Malawi’s degraded soils can ‘heal’ and the country can consequently increase its yields should government start promoting the use of blended fertilisers, experts have argued.
The calls come amid reports that the country continues to face perennial hunger despite fertiliser use increasing over the years due to the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
According to a report by the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (Afap), the country’s use of fertiliser increased from less than 10 kilogrammes per hectare in 2005 to 48 kilogrammes per hectare in 2015, a rate considered to be among the highest in Africa and close to the recommendation by the 2006 Abuja Declaration that calls for more fertiliser use in agriculture.
In retrospect, the impact study claims this has only boosted the average national maize yield from one tonne per hectare to 2.5 tonnes per hectare in 2009.
However, the Alliance for a Green Revolution (Agra) feels the country can work on the existing gaps to maximise production by paying attention to other key factors in fertiliser use that, as they argue, have been neglected before including the use of fertiliser blends.
Agra chief of agricultural transformation Dr. Joe DeVries said: “Impact studies attribute these huge yield gaps to low fertiliser use efficiencies owing to the mismatch between the fertiliser type, rates, time of application and the underlying soil conditions. Such yield gaps lead to low return on investment (ROI) at the farmer and national level.
He was speaking on Wednesday in Lilongwe on the sidelines of a regional workshop on the development of fertiliser blends for Malawi.
Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Kaunda welcomed the suggestions on the use of blended fertilisers, saying the move augers well with the calls to promote the use of organic manure in the country.