Soil fertility – the ability of the soil to supply nutrients to a crop – is critical for smallholder farmers’ to feed themselves and increase their incomes. Nutrient depletion is reducing soil productivity in many developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Both mineral and organic fertilizers are essential to replace nutrients that growing crops remove. However, only about one-third of the nitrogen fertilizer applied to crops in developing countries is utilized due to inefficiency in application methods and the inherent properties of current fertilizer products. The unused fertilizer often becomes an environmental pollutant, either in the form of a potent greenhouse gas or runoff that fouls streams and lakes.
IFDC conducts research to increase the efficiency of fertilizer use and to develop crop nutrient technologies that improve soil fertility while protecting the environment. One method to improve fertilizer efficiency is through fertilizer deep placement (FDP) technology. FDP is a more efficient and environmentally responsible method of crop fertilization (particularly for irrigated rice crops). Farmers place fertilizer briquettes into soil near the rice plants, which keeps most of the nitrogen close to the plant roots where it is absorbed more effectively. The net result is that crop yields (and thus incomes) are increased while environmental degradation is lessened.
IFDC projects develop sustainable and competitive agricultural production systems, with special attention to Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM). ISFM strategies include the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available organic amendments (crop residues, compost and green manure) to replenish soil nutrients and improve the efficiency of fertilizers and other inputs (seeds, crop protection products and water).
Natural Resource Management Topics
Natural Resource Management Information