Phosphorus (P) deficiency is a serious nutrient constraint to wheat production in Pakistan and more than 50% of P fertilizer used annually is consumed by wheat crop. Conventionally, fertilizer is broadcast applied. As our soils have a high P fixing capacity, only 15–25% of the applied P is utilized by wheat crop. This inefficient utilization of an expensive imported farm input is a tremendous financial loss to farmers and the national economy. The locally made seed-cum-fertilizer drills were ill-designed, placing fertilizer either far away from the seed row or in direct contact with the seed. Consequently, fertilizer use efficiency was not improved. Therefore, NARC soil scientists undertook research for developing an appropriate fertilizer placement method for this vital staple cereal crop.
Technology Development and Demonstration
Multi-location field research was carried out during 1998–2000 on benchmark soils of Pothwar plateau for studying the impact of fertilizer P, applied by broadcast and banding, on yield and P nutrition of wheat crop. About 10% greater yield was consistently obtained when 39 kg DAP/Acre was band applied (5 cm away and 5 cm deeper than seed row) compared with broadcast applied 78 kg DAP/Acre. Adequate P nutrition of wheat plants, in both situations, proved that 50% fertilizer P is saved by its proper band placement.
Subsequently, NARC farm machinery engineers and soil scientists developed an appropriate seed-cum-fertilizer drill for wheat. Performance of this drill was satisfactorily demonstrated during 2001-02 and 2002-2003, in collaboration with Agricultural Extension of Punjab, in multi-location field trials on irrigated and rainfed wheat. The technology is highly profitable as wheat farmers save Rs. 1300/- Acre-1. Even if adopted on 50% of 8.1 Mha wheat acreage, the technology would save phosphate fertilizer worth Rs. 2,250 million annually. Substantial foreign exchange saving is an additional benefit.
Phosphate fertilizer is applied in a band at a most effective position to the seed, i.e., 5 cm away and 5 cm deeper than the seed row. As applied P is used very effectively, only 50% dose of P fertilizer (e.g., DAP) becomes as effective as its double dose applied by broadcast. Now the drill is being manufactured by farm machinery companies, under technical guidance of NARC’s farm machinery engineers.
Rashid, A. and Z.I. Awan. (2002). A Technology for better yield with lesser fertilizer: Phosphorus fertilizer band placement in wheat. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Islamabad. 6 pp.
Ahmad, M., A. Rashid, and A. A. Mirani. (2004). Development and evaluation of fertilizer band placement drill for wheat. Journal of Engineering & Applied Sciences 23: 41–49.