Navigation Links
400,000 farmers in southern Africa using 'fertilizer trees' to improve food security

NAIROBI, KENYA (14 October 2011) On a continent battered by weather extremes, famine and record food prices, new research released today from the World Agroforestry Centre documents an exciting new trend in which hundreds of thousands of poor farmers in Southern Africa are now significantly boosting yields and incomes simply by using fast growing trees and shrubs to naturally fertilize their fields.

The analysis of two decades of work to bring the soil-enriching benefits of so-called "fertilizer trees" to the nutrient-depleted farms of Africa was published in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.

"In only five African countries, there are now some 400,000 smallholder farmers using fertilizer trees to provide critically needed soil nutrientsand many report major increases in maize yieldswhich shows that it is possible to rapidly introduce innovations in Africa that can have an immediate impact on food security," said Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre and the paper's lead author.

The study focuses on the rapid adoption of fertilizer trees by farmers targeted in research, training and extension programs in Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In eastern Zambia alone, the study reports the use of fertilizer trees grew from a pilot project in the early 1990s that involved only 12 farmers to adoption by 66,000 farmers as of 2006. In Malawi, there are now 145,000 farmers using fertilizer trees.

In addition, across the region, researchers have documented a doubling of maize yields on farms employing fertilizer trees compared to those that did not, which has dramatically increased both incomes and food security. In Zambia, for example, incomes for farmers using the fertilizer trees averaged from $233 to $327 per hectare, compared to only $130 for unfertilized fields. And the increased yields provided between 57 to 114 extra days of food.

"We also found that when farmers plant these trees, water efficiency improves," Ajayi said. "Farmers are getting higher yields from the same amount of rainwater. And the trees are helping reduce the run-off and soil erosion that is a key factor behind food production shortfalls in Africa."

Fertilizer trees enhance soil health by drawing nitrogen from the air and transferring it to the soil through their roots and leaf litter, replenishing exhausted soils with rich sources of organic nutrients. Scientists at the World Agroforestry Centre have been working since the 1980s to identify indigenous tree species, such as a fast growing variety of acacia that can be planted alongside crops to improve soil fertility. Among the many burdens facing African farmers are soils that are among the most depleted in the world. Yet for two-thirds of farmers on the continent, mineral supplements are either too expensive or simply unavailable.

In recent years, the Centre's work has focused on partnerships, particularly with national agriculture extension programs that can help more smallholder farmers integrate fertilizer trees into their crop production systems. Ajayi said the rapid adoption of the fertilizer tree approach is partly due to the fact that researchers have turned over much of the project design and testing to farmers.

"Initially, these fertilizer tree projects were controlled mostly by researchers," Ajayi said. "But in the final phases of development, all of the testing in the field was completely designed and fully managed by the farmers themselves."

Ajayi also credited initiatives that focused on integrating the fertilizer tree approach with national agriculture policies and priorities.

Researchers believe wider use of fertilizer trees in Africa will require a two-track strategy that involves simultaneously engaging policy makers and farmers.

Ajayi cautioned that, while they are a natural way of supplementing the soil, fertilizer trees should not become entangled in the divisive "organic versus inorganic" debate over how to boost to increase crop yields in Africa. It is important to increase the use of both types of nutrient sources in complementary ways. For example, research has shown that coupling fertilizer trees with small doses of mineral fertilizer often results in generating the highest productivity and financial returns.

"We need to provide farmers in Africa with a wide range of soil fertility options and not focus on one type or another as being somehow superior," he said.

Researchers also say future work should focus on the potential for fertilizer trees to improve yields of high value crops, such as coffee and cocoa


Contact: Paul Stapleton
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Related biology news :

1. $400,000 NRC grant to develop nuclear engineering faculty at Clemson
2. Barrow scientist awarded $400,000 grant to study cell associated with intuition and autism
3. MSU researchers receive $400,000 in first wave of stimulus funding
4. If insurance companies pay out too often, farmers will be threatened with ruin in the long term
5. Farmers more likely to be green if they talk to their neighbors, according to MSU research
6. U of M project will help corn and soybean farmers prepare for climate change
7. US farmers dodge the impacts of global warming -- at least for now
8. Transgenic corn suppresses European corn borer, saves farmers billions
9. New study shows benefits of Bt corn to farmers
10. Chocolate farmers could benefit from newly sequenced cacao genome
11. Sequencing of cacao genome will help US chocolate industry, subsistence farmers
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/16/2015)... 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: SYNA ), ... announced expansion of its TDDI product portfolio with ... and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions designed to ... TDDI products add to the previously-announced TD4300 ... resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. All four ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... LONDON , Nov. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... segmented on the basis of product, type, ... segments included in this report are consumables, ... this report are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, ... in this report are diagnostics development, drug ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI International has ... to provide preclinical development services to the National Cancer ... SRI will provide scientific expertise, modern testing and support ... of preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to evaluate potential ... --> The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; TSX: ... prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the following ... received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC Phase ... the final interim efficacy and safety data ... men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant prostate ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ... November 25, 2015 , ... Jessica Richman and ... early in their initial angel funding process. Now, they are paying it forward ... make early stage investments in the microbiome space. In this, they join ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... Conference in New York on Wednesday, December ... Helen Torley , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... New York at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... investor relations, will provide a corporate overview. --> th ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: ... behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that as ... no corporate developments that would cause the recent movements ... --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical company ...
Breaking Biology Technology: