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Part III. Highlights of common country-level issues on integrated nutrient management

The summary of the lessons learned, policies and constraints in implementing integrated nutrient management in Asia-Pacific countries are presented in the Annexes to Part VII (Tables 1 through 17).

Knowledge gaps in IPNS management between scientists and farmers remain a major factor in the complex dynamics of soil-plant nutrient management to effectively sustain the balance between soil nutrient reserves with actual plant nutrient uptake and nutrient export or removal from the farm.

The increasing collective participation of the private sector and local and international academic institutions in the region to provide agricultural producers with early maturing hybrid seeds that need to be fed with huge amounts of nutrients within short periods (110 to 120 days) is a big challenge for soil and plant nutrition scientists. The shortened time for soil nutrient mobilization to meet the phenologically-related food demands of the plants make readily soluble/available chemical fertilizers a major consideration in the campaign for improving yields and food supplies to support a rapidly growing population.

The nutrient budgets in the agro-ecosystem as shown in some papers indicated the growing negative trends for potash and phosphates and increasing trends for nitrogen. China, as corroborated by the senior scientist from Bangladesh, reported that in the “1950s there was a small surplus of N with deficits of P and K and then N and P became more balanced in the mid-1970s. The N and P budgets then show a surplus with K still in deficit. The nutrient surpluses of arable land reached 154 kg N/ha and 31 kg P/ha in 2004. The increasing surpluses of N and P can be attributed mainly to increasing fertilizer inputs and steady application of organic manures from 1980 to 2003. Although the K deficit decreased from -1.89 mt in 1979 to -1.34 mt in 2004, there was still a serius shortage of K. In addition, nutrient inputs from the environment, especially N inputs, have also contributed to the nutrient surpluses, accounting for 18.6 percent of N, 1.7 percent of P, and 12.7 percent of K of total inputs in 2004.”

A. INM issues for Asian countries

Asian agriculture is under persistent pressure to narrow the gap between food supplies and demand by the ever increasing human population, aggravated by significant loss of arable land from urbanization and pollution. As a consequence of this negative trend in the food supplying capacity of the regions natural resource base, Asian countries have mainstreamed into their national policies the promotion and use of genetically improved short food crops, including livestock and fishes, as the foundation of their food security programmes. This is further enhanced and fully supported by policy support for fertilizer subsidies to encourage farmers to use more and higher rates of fertilizers to ensure high crop yields.

Common barriers and root causes of the decline in agricultural land productivity and the ensuing threat to food security in Asian countries include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Soil mining or internal loss of soil nutrient reserves to the plant and the groundwater induced by the imbalanced use of fertilizers, mostly through the excessive use of Urea;
  2. Poor rationalization of chemical fertilizer importation to ensure easy access to appropriate, suitable and affordable fertilizer grades. In most cases, the importation and supply of Urea exceeded phosphates and potash;
  3. Inadequate understanding and absence of dedicated national programmes for organic-based fertilization and balanced fertilization based on a sound soil testing programme;
  4. Policy support for short maturing, high yield varieties (hybrid) without appropriate integrated nutrient management practices to avert the incidence of soil mining and soil/water degradation;
  5. Fertilizer subsidies that are not based on the soil and plant nutrient needs of the country (e.g. Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka);
  6. High population and rapid urbanization and declining man-arable land ratio; and
  7. Global oil issues and uncontrolled increases in the price of chemical fertilizers.

B. INM issues for Pacific Island countries

Pacific Island countries, in contrast to their Asian counterparts, have dedicated much of their agricultural development to serving the needs of farm families and are built around the organization and success of a network of home gardens.

In contrast to the capital intensive character of Asian agriculture, agricultural development in the Pacific Island countries is basically based on low external input, small-scale farming systems, supported by traditional and indigenous technologies. They are largely dedicated to home self-reliance composed of networks of small home gardens generally using simple tools and indigenous technologies to serve farm family needs and local markets. Compared to the predominance of chemical fertilizers in the more advanced Asian countries, farmers in the Pacific Islands are mainly dependent on natural fertilizer sources, recycling crop residues and natural soil fertility.

Some island countries have started to experience the pressures of increasing population and rapid urbanization and declining land availability per capita, which in the long-term could become a major barrier to a long-term, sustainable agricultura development programme for food security. Increasing areas of sloping farmlands are contributing to a higher incidence of erosion and long-term loss of land productivity of scarce arable lands, particularly in coastal areas.

