Feed the Future Soil Fertility Technology Adoption, Policy Reform and Knowledge Management (RFS-SFT) Project (Semi-Annual Report April 2020- September 2020)

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The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) enables smallholder farmers in developing countries to increase agricultural productivity, generate economic growth, and practice environmental stewardship by enhancing their ability to manage mineral and organic fertilizers responsibly and participate profitably in input and output markets. In March 2015, USAID and IFDC entered into a new cooperative agreement to support the strategic objectives of the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (RFS), particularly in relation to Feed the Future (FTF), through a global project on “Soil Fertility Technology (SFT) Adoption, Policy Reform, and Knowledge Management.” The RFS-SFT project focuses on bridging the gap between scientific research and technology dissemination to smallholder farmers in Feed the Future countries by developing more nutrient- efficient, profitable technologies, supporting related markets and policies, and strengthening country partner capacities, leading to improved livelihoods. Under the agreement, IFDC has conducted a range of activities and interventions, prioritized from each annual work plan, for the three agreed-upon workstreams. The activities under the RFS-SFT project focus on the key result areas described below and continue to contribute to major intermediate outcomes – phases of research and peer-reviewed publications. Basic principles of engagement under RFS-SFT: All the research activities under SFT engage women and youth farmers and entrepreneurs in all phases of research, deployment, and capacity building. Most of the technologies developed and disseminated through the SFT project are inclusive and effectively engage women, youth, and other minority people. Soil fertility technologies and practices are carefully developed from the research to uptake stages to be gender neutral to gender friendly and transformative. Other key features of all the SFT activities include (i) strong partnership and engagement with the private sector – from soil fertility research aspects, especially during the advanced stages of research, i.e., piloting and ready for scaling to creating enabling environments for better policy and regulatory uptake among stakeholders; and (ii) engagement of national, and local partners through capacity development and implementation of activities for better and long-lasting results. Focus Countries for FY2020: Activities are implemented in the following countries to generate technologies, practices, and policies with broader geographic coverage, suitability, and scalability. Asia: Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar (using FY2017 funds) East and Southern Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mozambique West Africa: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria As part of the work planning process under the RFS-SFT project since FY2019, IFDC has initiated engagement with country-level missions to obtain concurrence for research activity implementation, funded by the RFS central mechanism. So far, RFS-SFT has received concurrence from four missions in East and Southern Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique; two in South Asia, Bangladesh and Nepal; and two in West Africa, Niger and Nigeria. IFDC has regularly reported the progress of RFS-SFT activities to these missions since early 2019. We further plan to expand this to other countries where we are engaged through RFS-SFT project activities. The activities under the current work plan (FY2020) reflect three workstreams (Error! Reference source not found.), including SOILS Consortium-related r esearch as Workstream 3, contributing to the FTF Soil Fertility Technology Adoption, Policy Reform, and Knowledge Management (RFS-SFT) project. Table 1. FTF Soil Fertility Technologies (RFS-SFT) Project Workstreams Workstream 1 Workstream 2 Workstream 3* Developing and Validating Technologies, Approaches, and Practices Supporting Policy Reform Processes, Advocacy, and Market Development SOILS Consortium (Sustainable Opportunities for Improving Livelihoods with Soils) Focus Areas Focus Areas Focus Area Improving Nitrogen Use Efficiency Activated Phosphate Rock Balanced Crop Nutrition Sustainable Soil Intensification Practices Documenting Policy Reforms & Market Development Impact Studies, Assessments Agro- Economic Studies Identify Holistic Solutions, developing Roadmaps toward Enhancing Soil Fertility Cross-Cutting: MELS, Knowledge & Data Management Improving the Decision-Making Tools for Cropping System Model for Soil Sustainability Processes University Partnerships, Capacity Building, Workshops *From March 2019 onward Under Workstream 1, IFDC continues “Developing and Validating Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Technologies and Practices,” addressing nutrient management issues and advancing sustainable agricultural intensification in FTF countries. Workstream 1 activities concluding in FY2019 and those beginning in FY2020 are summarized in Section 1 and Table 8. Under Workstream 2, IFDC supports “Policy Reform Processes, Advocacy, and Market Development.” Relevant research will be conducted to support IFDC’s global activities related to agricultural policy reforms, advocacy for change, and related efforts to achieve impact in FTF countries’ agriculture. Workstream 2 activities are summarized in Section 2 and Table 9. Under Workstream 3, IFDC supports activities under the SOILS Consortium, initiated by IFDC in collaboration with the Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) at Kansas State University (KSU), with support from USAID-RFS. The SOILS Consortium also partners with a host of U.S. academic research entities from Michigan State University (MSU), University of Colorado, Auburn University, and USDA-ARS. SOILS Consortium partners will further engage in identifying research activities that offer holistic solutions to developing a roadmap toward enhancing soil fertility in selected countries. The objectives and research activities to be carried out through Workstream 3 are presented in Section 3 and Table 10. Cross-cutting activities that include activities associated across all three workstreams above, such as monitoring, evaluation, learning, and knowledge management and outreach-related activities, are described in Section 4 and Table 11. These include data management systems and tools, outreach activities with partner organizations, training, and capacity building initiatives. Activity Highlights during the FY 2020 N Use Efficiency: Urea coated with zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles and dual-capped Zn- based nanoparticles were formulated and evaluated under greenhouse conditions. Enhanced crop productivity with lower nano-ZnO highlights a key benefit of nanofertilizers: reduction of nutrient inputs into agriculture without yield penalties. In addition to overcoming the potential for drift with application of nanofertilizers at field scale, coating of urea also improved N use efficiency through reduced N loss and improved plant N uptake. Various improved N use efficiency products and technologies, including controlled- release urea, urea with elemental sulfur, and urea deep placement (UDP), were evaluated under field conditions in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burma, Ghana, and Nepal, confirming greenhouse findings of improved yield and lower use of N fertilizers compared to conventional sources and practices. Field trials with UDP also showed improved crop resilience under drought, saline, and submergence conditions. During the past 12 months, our research team had six journal articles published on improved nitrogen use efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Activated PR: Under greenhouse and field conditions and through on-farm demonstrations, we showed that low reactivity phosphate rock (PR) in combination with only 20-25% water- soluble P, such as diammonium phosphate (DAP) or monoammonium phosphate (MAP), gave similar yields as the 100% water-soluble P. This intervention on activated PR allows the use of local PR deposits that are economically not viable for conventional P fertilizer production in many Feed the Future countries. Activated PR is effective on a wide range of soils (pH 5-8) and crops. A private company is evaluating the production of activated PR in Angola and a potential public-private partnership for Tahoe phosphate rock in Niger. Balanced Crop Nutrition: Greenhouse evaluation of urea coated with ZnO and zinc sulfate (ZnSO4) gave similar sorghum grain yield and Zn uptake as urea and blends of Zn uniformly applied. These results confirmed the results of soil incubation studies showing that urea-Zn interactions within the coated urea granule did not reduce bioavailability of Zn. However, ZnSO4 granulated with MAP gave significantly lower yield and Zn uptake, indicating that bioavailability of Zn was compromised. In addition to improving N use efficiency (reduce ammonia loss), micronized elemental sulfur (ES) with urea across field trials in Bangladesh, Burma, Ghana, and Nepal gave significantly higher yields or similar yields and higher grain protein content than conventional sulfate fertilizers. For residual trials (with no new application of S fertilizers), ES gave a significantly higher yield, highlighting its greater efficiency (yield, S uptake, and reduced sulfate leaching) compared to ammonium sulfate. Nutrient omission and balanced fertilization trials in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, and Nepal demonstrated the significant yield advantage of balanced fertilization, either as blends or compounds, over NPK, with an average increases in yield of 11-36% compared to NPK or NPK + manure. Updated fertilizer recommendations are being shared with stakeholders. Fertilizer quality also plays a critical role in adoption and rate of fertilizer use. Unfortunately, a lack of quality labs for fertilizer analysis is a reality in many Feed the Future countries. Utilizing IFDC’s large fertilizer collection, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) results when compared with wet-chemistry results gave R2 values of 0.99 to 0.85 for P, K, Mg, S, Cl, Ca, Cr, Fe, Co, Cu, Zn, Mn, Ni, Mo, As, Se, and Pb. Soil Health and Sustainable Intensification Practices: Benefits of conservation agriculture (CA) practice were observed on maize grain yield. In general, grain yields from the treatments with CA practices were 30-45% greater than grain yields from the treatments without CA practices. Likewise, under CA, rice yield was 3,230 kg/ha on average compared with conventional tillage (CT) at 2,846 kg/ha, an increase of 380 kg/ha (monetary equivalent of $114/ha). Soil carbon buildup was higher under CA than CT as evident from higher values of potassium permanganate oxidizable C and soil respiration. Mineralization of soil organic carbon was the dominant process in CT. Available N and cation exchange capacity were higher under CA practice. Mapping of Land Capability Classification (LCC) for Dosso Region, Niger, has been completed and presented to stakeholders through a virtual meeting. Further validation and improvement of the Land Use Management Decision Support Tool is ongoing. Efforts are underway to