Monday, 10 July 2006

Precision Farming for Smallholder Farmers.

Upendra Singh1, Fred Muhhuku2, Tasnee Attanandana3, Paul Wilkens1, and Russell Yost4. (1) IFDC, PO Box 2040, Muscle Shoals, AL 35662, (2) Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Project (APEP), Plot 58 Lumumba Avenue, Kampala, Uganda, (3) Dept of Soil Science, Kasetsart Univ, Bangkok, Thailand, (4) Dept of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, Univ of Hawaii,, East West Rd, Honolulu, HI 96822

The best management practice recommendations for cropping systems and soils in most developing countries are general and obsolete. In some countries the current blanket fertilizer recommendations were developed more than 50 years ago. Such non-site-specific and static nutrient recommendations have many negative consequences: (i) low nutrient use efficiency, (ii) low profitability, (iii) soil and environmental degradation from both under-application and over-application, and (iv) lack of farmer confidence in the extension services and agri-input dealers. Precision farming for developing country farmers need not be high technology, highly mechanized, and limited to larger farms. Information and decision support tools (IDST) comprised of soil, climate, nutrient resources, and crop databases; soil test kits; soil-crop simulation models; economic evaluators; risk assessment; and geographic information systems are available to assist the smallholder farmers with site-specific management. The recommendations generated by IDST were passed on to the farmers by extension services, agri-input dealers, or farmer leaders. Participatory learning, training programs, and on-farm demonstrations were used to promote IDST-generated recommendations. The site-specific recommendations covered various facets of smallholder farming including choice of crops, varieties, optimum planting windows, crop rotation, and integrated nutrient management with options to choose different nutrient sources (mineral fertilizers, organic material, and phosphate rock). The IDST helped identify the best management practice for the current season, provide a nutrient balance at the end of the season, and thus provide revised recommendations based on the next crop, yield target, etc. For example, a given fertilizer recommendation is based on input of representative soil characteristics of the cropping zone or on data from soil samples taken where the crop is grown and the yield targets that are set by the farmer based on input costs and output price. The decision support tools also include a Phosphate Rock Decision Support System (PRDSS) that allows users to identify if a given phosphate rock is a suitable alternative to water soluble P fertilizer both in terms of agronomic effectiveness and economic feasibility. Examples of model application from Uganda, Tanzania, Togo, and Thailand are presented. Keywords: information and decision support tools, fertilizer recommendation, site-specific nutrient management, simulation models, phosphate rock decision support system.

Back to 1.0PW Synthesis, Modeling, and Applications of Disciplinary Soil Science Knowledge for Soil-Water-Plant-Environment Systems - Theater I
Back to WCSS

Back to The 18th World Congress of Soil Science (July 9-15, 2006)