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Digital nutrient management tool reduces emissions, improves crop yields and boosts farmers’ profits

January 20, 2021

An international team of scientists, led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), has demonstrated how better nutrient management using digital tools, such as the Nutrient Expert decision support tool, can boost rice and wheat productivity and increase farmers’ income while reducing chemical fertilizer use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Reportedin Nature Scientific Reports, the results show how the farmer-friendly digital nutrient management tool can play a key role in fighting climate change while closing the yield gap and boosting farmers’ profits.

The researchers tested the Nutrient Expert decision tool against typical farmer fertilization practices extensively using approximately 1600 side-by side comparison trials in rice and wheat fields across the Indo-Gangetic Plains of India.

The study found that Nutrient Expert-based recommendations lowered global warming potential by 12-20% in wheat and by around 2.5% in rice, compared to conventional farmers’ fertilization practices. Over 80% of farmers were also able to increase their crop yields and incomes using the tool.

Agriculture is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in India. To tackle these emissions, crop scientists have been working on new ways to make farming more nutrient- and energy-efficient. Of the many technologies available, improving nutrient-use-efficiency through balanced fertilizer application — which in turn reduces excess fertilizer application — is key to ensuring food security while at the same time contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on climate change.

The latest study is a collaboration between scientists from CIMMYT, the Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, and the former International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI).