BENEFIT-CASCAPE EXPERIENCES IN SOIL FERTILITY AND NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT IN SOUTHERN TIGRAY, ETHIOPIA

Soil degradation and depletion of soil nutrients are among the major factors threatening sustainable cereal production in the Ethiopian highlands. However, although knowledge on soil fertility status plays a vital role in enhancing production and productivity of the agricultural sector on sustainable basis, little information is available in Southern parts of Tigray. Hence, Mekelle University CASCAPE project has been involved in generating information on soil fertility and nutrient status of the Sothern Zone of the region.

As part of this effort, in 2012 and 2014, CASCAPE project (known as BENEFIT-CASCAPE since 2016) conducted a survey using Monitoring for Quality Assessment (MonQI) tool to assess the soil nutrient balance in the southern zone of the region. The survey result indicates that partial nutrient balance at field level was negative for nitrogen and potassium, and positive for phosphorus. The nutrient balance of the southern Tigray gives strong warning on the status of soil fertility and nutrient management of the area. Moreover, the soil survey to assess the nutrient status, conducted in 2013 and 2014 depicted that the soil nutrient level was below critical level except for phosphorus. The amount of organic amendment applied into the soil is insufficient to offset nutrient losses. Among others, loss of soil organic matter (SOM) in area of low input agriculture is one of the challenges. If the nutrient depletion and land degradation continue at the current rates, farmers will be unable to grow enough food crops for the ever increasing population in the area.

To solve the soil fertility and plant nutrition problems in southern zone of Tigray, Mekelle University CASCAPE Project along with its partners in the region have conducted various survey and experiments during the period of 2012 to 2019, which includes characterization of agricultural soils, MonQI survey for nutrient balance, use of inoculants, use of gypsum amendment, use of compost, farm yard manure (FYM) (Slurry) and soil-crop based fertilizer rate development and others on major crops grown in the southern zone of Tigray.

This document is intends to share experiences and lessons that the project has generated over the last 9 years to its stakeholders in the region and beyond. We believe the document will provide information on soil nutrient status and management practices and serve as reference to the extension system and other actors involved in soil fertility management in Southern zone of Tigray. Read the working paper here.

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