Economics of Fertilizer

The farmers are generally not applying the recommended doses of fertilizers to soybean because of high prices, inadequate supply and risks involved in soybean's cultivation under rainfed situations. However, the efficient use and management of fertilizer is of great value. The common method of determining the profitability potential is a VCR that represents the value of extra crop produced per unit of money invested in fertilizer. A VCR >1 mean a net profit while <1 means a net loss. The higher the VCR, the more attractive the use of fertilizers. Generally, a VCR of 2-2.5 is considered to be attractive for a farmer to adopt fertilizer use.

The economics of different nutrient management options for a soybean-wheat system under farmers' field conditions in representative villages of central India have been calculated (Sammi Reddy et al., 2007). The mean economic analysis of 2 years (2005-2006 and 2006-2007) across 16 field trials in soybean revealed that the INM 2 (50% NPKS + 5 t FYM ha-1 + Rhizobium to soybean and 75% NPKS + PSB to wheat) produced 44% higher net returns (Rs 13,457ha-1) to the farmer over farmers' practice (Table 8.5). The VCR of this INM option was also higher as compared to farmer's practice (0.96:1) and BF through only inorganic fertilizers.

Most of the economic analyses of fertilizer usage in different crops have been restricted to a single crop or season. But the economics of different nutrient management options in different crops or cropping systems should be analysed on the basis of the whole cropping system rather than in a single crop because of the many reasons, including: (i) most fertilizers, particularly phosphorus and sulphur, have significant residual value; (ii) the application of micronutrients such as zinc in one crop meets the requirement of the following crop in a cropping system; and (iii) integration of organic manures with inorganic fertilizers reduces the fertilizer rates of subsequent crops due to their residual value. When soybean and wheat crops are considered together as a soybean-wheat system (Table 8.9), an INM option involving fertilizers, manure and biofertilizers (INM 2) has been found to yield the highest net returns (Rs 61,840 ha-1) -24% higher than farmers' practice (Rs 49,178 ha-1). The VCR of this treatment in the soybean-wheat system was also the highest (2.86:1) among all the treatments.

Table 8.9. Economics of INM in soybean-wheat system (reprinted with permission from Sammi Reddy et a/., 2007).

Mean grain yield

Gross

(kg ha

-1)

income

Total cost

Net returns

Details of the INM modules

Soybean

Wheat

(Rs ha-1)

(Rs ha-1)

(Rs ha-1)

VCR

100% NPKSZn to soybean

1,953

5,085

83,648

22,668

60,979

2.69

and 100% NPKS to

wheat (BF)

50% NPKS + 5 t FYM ha-1 to

2,051

4,863

81,841

21,567

60,274

2.79

soybean and 75% NPKS

to wheat (INM 1)

50% NPKS + 5 t FYM ha-1 +

2,182

4,869

83,461

21,621

61,840

2.86

Rhizobium to soybean and

75% NPKS + PSB to

wheat (INM 2)

Farmers' practice (FP)

1,727

4,168

69,613

20,435

49,178

2.41

BF, balanced fertilization through inorganic fertilizers only; PSB, phosphate-solubilizing bacteria; VCR, value to cost ratio.

100% NPKSZn: soybean - 25 kg N, 60 kg P2O5, 20 kg K2O, 20 kg S and 5 kg Zn ha-1; wheat - 120 kg N, 60 kg P2O5, 20 kg K2O and 20 kg S.

Farmers' practice: soybean - 12.5 kg N and 30 kg P2O5 ha-1; wheat - 80 kg N and 50 kg P2O5 ha-1.

BF, balanced fertilization through inorganic fertilizers only; PSB, phosphate-solubilizing bacteria; VCR, value to cost ratio.

100% NPKSZn: soybean - 25 kg N, 60 kg P2O5, 20 kg K2O, 20 kg S and 5 kg Zn ha-1; wheat - 120 kg N, 60 kg P2O5, 20 kg K2O and 20 kg S.

Farmers' practice: soybean - 12.5 kg N and 30 kg P2O5 ha-1; wheat - 80 kg N and 50 kg P2O5 ha-1.

Despite better economics of improved nutrient management options in soybean-based cropping systems under field conditions, the adoption rate of these technologies by farmers is very limited, particularly in developing countries such as India. A survey conducted with 100 farmers in the Mad-hya Pradesh state of central India indicated that about 52% of farmers were applying fertilizers (nitrogen and phosphorus only) to soybean, whereas 80% of farmers were applying fertilizers to wheat (Sammi Reddy et al., 2005). Farmers said that they could not predict the forthcoming risks in soybean production, particularly the incidence of pests, intensity of weed growth and possibility of continuous rains that may not allow farmers to institute timely pest and weed management practices. About 100 field demonstrations were conducted in ten villages of Madhya Pradesh with BF, INM and farmers' practice of nutrient management (Fig. 8.2) (Subba Rao et al., 2008).

In these demonstrations, scientists helped the farmers in imposing the nutrient management options at the time of soybean sowing and then stepped back to allow the farmers to take up other pest and weed management practices as per their schedule. Very interesting results were obtained across the 100 fields. About 50% of the farmers managed their fields well and obtained 2.5-3.7 t ha-1 soybean yield with BF and INM and about 1.02.5 t ha-1 with farmers' practice. The rest of the farmers could not conduct timely weed and pest control measures and achieved only 1.0-2.0 t ha-1

4000 3500

4000 3500

1 7 13 19 25 31 37 43 49 55 61 67 73 79 85 91 Farmer number

Fig. 8.2. Effect of farmers' practice (FP), balanced fertilization (BF) and integrated nutrient management (INM 2) on soybean seed yield (rates of manure and fertilizer application are as given in Table 8.5) (reprinted with permission from Subba Rao et al., 2008).

1 7 13 19 25 31 37 43 49 55 61 67 73 79 85 91 Farmer number

Fig. 8.2. Effect of farmers' practice (FP), balanced fertilization (BF) and integrated nutrient management (INM 2) on soybean seed yield (rates of manure and fertilizer application are as given in Table 8.5) (reprinted with permission from Subba Rao et al., 2008).

yield with BF and INM. If all the farmers could conduct timely weed and pest management practices, soybean yields could easily reach 3.0-3.5 t ha-1 with BF and INM. From this example, it can be concluded that to encourage farmers to adopt improved nutrient management options in soybean, it is necessary to remove all of the risks involved in the soybean production, such as pests, weeds and waterlogging. Therefore, improved nutrient management technologies should be recommended and popularized among farmers along with other pest, weed and water management options as a package of practices.

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