For most countries in Sub Saharan Africa, the major challenge to effective nutrient management is the lack of area specific fertilizer recommendations that are appropriate for the socio-economic conditions of the farmers. Available fertilizer recommendations are mostly generalized for all soil types and ecological conditions, irrespective of the huge biophysical, ecological and socioeconomic variability at different scales.
In Malawi, the Department of Land Resources Conservation has been working to introduce area specific fertilizers that are expected to help in boosting yields for local subsistence farmers. This is taking place under the strengthening fertilizer systems through promotion of area specific blending project which is being implemented with technical and financial support from Alliance from a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
According to Deputy Director for the Department of Land Resources Conservation, Gilbert Kupunda, the government is optimistic that soil mapping exercise it is conducting to find suitable fertilizer for specific areas would help boost agriculture production.
He said that the department is now producing fertilizers blends that will solve deficiencies in particular localities. “We will have two seasons trying the fertilizers and we are hopeful that it will work,” said Kupunda.
The research is being conducted in partnership with local farmers themselves instead of just choosing the fertilizer blends and introducing them to the farmers.
One of the trials have been taking place in the area of Traditional Authority Mphonde in Nkhotakota District. “We are working with farmers in this area to find the appropriate fertilizers for this area. We invited the farmers and have been working with them in all the 8 different demonstration plots that are here.” Says Kupunda adding, “We hope to come up with cheaper fertilizers from this research than what is on the market now.”
“The host farmer will harvest and weigh the maize to see which method and fertilizers have yielded the best result. We have varied the amount of maize used in the fields. What we have seen even before harvesting is that cobs of the field where we put two bags of fertilizers and where put four bags of fertilizers are not different in size and quality.” He says
Saidi Nabaya of Ntumbula Village in Nkhotakota, is a local farmer who has been hosting the mother trial. “We have also been check nutrient content of the maize upon harvesting to check how much nutrients are in maize from each of the eight fields so that we do not just focus on the yield size but nutritive content as well because we need food that contains more nutrients.” Says the farmer
Moses Munthali, a Scientist from Chitedze Agricultural Research Station in Lilongwe, says the trials are aimed at validating new area specific fertilizer formulations and making area specific fertilizer recommendations for farmers to use.
Government and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been promoting the production of area specific fertilizer with the aim of increasing productivity and incomes among smallholder farmers in Malawi.