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Farmers’ fertilizer use gaps relative to government recommendations in the saline coastal zone of the Ganges Delta

Islam, Md.S., Bell, R.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755, Miah, M.A.M. and Alam, M.J. (2022) Farmers’ fertilizer use gaps relative to government recommendations in the saline coastal zone of the Ganges Delta. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 42 (4). Art. 59.

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Overuse or underuse of nutrients relative to recommendations is a likely cause of crop yield gaps and an impediment to the achievement of food security. Government-endorsed recommendations are developed to deliver the best evidence-based advice on balanced fertilizer; however, deviations of farmers’ nutrient use from the recommendations are rarely examined. This study chose the salt-affected coastal zone of the Ganges Delta, where low crop productivity and cropping intensity by smallholders limit their income, to determine current nutrient use gaps for the first time of three cropping patterns in two representative districts of Bangladesh. A total of 246 farms were surveyed from three farm sizes. Farmers’ nutrient use gaps were compared with Fertilizer Recommendation Guides published in 2012 (FRG-2012) and 2018 (FRG-2018). Relative to FRG-2012 recommendations, farmers used 12%, 70%, and 11% overdoses of N, P, and K, respectively, under two fully rice-based cropping patterns, but the level of overdoses increased with farm size. Rates of K (14%), S (28%), and Zn use were below the FRG-2012 recommendations, especially for the smallest category of farms. However, the FRG-2018, increased recommended N (5%), K (62%), S (12%), and Zn rates but reduced P (25%) rates for fully rice-based cropping patterns. In contrast with rice, regardless of farm size, farmers applied overdose nutrients to watermelon but compensated with underdoses in the subsequent monsoon rice implying that farmers prioritized fertilizer expenditure on the most profitable crop. For the cropping pattern with watermelon, farmers could reduce the use of N (69%) and P (46%) and increase the use of K (48%), S (5%), and B. Reducing NPK use gaps can save treasury for both the farmers and the governments by 39.1 and 73.8 USD ha-1, respectively, under fully rice-based cropping patterns. Finally, our findings suggest there is scope to promote crop yields and sustainable intensification through balanced fertilizer use in a vulnerable saline region.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Farming Systems
Publisher: Springer-Verlag France
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