, crop yields and nutrients balances on smallholder farms in Zimbabwe. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ., 119: 112-126.




How to Cite

Mokgolo, M., & Mzezewa, J. (2023). Baseline Study of Soil Nutrient Status in Smallholder Farms in Limpopo Province of South Africa. South African Journal of Agricultural Extension (SAJAE), 51(1), 51–65. Retrieved from