17 February 2013

Ethiopia: Fertiliser Blending to Increase Crop Production

On fertilizer blending launching ceremony Tekalegn Mamo (Prof.) , state minister of MoA, Nejib Abba Biya, senior vice president of Allana Potash (center) and Khalid Bomba. Chief executive officer of ATA announced they are working together in the project that will take place in the coming September.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Agricultural & Transformation Agency (ATA) launched a national fertiliser blending programme and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Allana Potash Corp. for financing the programme, on February 12, 2013.

The project aims to popularise new high-yield blended fertilisers and to create Ethiopia's first in-country blended fertiliser production facilities.

There will be four blending plants, one in each of the four main agricultural regions. Each of the plants will be operated by a farmers' cooperative union, including Enderta in Tigray, Merkeb in Amhara, Becho Woliso in Oromia, and Melek Site in SNNPR. These four plants, which will have a cumulative production capacity of nearly 250,000tn a year, are expected to start producing fertilisers in time for the 2014 planting season.

The plants will make an expanded range of soil nutrients available to farmers, customised to their specific soil types, crops, and agro-ecologies.

Allana Potash, which had a positive feasibility study at its Danakil potash project, is partnering with ATA to demonstrate the benefits of potash fertiliser to farmers through a series of field trials.

"Agriculture has been the major driver of the economy, unfortunately, its productivity has not increased in levels required to satisfy local demands," said Tekalign Mamo, (Prof), state minister of Agriculture.

Ethiopian farmers primarily rely on only two fertilisers to supplement the nutrient content in their soil, phosphorus in the form di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and nitrogen in the form of Urea. A standard application of 100Kg of DAP and 100Kg of Urea has traditionally been recommended across Ethiopia for all crops and soil types.

"This recommendation fails to take into account the current fertility status of soil, or specific crop needs," said Tekalign. "Since only DAP and Urea fertilisers are commercially available, their positive effect of stimulating crop growth also decreases the natural soil fertility and levels of essential nutrients not supported by fertilisation."

According to the data from Ethiopian Agricultural Inputs Authority in the year 2010/11, 484,746tn of DAP and 639,116tn of Urea were distributed to farmers.

The new project will use geostatistical soil fertility mapping of agricultural land in the country to recommend relevant fertiliser applications for each wereda.

"Ethiopia's crop yields have been constrained by a very limited set of imported fertilisers. However, by blending fertilisers here in Ethiopia, smallholder farmers will not only have access to an expanded range of soil nutrients; they will also be able to request custom blended formulas tailored to their specific soil needs," said Khalid Bomba, chief executive officer of the ATA.

During the 2013 planting season, the effectiveness of these blended fertilisers will be demonstrated at 5,000 farmer training centres and on 50,000 farmers' plots.

"These formulas will continue to be updated as more in-depth information becomes available and the needs of the soil changes over time," said Tekalign. "In the long term, it is anticipated that each farmer will be able to use a fertiliser customised to his or her soil type, helping to maximise crop yields."

As the blending plants are being constructed and prepared for production in 2014, a technical committee, comprised of experts from the MoA, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research and the regional agricultural research institutes have developed customised fertiliser formulas to be tested on Ethiopia's soil, according to Tekalign.

For demonstrating the project on the selected farmers' plot, 216,000 metric tonnes of blended fertiliser will be imported in the coming month with the cost of 172,800 dollars which is all covered by Allana Potash, according to Mulugeta Demiss, technical expert on the fertiliser blending project at ATA.

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