Assessment of Agronomic and Economic Benefits of Fertilizer Use in Maize Production Systems under Variable Farm Size, Climate and Soil Fertility Conditions in Eastern India

Farming in Eastern India is characterized by small landholders. Typically low resource availability to the farmers and low profitability from cereal farming necessitates that inputs, including fertilizer, is used in the most efficient manner to maintain farm profitability in the region. IPNI and it’s partners have recently collected agronomic data from on‐farm nutrient response studies that showed high variability in maize yield response to fertilizer N, P and K across the study region. These data were used to develop the Nutrient Expert (NE) for Maize for South Asia, a decision support tool to implement site specific nutrient management in farmers’ fields. The tool also enables researchers to conduct ex‐ante analysis of nutrient management options, evaluating the economic responses across a range of yield increases based on the resource of the farmer. This project will use NE to conduct ex ante analysis across farm typologies to improve return on investment for maize farmers in Eastern India.


04 Apr 2014

2013 Annual Interpretive Summary

This project was started with the aim of understanding current fertilization practices of maize-growing farmers in eastern India and provide better recommendations to improve return on investment for farmers in Eastern India. A survey with a thoroughly pre-tested structured interview schedule was conducted in the four eastern Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal. In each state, two districts with distinct agro-ecological systems were considered for the survey work. Fifteen farmers from each of the three villages under each of the two selected blocks of a district were selected (through sequential multistage sampling for selection of blocks and districts, and systematic/interval sampling for selection of farmers) amassing a sample size of 180 for the state. Collected data was analyzed for examining variables that individually influenced maize yield. Nutrient Expert® (NE) was used for predicting crop growth over a range of target yields. The target yield for the farmers can be increased progressively in short increments over the actual farmers’ achieved yields to estimate the benefit and the benefit:cost ratio of fertilizer use.

The analysis suggests that the NE recommendation based on farmer resources can potentially improve economic returns for the smallholding maize farmers in eastern India. This is achieved through better assessment of growing conditions as well as critical estimation of indigenous nutrient supply (such as crop residues, irrigation water, organic matter, and nutrient carryover from the previous crops) that subsequently helps in deciding the right rate of fertilizer application. Better efficiency of applied nutrients was ensured through the guidance for right source of fertilizer application at the right time of physiological nutrient demand, leading to better production economics.