In a bid, to improve access to existing knowledge on effective use of ISFM technologies, the Malawi soil health consortium, through support of APNI staff (previously IPNI), compiled databases and abstracts for most of ISFM work that had been done in Malawi by December 2014. Through use of library catalogues, records of funded agricultural projects, university thesis records, donor reports, government reports, archives, consultation with scientists from NARS, CGIAR and universities and online journal search with relevant keywords, the Integrated Soil Fertility Management Book of Abstracts for Malawi was developed.
The content is organized in 12 chapters: soil fertility status, the use of organic fertilizers, the use of in organic fertilizers, the combined use of organic and inorganic fertilizers, liming and application of phosphate rock, legumes and ISFM technologies, conservation agriculture, agroforestry, legumes-cereal rotation/inter-cropping, tillage and irrigation, dissertation and thesis. We acknowledge that this may not be exhaustive of all the ISFM work done in Malawi but this book of abstracts provides significant information about most of the ISFM work done.
This work was accomplished through a AGRA grant to IPNI. The grant number 2012 SHP 017. The project was implemented through 8 country level consortia; namely the Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Ethiopia Soil health consortia.
The Malawi economy is driven predominantly by the agricultural sector that accounts for one third of the GDP and nearly 80% of employment. Malawi remains among the five poorest countries in the world, with over 50% of the population living below the poverty line. Poor soil fertility and nutrient depletion continue to represent huge obstacles to securing needed crop harvests. The yield gaps for cereals and legumes are estimated at more than 60%. Years of research have recommended Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) as the key entry point for doubling and tripling the usually low crop yields in Malawi. ISFM is the application of soil fertility management practices, and the knowledge to adapt them to local conditions, which maximize fertilizer and organic resource use efficiency and crop productivity. These practices necessarily include appropriate fertilizer and organic input management in combination with the utilization of improved germplasm.
A large number of technologies and combination of technologies have been classified as ISFM with varying range of benefits and conditions under which they work best. For example, whereas application of nitrogen (N) as mineral fertilizer results in better cereal yield than the same amount of N applied as organic inputs, when the two materials are applied together, the positive interactions have often led to significantly higher yield than any of the two nutrient sources applied separately. Often, the wide, range of issues that affect the effectiveness, ease of use and adaptation of the wide range of ISFM technologies confuse the stakeholders leading to limited adoption of ISFM technologies. Key among factors that lead to poor use and appreciation of ISFM is limited access to the ISFM knowledge that is generated by the research system. Such, knowledge, can only be found in bits and pieces in different institutions and not in a consolidated manner to ease comparison and informed decision making.