Beyond N and P: Toward a Land Resource Ecology Perspective and Impactful Fertilizer Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Date
2015-02
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Abstract
Crop plants require essential nutrients to grow and produce economic yields, and nutrient deficiencies can hinder growth and yield. While some nutrients may be present in the soil, they may not be readily available to crops. Plants have developed various mechanisms, such as root exudation and mutualistic relationships with soil biota, to acquire nutrients. However, in many cases, the application of appropriate fertilizers is necessary to achieve significant yield improvements. This paper focuses on the unique agricultural challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, where the use of inorganic fertilizers remains limited compared to other tropical regions. It discusses the importance of considering nutrients beyond nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in fertilizer research and the potential for low-dose fertilizer technologies to address nutrient deficiencies. The paper presents data from case studies in the Miombo woodland biome of Central-South Africa, highlighting the diversity of soil conditions and the need for site-specific fertilizer interventions. It also explores the role of essential plant nutrients like calcium (Ca), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), and micronutrients (B, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, and Zn) in improving crop yields. While data limitations exist, the paper suggests that a broader spectrum of essential nutrients should be considered in the development of fertilizer technologies for sub-Saharan Africa.
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Crop, Soil fertility
Citation
R. Voortman and P.S. Bindraban, 2015. Beyond N and P: Toward a Land Resource Ecology Perspective and Impactful Fertilizer Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. VFRC Report 2015/1. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 49 pp.; 15 tables; 17 figs.; 2 text boxes; 67 ref
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