31 Aug 2015

Wheat farmers in West Bengal increased yield and farm profit using innovative fertilizer decision support tool

Nutrient Expert® is a computer based fertilizer decision support tool that provides balanced fertilizer recommendations in the absence of soil test information. Nutrient Expert® for Wheat (NE – W) helps wheat farmers to follow the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Principles of applying the right source of nutrient, at the right rate, at the right time and at the right place. The tool is particularly useful for smallholder farmers of South Asia where precision nutrient management in small and marginal farms is a challenge, especially due to the infrastructural constraints for soil testing. The NE – W for South Asia was developed in consultation with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), partners from the National Agricultural Research & Extension System (NARES), and representatives of stakeholder groups such as fertilizer industry, seed industry and NGOs.

Nutrient Expert® Wheat (NE – W) demonstration trials were conducted at the farmers’ field of Burdwan District, West Bengal. Twenty-five wheat farmers from five different villages of Ausgram – 1 block were chosen randomly for the on-farm dissemination trials during Rabi (winter) season, 2013 – 14. The NE-W based nutrient recommendations were compared to the farmers’ fertilization practices (FFP) in the on-farm trials.

Average wheat grain yield in the NE – W recommendation (3.3 t/ha) was higher than that of FFP (2.8 t/ha). The average NPK rates in the NE – W recommendations (average N:P2O5:K2O = 110:60:56) increased compared to that of FFP (average N:P2O5:K2O = 56:31:23) (Figure 2). However, the average net income in the NE-W plots across all locations increased by INR 2,000/ha* over FFP (Figure 3). The increase in yield associated with NE-W based recommendation was not only due to the application of the right rate of nutrients to achieve a target yield but also through the use of right source of fertilizer, at the right time and place as well. The wheat yield in the study area was within 3.4 t/ha because of late planting (December) and lack of irrigation water facility that allowed only 2 irrigations during the growing period. Moreover, the soils were light textured with low organic matter content. NE – W captured these challenges and provided a realistic wheat grain yield target of 3.5 t/ha and nutrient recommendations to achieve the targeted yield. The achieved yield were nearly 95% of the targeted yield across all the study locations.

The Nutrient Expert® for Wheat helped farmers and extension agents in their fertilizer application decision in absence of soil testing, and successfully improved the farmers’ yield and profit over their existing practices.

The experiment was a collaborative effort of the State Department of Agriculture, Government of West Bengal and International Plant Nutrition Institute – South Asia Program.

*Economic calculations based on cost of N: Rs. 11.4/kg (on the basis of Urea); cost of P2O5: Rs. 33.2/kg (on the basis of SSP); cost of K2O: Rs. 27/kg (on the basis of MOP); Value of Wheat grain: Rs. 11.2/kg.

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