In June 2013, 29 farmers, members of farmer organizations (UCPTC) and field agents of NGOs (AMEDD, AMASSA) from Sikasso, Segou and Mopti regions of Mali attended a training session in Koutiala on mechanization of fertilizer microdosing. Applied manually until now, microdosing addresses the problems of low soil fertility, access to fertilizers and difficult climatic conditions in the Sahelian and Sudanean ecological zones. The technology, developed by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) and partners, has contributed to increased production, productivity and farm incomes.
As a result of previous projects carried out by ICRISAT and partners such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Microdose Project, some 25,000 smallholder farmers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger obtained 44-120% more yield in sorghum and millet, along with a 30% increase in family incomes. As a result, many farmers and producers agree that fertilizer microdosing is relevant and profitable. However, a major constraint in using the technology, is that it is labour-intesive and time-consuming making it’s use unsustainable for many smallholders.
Kamkam Woumou is a research assistant at the Institute d’ Economie Rurale (IER) who provided the training. According to Woumou, ‘one constraint producers face when fertilizers are applied manually is the amount of time and labour required. IER scientists and partners were inspired to conduct research on mechanization of fertilizer microdosing technology by producers who mixed fertilizer with seeds at sowing to reduce this labour,’ he said.
The new equipment developed by IER and its partners (including NORAGRIC and GCOZA) consists of a special disk and a particularly innovative planter based on the principle of simultaneous seed sowing and fertilizer application. Real-time work required (sowing and application of microdoses) for 1 ha can be reduced from 12 person-days when fertilizers are applied manually to a 1 person-day. In addition to reducing time and labour, mechanizing microdosing also helps farmers plant seedlings in straight rows and use the appropriate quantity of seeds and fertilizer for each pocket, optimizing productivity. The efficient use of fertilizers results in vigorous growth of the plants.
The first day of training, held in the Catholic mission in Koutiala, consisted of a presentation on the mechanical placement of seed and fertilizer. On the second day, participants were introduced to the equipment and its settings using different types of disks during a practical field session. Mechanization is based on the use of a disk placed inside the planter. The soaked seeds mixed with the fertilizer are administered using the planter at 30-50cm distance between pockets. The disks are manufactured by blacksmiths and controlled and tested by IER.
The training was further complemented by a screening of ‘Fighting Striga‘ videos, which introduced a range of technologies to manage Striga and soil fertility such as intercropping, microdosing and compost production. At the end of the training, participants planned for trials in their intervention villages and protocols were developed for the experiments. Mechanized microdosing will be tested in Koutiala District as part of the Africa RISING project. If tested successfully, the technology will be made available on a large scale in Mali.
This training session was organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with IER as part the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project Africa RISING and aligned with the CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Systems and Dryland Cereals.
Written by Agathe Diame and Tom Van Mourik (ICRISAT)