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Financial performance of fertilization strategies for sustainable soil fertility management in Sudano–Sahelian West Africa. 2: Profitability of long-term capital investments in rockphosphate

Abstract

Phosphorus (P) deficiency is a major impediment to securing crop productivity on the acid, sandy soils of Sudano-Sahelian West Africa (SSWA). However, given the low profitability of many annually applied fertilization strategies with imported P, the effects of yield-enhancing, alternative P-sources, such as rockphosphate (RP), should be considered. Therefore, the financial performance of 14 strategies—including 2 annual and 11 long-term fertilization strategies plus 1 farmers’ practice—were compared in three rainfall zones in SSWA. The comparison comprised the net present value, the annuity, the internal rate of return, and a risk analysis. Agronomic data came from a four-year, five-location trial complemented by information on farming systems, labor demands, and input–output prices. Compared with farmers’ practices, none of the P-fertilization strategies examined were financially superior at all locations. The financial performance of medium-term RP-strategies tended to increase with rainfall, but remained highly variable. Net returns to land with high rates of RP were often superior to annual inputs of mineral-P, but never the best alternatives. In most cases, the most profitable strategies comprised medium-level RP-applications with or without supplementary hill-placed NPK-fertilizer (also known as “micro-dosing”). The financial performance of medium quantities of RP sometimes increased and sometimes decreased with supplementary nitrogen (N) additions. The combination of hill-placed NPK and broadcast RP as well as N-applications with broadcast RP are alternatives to the use of RP alone. Our results can assist researchers and development institutions in advocating and implementing more effective strategies to enhance agricultural production in SSWA.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge the valuable contributions made by anonymous reviewers in the form of thorough comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic cooperation and Development (BMZ) for funding the field research from which the agronomic data were taken.

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Correspondence to John P. A. Lamers.

Appendix

Appendix

See the Table 7.

Table 7 Millet grain yields (kg ha−1) of the unfertilized control plots and effects of annual and long-term fertilization strategies at five locations across the West African Sudano-Sahelian zone for four experimental years

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Lamers, J.P.A., Bruentrup, M. & Buerkert, A. Financial performance of fertilization strategies for sustainable soil fertility management in Sudano–Sahelian West Africa. 2: Profitability of long-term capital investments in rockphosphate. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 102, 149–165 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-015-9671-z

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Keywords

  • Sustainable intensification
  • Innovation
  • West Africa
  • Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum)
  • Long-term profitability
  • Micro-dosing