Nutrient Expert® for Hybrid Maize - South Asia (India)

A user-friendly nutrient decision support tool that enables researchers, extension experts and industry agronomists to quickly develop field specific fertilizer recommendations for hybrid maize.

The food and nutritional security challenges in South Asia requires intensifying production of wheat, rice and maize to reach 70-80% of their potential yield (Cassman 1999). Yields of cereals in smallscale farms in Asia are 40-65% of their potential largely because nutrient management does not consider the crop’s dynamic response to the environment (Dobermann and Cassman, 2002). Data from several environments in India revealed gaps between potential and attainable yields of maize of up to 100% and between attainable and actual yields of up to 25-50%.

Among the three cereals, maize is rapidly emerging as a favourable option for the farmers of South Asia due to higher productivity and profitability of maize over rice or wheat. Maize extracts large amounts of mineral nutrients from the soil due to high grain and stover yields. There is a possibility of nutrient mining from the soil if fertilizers are not added as per the requirements for high target yield of maize. Intensification of maize will therefore need nutrient management that produces high yields while preserving soil quality and the environment.

South Asian agriculture is characterized by small land holdings for cultivation with high variability in plant nutrient availability between fields. However, fertilizer recommendations for crops in this region are usually done over large geographic areas that often fail to meet the demand of high yielding cops like maize. Site-specific nutrient management (SSNM), on the other hand, integrates information from different scales to make field specific decisions on N, P and K management. SSNM, which was developed for rice in Asia (Dobermann et al. 2002), was later adapted for maize in Asia (Pasuquin et al. 2010).

There is little acceptance of SSNM by farmers beyond the on-farm trials. Apart from shortcomings in the strategy to promote SSNM, and farmer’s inability to buy fertilizers, extension agents lack confidence in using the methodology (Gabinete and Buresh, 2009). Many extension agents still perceive SSNM as complex, requiring an understanding of concepts and methods outside their experience. Such knowledge requirements have slowed the wide-scale promotion and adoption of SSNM by the farmers and extension agents (Buresh, 2008). The need for more rapid uptake of the SSNM technology by farmers led in the consolidation of SSNM research conducted over the last decade across Asia into a simple delivery system, Nutrient Expert for Maize, enabling maize farmers of the region to rapidly implement SSNM for their individual fields. The decision support system developed for South Asia in 2010-11 is an easy-to-use, interactive computer-based decision tool that can rapidly provide nutrient recommendations for an individual farmers’ field in the presence or absence of soil testing data. It utilizes information provided by a farmer or a local expert to suggest a meaningful yield goal for his location and formulates a fertilizer management strategy required to attain that yield goal.

The User Manual, while describing various steps involved in operating the tool, will help the user in developing an improved nutrient management practice for attaining better yields of maize.

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