establish research and technology parks to empower farmers and researchers and create a Center of Excellence (CoE) at local organizations to build institutional capacity, with the overall goal of improving capacity of farmers and research and extension actors as well as other organizations A unified fertilizer trial protocol has been developed for targeting fertilizer source and rate in Ethiopia, and more than 300 field trials are in progress. Combined with ongoing field results, historical fertilizer trial data has been compiled to help produce a model for prediction of responses to different nutrient combinations and rates. The teff model has been developed with the capability to simulate response to rainfall, temperature, and management (fertilizer, variety, plant population, transplanting, direct sowing). COVID-19 Fertilizer Watch Updates in SSA: RFS-SFT supported a collaborative initiative towards informing fertilizer value chain stakeholders through weekly fertilizer bulletin viz., COVID-19 Fertilizer Watch bulletin across SSA on the impact of COVID-19 on fertilizer markets and the agro-input supply chain aspects including movement/transportation of essential agri-inputs for cropping season. Weekly updates were initiated in April 2020 with the Fertilizer Watch in the East and Southern Africa region due to the COVID-19 shutdown through a collaboration between IFDC and AfricaFertilizer.org (AFO). https://ifdc.org/2020/08/06/measuring-covid-19s-impact-on-the-fertilizer-sector-in-sub- saharan-africa/Influencing Fertilizer Policy Reforms in Niger and Kenya: With RFS-SFT support, IFDC partnered with organizations and stakeholders at various levels in countries showing a high potential for policy change through various forums, consultations, and other advocacy modes in Kenya and Niger. Effectiveness of Agro-Dealer Efforts in Technology Transfers in Rwanda: The effectiveness of agro-dealer development programs on input supplier networks on access to and use of agro-inputs were assessed. This included a rapid assessment of the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown on input supply through the last mile in Rwanda, which was the first country in the region to impose restrictions. COVID Challenges and Responses Challenges: The COVID-19 shutdown was universal from March through May in all Asian and African countries in which we operate. COVID-19 did affect the implementation of few key activities, especially during the second half of the reporting period. The effect was moderate on all the ongoing research activities, especially field related SFT operations. However, the impact was much higher on a few in-person social science-related research surveys that were to be conducted from March onward, as well as a few training and outreach dissemination activities, such as technology demonstrations and field days for farmers and stakeholders. However, as described above, we promptly made changes so that all activities (70%) were conducted during the reporting period. There were two key areas in which modifications could not be made: (i) research trials that were about to start were delayed for a year due to the single cropping season in sub-Saharan African countries, including the trials in Niger to begin in May; (ii) research activities on fertilizer policy reforms in Kenya and gender in Uganda could not take place because the partner organization could not travel to the field to conduct those studies. Responses: Timely efforts were made to lessen the impact on ongoing field activities using remote work tools – mobile tools to engage with local partners on the ground. Further, we insisted upon strict hygienic practices for all the local partners who assisted us in their communities by providing us the necessary information regarding field trials and implementation of field research trials protocols without a compromise in quality. This was possible due to the involvement of local stakeholders in all our research activities with partnerships that have been built since the activity began. Dissemination meetings among stakeholders were held virtually through webinars (e.g., the Kenya Fertilizer Platform [KeFERT]), enabling greater access and wider participation. We also utilized the opportunity to conduct some quick surveys remotely in Bangladesh and Rwanda to understand the effects of the shutdown on farmers and input suppliers. No additional changes were required for reprogramming from the existing activities. Specific scientific studies to capture the effects of COVID-19 on cropping systems through decision tools and data, e.g., a simulation study on how changes in planting date (delays) and fertilizer availability (N, for example) could affect maize production in Ethiopia were conducted. A short research piece comparing long-term trends in temperature and rainfall and their impact on wheat was also produced, including an evaluation of whether the COVID-19 lockdown had any short-term effect on weather (temperature and radiation). Although all SFT research activities have been conducted in close partnership with national and local stakeholders, utilizing local partners capacities became integral part of our activities during the pandemic. The fertilizer policy advocacy forums in Kenya and Niger are good examples where dissemination efforts were taken up through local stakeholder platforms – electronically and closer to the farming communities. Since most of the field research trials are conducted in partnership with national research partners – BRRI and BINA in Bangladesh, Tribhuvan University in Nepal, INRAN in Nepal, and INERA in Burkina Faso, major disruptions towards monitoring the ongoing activities were averted.
Knowledge management, Farmers