A question that we get asked at ECHO is “Are you an organic farm?” And the answer is “No. Because of our unique soils, climate and objectives, we do use herbicides, insecticides and mineral fertilizer as needed. At the same time, we aim to minimize our use of and reliance on expensive inputs.”

Our practice is similar to the “Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM)” approach, described in this handbook published by the International Fertilizer Development Center. To be clear, this handbook promotes the use of mineral fertilizer as a key component in increasing and sustaining food production by smallholder farmers.

The IFDC defines ISFM as “a set of agricultural practices adapted to local conditions to maximize the efficiency of nutrient and water use and improve agricultural productivity”. The approach includes all available resources in the integrated fertility management program: fertilizers; locally available soil amendments; organic matter such as crop residue, compost and green manure; and intercropping.

The ISFM handbook is intended for training extension workers and for anyone engaged in rural development. It includes practical information for analyzing local conditions and resources, and for planning a program of soil fertility management. The authors emphasize that a good agronomic program also includes use of adapted disease- and pest-resistant crops; planting on time; weed control; proper plant densities; integration of livestock; and sound economic principles.

Publication Details

  • Published: 2012
  • Publisher: Africa Soil Health Consortium
  • ISBN-13: 978 1 78064 291 8

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