Application of phosphor fertiliser to a dual purpose soybean variety that produces substantial amounts of leafy biomass and leaves a net amount of fixed N in the soil and rotation of this soybean with a N-efficient and disease-resistant maize variety that receives a minimal amount of N fertiliser is a good example of an ISFM strategy. Adapting fertiliser rates to prevailing soil fertility conditions would qualify such intervention as ‘complete ISFM’.
Photo: KE Giller


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Soils are naturally poor in sub-Saharan Africa, and poor management has further reduced their productive capacity. The author argues that more fertiliser use is required to reverse further nutrient mining and productivity decline and that this agro-input is best used in combination with other measures to ensure that most of its nutrients are taken up by the crop.

The need for sustainable intensification of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has gained support, in part because of the growing recognition that farm productivity is a major entry point to break the vicious cycle underlying rural poverty. Fertiliser use is extremely low in much of the sub-Saharan Africa region (8 kg/ha on average), and this is one of the main factors explaining lagging agricultural productivity growth. Most of the soils in Africa are inherently infertile, and poor agricultural management practices during the past decades have led to a severe decline in their productive capacity. Given the low levels of fertiliser use and poor soils in SSA, fertiliser use must increase if the region is to reverse the current trends of low crop productivity and land degradation. There are renewed efforts to raise fertiliser use in SSA from the current 8 kg to 50 kg nutrients per ha by improving the marketing, policy and socio-economic environment to increase fertiliser availability at prices affordable to smallholder farmers.  Since fertiliser is very expensive for most smallholder farmers in SSA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has adapted Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) as a framework for boosting crop productivity through combining fertiliser use with other soil fertility management technologies, based on site conditions.

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