The Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) recently completed a comprehensive study on PlantCatalyst® They found that using PlantCatalyst® allowed farmers to reduce fertilizer by 50%, increase yield by double digit percentages and significantly increase profit per hectare. Below is a write up on the study and the results can be found at www.plantcatalyst.com.
Evaluating the effects of the PlantCatalyst® on biological and financial yield of Maize, Cotton, Soybean and Groundnuts
During the past fifty years, Africa has experienced enormous changes that came with the independence from colonial rule and the establishment of local governments. For the first time in centuries African people had the chance to make decisions based entirely on what is best for the economy of their own land.
For years, African fields were used to produce crops, fruits and vegetables with the sole aim that those crops would be exported for profit of the colonial countries. To that end African farmers implemented the agricultural practices used in other countries like Portugal, Germany, England and France, where the climate and soil is completely different than conditions in Africa despite the potential hazards to the local African production chain. These practices, together with extreme climate change, led to soil erosion and the subsequent loss of soil nutrients.
As a result of these problems, governments in African countries, like Zambia, are looking for suitable and economical ways to improve the soil quality of the land and thus, improve the yield, reduce post-harvest losses and build a stronger economy with a solid agricultural foundation (Cooper, et. al. 2008).
In Zambia, agriculture is one of the most important economic activities providing even more jobs than the mining industry. Agriculture contributes more than 20% of the country’s GDP and approximately 85% of the population depends on agriculture for their living. Over 70% of Zambians live in poverty and increased agricultural productivity, and profit per hectare, are the only ways to make a difference in the average Zambian’s quality of life.
In an effort to help Zambian smallholder farmers pull themselves out of poverty, PlantCatalyst® partnered with international agricultural development organizations ACDI/VOCA and iDE to introduce PlantCatalyst® as a viable alternative to expensive fertilizer regimens. The first part of these projects involved demonstration plots and a comprehensive research project by the Zambian government’s Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) to fully explore application, adaptability and profit margins.
In the USA, PlantCatalyst® has worked well on a variety of crops, including maize, cotton and soybean, as well as in many plants and vegetables in greenhouses. PlantCatalyst® has helped many farmers to improve their yield minimizing losses and increasing the way plants uptake nutrients from fertilizer. But the mission of PlantCatalyst® is to go beyond simply putting more money in people’s pockets to helping feed the world and we felt the Zambia project was a great first step in that direction.
After the survey, the results came and the most important conclusions are summarized below.
- Significant reduction in fertilizer usage: Applying PlantCatalyst® allowed farmers to reduce fertilizer usage by 50% without sacrificing yield.
- Reduced costs: As less fertilizer was needed to grow the plants, a reduction in the cost was observed when PlantCatalyst® was applied. For soybean, cotton and groundnuts the production cost was decreased up to 9%, which is the same than saving $26 USD per hectare. In maize, the reduction of costs was up to $100 USD per hectare.
- Increase of yield: The yield increase and thus the profit obtained after using PlantCatalyst® was outstanding. In soybean, the profit increment reached 41% compared with the trial with only fertilizer. For the cotton field, an increment of 43% in the profit was observed, the same as $180 USD per hectare. In the case of the groundnuts field, the increment on the profit was about 10% compared with the trial without PlantCatalyst®. For maize, yield was increased to 18% per hectare compared with the treatment with only fertilizer.
- Emission reduction: It is known that the use and application of fertilizer is related to CO2 emissions. Using PlantCatalyst® reduced the amount of fertilizer needed per hectare and it was reflected in the decrease of greenhouse gases effect emission. As the best results were obtained applying half the recommended amount of fertilizer for all four crops, the reduction of CO2 emission was about 50%.
These results confirm the hypothesis that using PlantCatalyst® will reduce the costs of production, increase the profit per hectare and also, will contribute to the ecosystem conservation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
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BOZ (2003). Bank of Zambia. Zambia Agricultural Investment Promotion Conference. Lusaka. CDC Capital Partners.
Cooper, P. J. M., Dimes, J., Rao, K. P. C., Shapiro, B., Shiferaw, B., & Twomlow, S. (2008). Coping better with current climatic variability in the rain-fed farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa: An essential first step in adapting to future climate change?. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 126(1), 24-35.
FAO (2001). Agro-ecological Distributions for Africa, Asia and North and Central America, Consultants’ Report. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, Rome, Italy.
Vanlauwe, B., Coyne, D., Gockowski, J., Hauser, S., Huising, J., Masso, C., … & Van Asten, P. (2014). Sustainable intensification and the African smallholder farmer. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 8(0), 15-22.