Improving soil health and plant nutrition lies at the very heart of closing the yield and nutritional gap and conquering hunger, malnutrition and poverty, and our research at IFDC has been and remains a core component of achieving this goal.
As science-backed innovation is one of our principles of engagement, IFDC embraces new discoveries – its own or others’ – and works with public and private partners to validate their applicability in smallholder systems. We deliver the evidence that provides a foundation for the adaptation and responsible scaling of agricultural and food systems innovations in harmony with improving soil health and plant nutrition. Going further, we use data analytics to make decisions and collaborative, adaptive, and learning approaches to expand our knowledge base and outreach.
Tools and Technologies
IFDC employs its unique ability to take research from idea to impact by implementing several tools, technologies, and methodologies uniquely designed and adjusted to meet local conditions and close traditional development gaps.
The Soil-SMaRT approach, developed by IFDC, provides a step-by-step framework that can be used by public and private sector partners to identify and map soil nutrient deficiencies, develop and disseminate recommendations for sustainable soil fertility management, among which the delivery of balanced fertilizers to farmers.
IFDC’s one-of-a-kind fertilizer Pilot Plant Complex and its affiliated engineers and scientists can help determine the technical and financial feasibility of manufacturing and blending new fertilizer products at varying production scales. In collaboration with our engineering staff and in public-private partnerships, our Research and Analytical Services take part in developing and determining the efficiency of nutrient use, including deep placement, controlled-, slow-release, and stabilized fertilizer products and innovative biodegradable coatings, bio-organic fertilizers, and nano-based soil and foliar application products and techniques. These enhanced efficiency products improve delivery and efficiency of nutrients, including Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium, Sulfur, and micronutrients. Together with our global presence, these capabilities make IFDC the only organization capable of taking a fertilizer technology idea from our labs to production testing to field trial implementation and scaling up.
Decision support tools help farmers and extension services apply agricultural research based on geography and markets by using crop modeling and analyses of soil, weather, and market information to increase yields and profits. IFDC uses various tools; however, it plays a large role in the development and updating of the Decision Support System for Agro-Technology Transfer (DSSAT), phosphate rock decision support system (PRDSS) and geo-spatial modeling tool (GSSAT).
IFDC’s markets, economics and policy research includes conducting feasibility studies on soil fertility – enhancing technologies towards scaling; market research studies involving demand and value chain analysis of fertilizer products and logistics; designing better input delivery mechanisms through evidence based learnings; and producing data support and evidence for better technology adoption and practices among practitioners. Our major strength lies in making data available to a wider audience; continuous engagement with regional, national, and international stakeholders and forums in advocating better implementation of soil and plant nutrition related policies and regulatory environment.
IFDC works to develop novel soil and plant health technologies through our improved understanding of soil-plant-ecosystem relationships. While most improved-efficiency fertilizers currently target advanced large-scale farming systems in high-income countries, IFDC works with national, regional, and international partners, to co-design, test and adapt improved-efficiency fertilizers for smallholder systems.
Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) is a set of practices, adapted to local conditions, to improve soil quality, and nutrient and water use efficiency, resulting in improved crop productivity. Early ISFM focused on bringing external organic inputs to a field through manures, cut-and-carry agroforestry, and other green manure sources, including composts. The Next Generation of ISFM will place increasing focus on generating and managing organic matter in situ, recycling nutrients from wastes, and using microbes augment nutrients and nutrient use efficiency. Judicious use of integrated-balanced fertilizers will be essential to generating increased crop and root biomass and replacing nutrients removed in harvested products, to sequestering carbon and improving soil health.
Taking Research to Scale
Our scaling approach evaluates four key elements of potential technologies to catalyze increased production:
- Market driven demand.
- Minimal environmental effects.
- Profitable for farmers.
This paradigm takes into account the support services for better access and connectivity to both input markets for technology access and output markets for sale, thus providing incentives to all stakeholders involved in the market system. These incentives drive increased production, better incomes and employment, and greater consumer access to food.
IFDC’s approach in taking research to scale is dynamic and participatory, involving co-designing, developing, and evaluating appropriate technologies for scaling. This interactive process takes into account various risks, constraints, and opportunities toward scaling improved and adaptive technologies and ensures sustainability.