Nelly Bassily | September 22, 2008
The micro-dosing technique was developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) as part of an effort to assist farmers in rehabilitating degraded lands. The majority of farmers in the Sahelian region where ICRISAT introduced the technique were not fertilizing their land. Applying chemical fertilizer in the quantities recommended by fertilizer companies was not affordable, and the more easily available manure went unused. Farmers indicated that the fertilizers were “too risky.” Dr. Steve Twomlow, ICRISAT’s global theme leader on agro-ecosystems, explains that the micro-dosing technique was developed to make the most out of the amount of fertilizer that farmers could access. Twenty-five thousand small-scale farmers in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, have now adopted the technique. It has also been promoted in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
Now that thousands of farmers are using the micro-dosing approach, ICRISAT is working to persuade fertilizer companies to sell smaller packets. Already, companies in South Africa and Zimbabwe have agreed to distribute smaller fertilizer packets, together with information on how to use them. ICRISAT plans to expand its micro-dosing research, to see how it could be used on crops such as legumes and vegetables.
For more detailed information on micro-dosing, see:
– International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics website: http://www.icrisat.org/New&Events/Smallfertilizer.htm
-A poster describing micro-dosing methods and the results of micro-dosing trials: http://www.ciat.cgiar.org/epmr_ciat/pdf/poster_27_epmr07.pdf
The following Farm Radio International script describes the micro-dosing approach through a discussion between the host and Ousmane Hassane of ICRISAT:
–“Micro-doses of fertilizer increase yields in the Sahel” (Package 79, Script 4, November 2006)
For more Farm Radio International scripts on soil fertilization, visit: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/fertilization.asp.
To read about other ways that farmers are coping with high fertilizer prices, you may refer to these past FRW articles:
–“Farmers find manure a good substitute for expensive chemical fertilizers” (Issue #28, July 2008)
–“Rice bran can substitute for chemical fertilizer” (Issue #18, April 2008)
You may wish to hold an on-air interview with one or more experts who can discuss the micro-dosing approach to fertilizer, or other low-cost methods of improving soil fertility. If you wish to find a farmer or researcher knowledgeable about the micro-dosing approach, you could start by contacting ICRISAT. To find out what other techniques farmers are using to cope with high fertilizer costs, try contacting a local farmers’ organization, or simply ask some of the farmers you know. Some questions to ask during an on-air discussion include:
-Describe how and why the fertilization technique was developed.
-Describe the fertilization technique in detail.
-Has this method proven effective in this area?
-For which crops has this method proven effective?
-Are there alternative fertilization materials that farmers can use, if the suggested materials are not available?
-Are there ways that farmers can adapt the technique, based on soil conditions or rainfall patterns on their farm?