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Alleviating Constraints to Adoption of Soil Management

Agriculture India

Returns to investment in fertilizer can be highly variable for smallholder farmers, and small-scale farms in Asia often only achieve 40-65% of their potential yield for common cereal crops. Previous experimental evidence suggests that personalized recommendations for fertilizer use can increase the average farm-level profitability. This project evaluated the adoption of a new affordable automated system for delivering balanced fertilizer recommendations as compared to government soil testing laboratories. It tested a country-specific version of the Nutrient Expert, a fertilizer decision support tool developed to provide personalized soil fertility management practice recommendations for both hybrid maize and wheat production. Results found that most farmers in India tend to rely on blanket fertilizer recommendations which fail to account for current soil fertility status and nutrient demands.The emphasis on nitrogen-based fertilizers also implies that the supply chains for other nutrients have not been well-established. Both the soil testing and nutrient expert’s recommendation is to reduce the application of nitrogen and increase that of potassium. In addition, farmers underconsume soil micronutrients such as zinc and sulphur. The next step would be to conduct a longer-term project over multiple seasons so to control for such macroeconomic shocks and compare before and after conditions.

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