How Farmers are
The global population is expected to increase from more than 7 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050, creating enormous challenges as the world’s farmers work to provide adequate quantities of nutritious food.
Farmers in a number of developing countries are using fertilizer deep placement (FDP) technology to increase crop yields and incomes, reduce the amount of fertilizer used and lessen environmental damage to the atmosphere and water.
What is FDP
Working with farmers (particularly in Bangladesh) for over 20 years, IFDC developed FDP as a more effective alternative to the traditional method of applying fertilizer by surface broadcasting (spreading, usually by hand) across a field or paddy.
FDP consists of two key components. The first is a fertilizer “briquette,” produced by compacting commercially available solid fertilizers. IFDC staff designed a briquetting machine suitable to operating conditions in developing countries.
A briquetting machine produces 1- to 3-gram briquettes that are much larger than conventional fertilizer granules. FDP briquettes are currently produced by more than 1,000 entrepreneurs with small-scale briquetting machines.
The second key component of FDP is the placement of briquettes below the soil surface. When used to fertilize irrigated rice, briquettes are centered between four plants at a depth of 7-10 centimeters within seven days after transplanting. Placement is done either by hand or with a mechanical applicator.
The briquette releases nitrogen (N) gradually, coinciding with the crop’s requirements during the growing season.
The most widely used nitrogen fertilizer is urea, which contains 46 percent N, the highest of all solid fertilizers.
While the majority of FDP activity has focused on urea briquettes to fertilize irrigated transplanted rice, blends of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the three primary nutrients needed for optimum crop growth) have also been successfully compacted into briquettes to improve yields of rice and other crops.
When urea is broadcast in flooded rice fields, a large portion of the N is wasted – lost through runoff, volatilization (atmospheric evaporation) and nitrification/denitrification. Additional amounts of N are converted to nitrates, which are mobile in the soil and can contaminate groundwater.
With FDP, urea is deep-placed into the soil, where the majority remains in the form of ammonium, which is much less mobile than nitrates. As a consequence, more N is available to the crop throughout its growth cycle. Therefore, losses to the atmosphere, groundwater and waterways are drastically reduced.
Only about 4 percent of the N is lost to the environment, compared with about 35 percent when N is applied via broadcasting. FDP dramatically improves a crop’s absorption of N – two-thirds is absorbed by the rice grain and straw (post-harvest residue), compared with one-third when the broadcast application method is used.
Working with its local and national partners, IFDC introduced FDP and other improved agricultural management practices in Bangladesh in the mid-1980s, generating significant agronomic, economic and environmental benefits. Currently, more than 2.5 million Bangladeshi farmers are using FDP, and its use is being expanded to an additional 1 million farmers across the country.
IFDC began its African FDP initiative in 2009, targeting 13 countries across the continent. To date, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria have generated the best results. As in Bangladesh, FDP’s advantages are proven. Rice yields with FDP (compared with broadcasting) average 30 percent more (an additional 1.2 metric tons per hectare). In double cropping systems (two rice crops per year), farmers are realizing about $400 in additional annual income per hectare than farmers using traditional practices.