Climate-Smart Agriculture: Linking Climate Services and Soil Diagnostics

Climate-Smart Agriculture: Linking Climate Services and Soil Diagnostics


Farmers in Africa today face quite a
number of challenges, one being they don’t have credit to fertilizers they
don’t have fertilizers available to them, also. They don’t have soil information or the
nutrient status of their crops, sometimes even markets for their crops, weather
data — they don’t have those kinds of information. Crops need to use fertilizers, and that requires soil and plant testing. So you go to the field you take the soil samples, you take the plant samples, and you send it to a lab which will give
you recommendations for fertilizer amounts. The problem is a lot of a
farmer’s fields are in very remote areas and therefore taking the sample,
sending, shipping them to labs, it can take a long time. Agriculture and Food
Security Center has equipment we call SoilDoc. It’s a mobile soil testing kit — it’s a lab in a box. So it’s supposed to be used by the extension officers, and essentially you’re able to collect your soil, and do analysis ranging from pH, EC, nitrate, potassium, phosphorus and active carbon. And after you have done all your analysis
and you have gotten your numbers, you use an Android and you key in all your numbers, and you’re able to give the farmers the results in quantitative and qualitative
form, and also the recommendations based on fertilizer applications. Having soil information would help them actually know what kind of crops to grow, and how much fertilizer to apply, and also — it would also help them know in terms of their income and how much they can get from a particular crop, what kind
of crop can they actually prioritize. Agriculture and Food Security Center is
using SoilDoc in several African countries in the south, east and west
Africa, and so far we have been able to train several extension officers in all
the countries. And these extension officers actually have been able to
sample several thousands of farmers fields and give them back results and recommendations to these farmers. The SoilDoc is missing one component, which is the climate information. If you have a very poor growing season, I mean climatologically very poor, it doesn’t make any sense to a lot of fertilizers, because
the most limiting factor will be available water to crops, and so you will
not solve that problem by increasing your nitrogen fertilizer. And on the other
hand, if you have a very favorable growing season, then you want to be sure
to take maximum advantage of that rainfall, add enough fertilizer to optimize yields. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has been issuing forecasts for the upcoming three month season for global
temperature and rainfall for about 20 years. These forecasts are issued monthly on the IRI Data Library and by IRI collaborators around the world. However, due to their coarse spatial
resolution, and to the fact that they provide the rainfall information but for
the three months of the season the use of these seasonal forecasts for
decision making in agriculture is quite challenging. So the innovation in this
project will be to increase the spatial resolution of this seasonal forecast but
also explore the predictability at lower time scale using the IRI Data Library
technology which is portable on Andriod, and hence we will be able
to deliver this climate information alongside SoilDoc recommendations. Weather and climate information would help them actually be able to know, when do I plant? Do I need to wait until the rainfall’s about to start, or do I need to forego this season and plant next season, or do I need to plant a more
drought-resistant crop? Agriculture and Food Security Center’s SoilDoc key long-term goals would be to reach to all small-scale farmers in developing
nations, not only Africa but Asia and Latin America, and be able to do soil analysis and
also allow fertilizer companies to make the blends which are specific for each crop
and in each region. The SoilDoc system will benefit small-scale farmers in
Africa, Asia, and Latin America, or in any other developing nations, and also anyone else in the agricultural value chain including fertilizer companies,
agricultural inputs stores, seed companies, and extension officers, and even research
communities. So this project could actually leverage other applications in different sectors, in the sense that we will tailor climate information for
a specific application, which is agriculture in this sense, but this type of
information is also needed by different sectors of the society. For instance, health, water resources, and we will actually have the opportunity to bridge the gap
between the climate services and stakeholders who are actually thirsty of
this climate information.

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