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CREED PAper #30: Soil Fertility: QUEFTS and Farmers' Perceptions

Author(s)Ingrid Mulder
Serie(s)Creed Working Papers


Soil fertility is one of many factors which influence farmers' choices regarding agricultural production, fertilisation and soil and water conservation. Before we can study the effects however, we need to measure soil fertility. We use the QUEFTS model (QUantitative Evaluation of the Fertility of Tropical Soils - Janssen et al., 1990), which predicts crop yields from chemical soil characteristics, as an indicator of soil fertility. We then compare these predictions with actual yields as well as farmers' own estimates of soil fertility.

The results of QUEFTS for the soil samples taken in the Atacora region in Benin show that Nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient in the sample zone, while Phosphorus and Potassium are in quite ample supply. Potassium could be limiting, especially for legumes. QUEFTS yields are much higher than and not correlated to actual yields obtained by farmers. This implies that soil fertility is one of many limiting factors in the central zone of the Atacora. Others include, eg, availability of labour and access to a plough. Knowing how limiting soil fertility actually is requires the estimation of a more general model that includes these other inputs.

When we compare QUEFTS yields to farmers' own estimates of soil fertility we find no correlation. Farmers' estimates seem to be based on very different aspects of soil fertility other than nutrient content than QUEFTS.


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