Managing soil fertility constraints in market-led shift to high value agriculture for benefiting smallholders in the semi-arid tropics uri icon


  • Low productivity and cultivation of low value crops inthe Indian semi-arid tropics (SAT) is the main cause forpoor farm-based livelihoods. Poverty leading to low risktakingability of farmers and production relatedconstraints like widespread multi-nutrient deficienciesare major stumbling blocks for shifting to high valueagriculture. Realizing the need to support povertyentrappedsmallholders to connect to markets, thegovernment of Karnataka state in India supportedmarket-led shift to high value agriculture through aconsortium of technical institutions and convergence ofagricultural schemes. New widespread deficiencies ofsecondary and micronutrients like sulfur (52% farms),zinc (55%) and boron (62%) along with earlier knowndeficiencies of nitrogen (52%) and phosphorus (41%)were identified as main constraints for realizingproductivity potential and a threat for sustainability.Policy supported initiative during 2011/12 showed moreeconomic returns with diversified high value crops andstrengthened 0.23 million smallholders. On-farmevaluations of soil test-based nutrient balancing totomato, okra, brinjal, chilies, onion, cabbage and beansincreased productivity by 5 to 58% over the farmers?practice of adding macronutrients only. Small additionalcost (` 770 to 1520 per ha) of balanced nutritionsignificantly increased additional benefits (` 5300 to74,000 per ha) with fairly high cost-benefit ratio (1:4 to1:82). Substantial returns enhanced risk-taking ability ofsmallholders to manage productivity constraints in futureby themselves. Results showed that initial littleinvestments in science and market-led social assistanceprograms should be a way forward for mainstreamingpoverty-entrapped smallholders in other parts of SAT

publication date

  • 2013