Innovation in Fertilizer Application
Technical and scientific advances have made the application of fertilizers more efficient in recent years, and have helped farmers maximize fertilizers' benefits while reducing risks of their over, under, or misuse.
Innovation combined with Best Fertilizer Management Practices in the four areas of source, rate, time and place, have shown tremendous results in terms of yields and limited environmental impact.
However, not all farmers have access to cutting-edge technology, which is why innovation should not only be seen in terms of techonological advances, but also include agricultural practices that allow for a more precise application of inputs based on experience.
Precision Agriculture embraces new emerging technologies that contribute to steer agricultural systems towards a high-efficiency, sustainable, energy friendly and input optimized model, that contributes to meet the food grain requirements of 480 million tonnes (Mt) by 2050 (Yadav and Singh 2000). These include:
- Soil analysis technologies;
- Soil testing technologies;
- Soil Mapping through Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensors in airplanes, satellites and drones;
- Decision support tools (DST);
- Nutrient Status Monitors.
Precision Agriculture in developing countries or small-scale farms
“Soft” precision agricultural practices, based on experience, rather than statistical measurements are widespread: e.g. yield maps can be produced by recording the weight of crops harvested, treatment maps are implemented by workforce division. Below are some examples of precision agriculture practices carried our in developing countries and small-scale farms:
- Digital tools: Examples include “IPNI’s Nutrient Expert”, a software introduced in several Asian countries to help crop advisors develop site-specific nutrient management based on the 4R principles.
- Deep banding of fertilizer: i.e applying fertilizers a few centimetres below the surface, closer to the plants’ roots;
- Split-applications: i.e. postponing the application of a portion of the fertilizer to a later time to ensure a longer fertilization period;
- Microdosing techniques: This technique consists in applying small quantities of fertilizers, by using bottle caps, either during planting or 3 – 4 weeks after plant emergence.
- Monitoring crops’ nutrient status: Simple tools like the Leaf Colour Chart indicate to farmers whether their crops are deficient in nitrogen.