An agronomic, economic and behavioral analysis of N application to cotton and wheat in post-Soviet Uzbekistan
Cotton and winter wheat play a vital role in Uzbek agriculture: the first crop is a vital component of the national export revenues, while the latter is key in achieving independence from grain imports. Due to these strategic roles in the national economy, both crops are part of the state procurement system and, hence, are subject to strict regulations imposed to ensure budget revenues and self-sufficiency. However, many factors cause the divergence of crop yields from their technically maximum levels. We analyzed those factors, which hamper achieving the optimum response to fertilizer applications. In a stepwise procedure, we (i) reviewed the technical and financial optimum yield responses of cotton and winter wheat production to fertilizer applications and (ii) analyzed the changes of fertilizer-to-product price ratios to shed light on the agronomic and economic performance of cotton and wheat in the post-Soviet agricultural system of Uzbekistan. The analysis combined data from long-term, historical yield and fertilizer responses, agronomic N-fertilizer response experiments, and socio-economic farm surveys. Quadratic yield-response functions were used to derive economic and technical optimum rates of N-fertilizer applications. Based on the parameterized function and fertilizer-to-product price ratios observed for 1996-2003, we analyzed the difference between recommended fertilization and economic optimum application rates. Results showed that under the state procurement system, Uzbek farmers may not necessarily tend to maximize the profits from their cotton and wheat production. The level of subsidies and the differential crop support by the state induce farmers to follow the official fertilizer recommendations to ensure that they fulfill the production targets even if it implies higher production costs. The present gaps between the officially recorded yields and those technically achievable given the agro-ecological conditions in Uzbekistan cannot be narrowed by only improving N-fertilizer management. It would require additional efforts to improve cotton and wheat yields.
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