Fertilizer use in the semi-arid tropics is considered risky because of the unreliable rainfall pattern. A flexible system of fertilization was devised which allowed for high yields in wet years, and reduced financial losses in dry years. Relatively immobile nutrients, such as phosphorus, potassium and sulphur, were applied at rates determined from generalized soil properties and the total nutrient uptake required for a crop to achieve its maximum yield potential in a season with average rainfall. Nitrogen was applied as a series of split applications, which were adjusted during the season according to the degree of water stress observed. This approach was tested in on-farm trials for maize production on nutrient-poor sandy soils in three regions of Zimbabwe, and resulted in larger yields and profits than current recommendations, providing an accept able level of financial return. Small further yield increases were possible, at acceptable returns, when these fertilizer practices were combined with the establishment of tied-ridges by ox-drawn implements, 30 days after planting. By careful estimation of yield potential, and appropriate adjustments to soil fertility, this system of soil management could be applied to other cropping situations and other areas with variable rainfall.
Uso de fertilizantes para condiciones de precitación variable