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Understanding Fertilizer Effectiveness And Adoption On Maize In Zambia

Author

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  • Burke, William J.
  • Frossard, Emanuel
  • Kabwe, Stephen
  • Jayne, Thomas S.

Abstract

As populations continue to rise and land becomes scarcer in Africa’s rural areas, there is increasing urgency for farmers to adopt land management practices that sustainably raise land and labor productivity. Considerable effort has focused on promoting inorganic fertilizers, but it is increasingly recognized that smallholder farmers’ demand for fertilizer can be depressed by soil conditions that reduce crop response to and the profitability of fertilizer use. This article quantifies the impacts of soil characteristics on maize response to fertilizer in Zambia using a nationally representative sample of 1,453 fields. In addition to economic and farm management surveys, composite soil samples were collected and analyzed for several characteristics at the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute. Soil’s role in agricultural production and fertilizer efficiency is more nuanced than most economic literature has acknowledged. We believe ours is the first model in economic literature that simultaneously allows for the effects of multiple soil characteristics. We estimate critical threshold effects on yield response to fertilizer to be between pH levels of 5.4 and 5.6, soil organic matter levels of 1.2-1.4%, and find significant soil texture―and cation exchange―related thresholds. Depending on these soil characteristics, average maize yield response estimates range from insignificant (0) to 5.7 maize kg per fertilizer kg. We estimate fertilizer use on maize is not profitable at commercial prices for the majority of Zambian farmers (under current practices). Even ignoring transfer costs, about 80% of fertilized maize fields still have an estimated average value-cost-ratio for fertilizer less than one at commercial prices. To the best of our knowledge, the flexibility of our model and data with this scope of geography and content are novel contributions to the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • Burke, William J. & Frossard, Emanuel & Kabwe, Stephen & Jayne, Thomas S., 2016. "Understanding Fertilizer Effectiveness And Adoption On Maize In Zambia," Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Papers 259510, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security (FSP).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:miffrp:259510
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.259510
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. Snapp, Sieg & Jayne, T.S. & Mhango, Wezi & Ricker-Gilbert, Jacob, 2014. "Maize Yield Response to Nitrogen in Malawi’s Smallholder Production Systems," Food Security Collaborative Working Papers 188570, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
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    10. Marenya, Paswel Phiri & Barrett, Christopher B., 2009. "The effect of soil quality on fertilizer use rates among smallholder farmers in western Kenya," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 51671, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jayne, Thomas S. & Mason, Nicole M. & Burke, William J. & Ariga, Joshua, 2018. "Review: Taking stock of Africa’s second-generation agricultural input subsidy programs," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 1-14.
    2. William J. Burke & Serena Li & Dingiswayo Banda, 2018. "Female access to fertile land and other inputs in Zambia: why women get lower yields," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 35(4), pages 761-775, December.
    3. Resnick, Danielle & Mason, Nicole M., 2016. "What drives input subsidy policy reform? The case of Zambia, 2002–2016," IFPRI discussion papers 1572, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Berazneva, Julia & Lee, David R. & Place, Frank & Jakubson, George, 2018. "Allocation and Valuation of Smallholder Maize Residues in Western Kenya," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 172-182.
    5. Morgan, Stephen N. & Mason, Nicole M. & Levine, N. Kendra & Zulu-Mbata, Olipa, 2019. "Dis-incentivizing sustainable intensification? The case of Zambia’s maize-fertilizer subsidy program," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 54-69.

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    Keywords

    Agricultural and Food Policy; Food Security and Poverty; International Development;
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