Opportunities and Challenges of Subsurface Fertilizer Application in Specialty Crops in Bangladesh

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The subsurface application of fertilizer, commonly known as fertilizer deep placement (FDP), has gained recognition as an effective practice in lowland rice cultivation. FDP reduces urea fertilizer usage by 25-40% and increases crop yield by an average of 15-20%. This reduction in fertilizer use enhances farm profitability and reduces government subsidy payments in countries with nitrogen fertilizer subsidies. FDP is widely employed in Bangladesh and some African nations, primarily in rice cultivation. Research conducted in various countries has shown that FDP is an efficient fertilizer management technology that boosts grain yields and provides sustainable soil fertility solutions for lowland rice cultivation. However, the long-term effects of FDP in upland cropping systems, particularly in specialty crops, remain uncertain. Given the increasing crop diversification in rice-based cropping systems, including the cultivation of high-value specialty crops like vegetables, fruits, and cash crops, efficient nutrient management solutions are needed. This paper explores the potential of using FDP in specialized crops, beyond rice and maize, such as vegetables and fruits. Deep placement of multi-nutrient fertilizer briquettes has the potential to increase yields and improve fertilizer use efficiency through balanced nutrient application and reduced nutrient losses. FDP has been shown to enhance vegetable and fruit yields by 10-20% while using 10% less fertilizer, improving the quality of produce and increasing net economic returns. Farmers have adopted FDP practices in various specialty crops, including eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, potato, tomato, taro, bitter gourd, cucumber, papaya, guava, and watermelon. Research by the Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) also demonstrates positive results for Betal leaf and sugarcane production with FDP. In addition to crop yields and nutrient use efficiency, this paper also addresses the challenges and opportunities associated with the larger-scale adoption of FDP. In countries like Bangladesh, where FDP technology is widely disseminated, the majority of farmers are small landholders. Therefore, the paper discusses how FDP technology is disseminated and applied at a small scale, highlighting the need for modifications to adapt to larger-scale farming systems, especially where labor availability, supply chains, and mechanization dynamics differ. To facilitate large-scale adoption of FDP for specialty crop production, collaboration between government and private sector actors is crucial, promoting wide-scale adoption through industrial-level briquette production and mechanized on-farm deep-placement solutions.
Nutrient use efficiency, Fruits, Vegetables