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Tropentag, September 14 - 16, 2022, Prague

"Can agroecological farming feed the world? Farmers' and academia's views."

The potential of integrated soil fertility management for closing the yield gap in Ethiopia

Julia Doldt1, Kidist Yilma1, Jim Ellis-Jones2, Steffen Schulz1

1Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Integrated Soil Fertility Management Project (ISFM+), Ethiopia
2Agriculture-4-Development, United Kingdom


The dominant farming systems across the Ethiopian highlands includes cereals, notably wheat, maize, teff, sorghum and barley with faba bean a widely grown legume. Key constraints limiting yields are soil degradation and low soil fertility. The Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM+) Project has collected and analysed data from hundreds of farmer-managed demonstration plots over a 5-year period. These compare farmers’ practices (control) with demonstrations using at least three ISFM practices. They include agricultural lime on acidic soils, improved seed, organic fertiliser, rhizobia on legumes, green manure and some inorganic fertiliser. 1,878 short-term observations (yields measured randomly annually across all demonstrations) and 103 long-term ones (repeated annually from the same plot) have been used to evaluate the effects of ISFM on grain yields.

Mean yield across the short-term control plots was 2.88 tonnes ha-1 while ISFM plots yielded 4.81 tonnes ha-1, a yield increase of 67%. Continuous use of ISFM for five consecutive years further increased yields by 154%.

Soil acidity had a significant negative impact on control yields, while lime used in the demonstration plots alleviated these effects. It was found that almost all plots would benefit from liming especially in the long-term as acidification increased across the control plots. Comparing control yields to the national average showed no marked discrepancies while ISFM yields were considerably (69%) higher.

With increasing mineral fertiliser prices and a need for more sustainable farming systems, ISFM can pay a key role in agroecological transformation, in alleviating food insecurity, increasing farmers’ income and reducing food imports. The 3.5 million hectares of acidic soils in Ethiopia could be made highly productive by applying lime and ISFM practices. Scaling up will however require significant private and public investment to ensure access to lime, fertiliser, rhizobia and improved seed. A system of private agrodealers supplying inputs to farmers seems the most likely option to achieve this. Hence the environment for private sector sales of agricultural inputs needs to be improved.

Keywords: Ethiopian highlands, integrated soil fertility management, lime, soil acidity, yields

Contact Address: Kidist Yilma, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Integrated Soil Fertility Management Project (ISFM+), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, e-mail: kidist.yilma@giz.de

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