Balanced and integrated nutrient management for enhanced and economic food production: case study from rainfed semi-arid tropics in India
Soil degradation in the semi-arid tropics (SAT) is mainly responsible for low crop and water productivity. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states in India, the soil analyses of farmers’ fields revealed widespread deficiencies of S (9–96%), B (17–100%) and Zn (22–97%) along with that of P (25–92%). Soil organic C was deficient in 7–84% fields indicating specifically N deficiencies and poor soil health in general. During on-farm evaluations in rainy seasons 2010 and 2011, the soil test based addition of deficient nutrient fertilizers as balanced nutrition (BN) increased crop yields by 6–40% (benefit to cost ratios of 0.81–4.28) through enhanced rainwater use efficiency. The integrated nutrient management (INM), however, decreased the use of chemical fertilizers in BN by up to 50% through on-farm produced vermicompost and recorded yields at par or more than BN with far better benefit to cost ratios (2.26–10.2). Soybean grain S and Zn contents improved with INM. Applied S, B, Zn and vermicompost showed residual benefits as increased crop yields for succeeding three seasons. Hence, results showed INM/BN was economically beneficial for producing more food, while leading to resilience building of SAT production systems.