Common issues in nutrient management and barriers to food security in Pacific Island countries, because of the very nature of small backyard or home gardens, are listed below, to wit:

  1. The natural ecological convergence of upland agriculture with coastal agriculture and fishery areas justify the unique and critical role of soil erosion control and management in developing an inter-landscape transboundary INM strategy for a watershed-wide soil fertility management programme;
  2. Dependence on natural soil fertility and natural fertilizer sources and traditional plants and varieties;
  3. Soil erosion resulting from decreasing fallow periods, subsistence farming and increasing human demand for land and food;
  4. Land use policy that protects scarce agricultural lands is in important consideration in the formulation of food security increasing population;
  5. While low external inputs and multi-cropped home gardens, characterized by natural nutrient recycling and low nutrient demands, result in low food outputs, they help farmers preserve native soil nutrient reserves; and
  6. Declining man-arable land ratio due to increased population and urbanization.

Additional discussions prior to formulation of recommendations

A collective review of lessons learned and knowledge about integrated nutrient management was conducted by the senior scientists to define the measures needed to combat complex problems of soil nutrient mining and the decline in soil productivity. The self-review provided insights on the modalities adopted in packaging information and technologies. Critical gaps were identified to improve the efficiency of delivery of services from various country institutions to the different stakeholders, farmers, policy-makers and extension agents.

The participants recognized the need to distinguish among three kinds of stakeholders and the manner in which information and substantive contents are packaged and delivered. The results of these exercises are summarized below:

For the farmers:

For the decision-makers:

For support institutions and change agents:

Table 1. Technical options, needs and information gaps in transfer of information on nutrient management practices

Technical issues and options

Do we have reliable guidelines, manuals, economic analysis?

What are the technical gaps?

Farmer awareness on soil fertility issues


Lack site and nutrient information

Accurate soil data

Yes, not enough

Expensive to acquire; not shared and properly circulated

Crop potential

Yes, not enough

May need to develop and provide crop and agro-ecosystem specific pilot demonstration (crop models by ecosystem)

Farmers’ practices


Varying farmers attitudes towards changes in technology packages

Climatic data (variation risk)

Yes, not enough

Need to have farmer-level data and higher accuracy in local climate forecasting

Technical information

Yes, not enough

Need to improve packaging, networking, interpretation for wider awareness and easier understanding by stakeholders at all levels (farmers, policy-makers and extension agents)

Fertilizer availability/use


Unreliable statistics and restricted regulation on fertilizer (entry into the country)

Farmer knowledge


More effective methods of communication and integration of local and acquired knowledge and technologies

Cost-benefit analysis

Not enough

Not updated, market changes, difficulty in including quantified values of environmental services (e.g. C-sequestration value)

The gaps and responses of the participants in the meeting are summarized in table (Table 1).

The participants, likewise, addressed the issue of availability and sufficiency of technical information on IPNS. They put into proper context the discussion by defining the composition of policy-makers at various levels of the government. The nature and category of information are summarized below:

The participants collectively agreed on the benefits associated with the FAO programme for South-South Cooperation (SSC). The discussion covered a wide variety of issues for possible consideration by technology providers and technology recipient countries. The areas of cooperation cover the topics of IPNS, Balanced Fertilization, Crop and IPNS Modeling, enhanced compost production and demonstration, site specific nutrient management, application of GIS technology in mapping, data management, sharing and utilization, Sustainable Land Management (SLM) for land degradation, and various forms of Information Technologies.

Table 2 summarizes the results of the initial discussions on the proposed SSC showing potential technology providers and recipient countries. The initially identified activities, however, need to be refined and further discussed by the concerned participating countries during the actual South-South Cooperation country mission.

Table 2. Selected topics and potential country partners for South-South Cooperation

Technology Needs

Potential technology providers

Potential recipient countries

IPNS practices (model farm) at different land holding size levels – Showcase demo plots

China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines

Bangladesh, Cambodia, DPR Korea, SIDS (SAPA, Maldives)

Balanced nutrient management

China, Philippines, Viet Nam

Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal

DSS for P and K fertilizer recommendation


Soil and plant tissue analysis

China, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam

Bangladesh, Cambodia, DPR Korea, Nepal

Slow Release Fertilizer


Bangladesh, Fiji, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam

Decomposition of crop residue by microorganism and compost making

China, Philippines, Thailand

Bangladesh, DPR Korea, Fiji, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka

Rapid soil test kit, including micro and secondary nutrients (Zn, B, S, Ca, Mg)

China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand

Bangladesh,Cambodia, DPR Korea, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam

Precision agriculture


Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam

GIS for National Nutrient Mapping and Management



Sloping Land Management technologies

China, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam

Bangladesh, Lao PDR

Community-based extension

China, Thailand (Soil Doctor)


Land use planning and extension

Philippines, Viet Nam


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