Soil fertility information is transforming agriculture in Ethiopia
This article by Tekalign Mamo of the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) describes the succes of the Ethiopian Soil Information System (EthioSIS) project. The initiative started in 2012 and is a first-of-its-kind initiative in Africa. EthioSIS uses remote sensing satellite technology and extensive soil sampling to provide high-resolution soil fertility mapping. Grid-based soil sampling and data collection was done across the country, followed by intensive soil sampling from all arable land, to discover which soil fertility and health conditions were limiting crop productivity. The researchers discovered that, in addition to the most widely deficient major nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – many areas were also deficient in potassium and sulphur as well as zinc, boron or copper. The enormous soil analysis data generated, together with satellite imagery, are now being used to create the first country-specific digital soil fertility atlas in Africa.Based on this, experts can identify the types of fertilisers to recommend to farmers. Early results have shown that these recommended fertilisers improve crop yields by up to 65 percent when used in tandem with recommended improved crop and soil management practices. Ethiopia’s extensive study of soil fertility and the resulting fertiliser recommendations can serve as an example to other African nations.