Ethiopian economy draws its main strength from agriculture sector. The sector contributes 47.5% of the GDP. However, declining soil fertility is one of the most significant constraints to increased food production in Ethiopia. Anthropogenic factors such as inappropriate land use systems, Mono cropping, nutrient mining, unbalanced nutrient application, removal of crop residue and inadequate supplies of nutrients are aggravated the situation.


Different research reports also indicate that nutrients like K, S, Ca, Mg and all micro-nutrients except Fe are becoming depleted and deficiency symptoms are being observed on major crops in different areas of the. Recently acquired soil inventory data from EthioSIS also revealed that in addition to N, P, S, B and Zn deficiencies are widespread in Ethiopian soils, while some soils are also deficient in K, Cu, Mg and Fe, which all potentially hold back crop productivity despite continued use of N and P fertilizer as per the blanket recommendation. Future gains in food grain production will be more difficult and expensive considering the increasing problem of multi nutrient deficiencies.


Hence, achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level. For the past several decades, Ethiopia has imported and used two fertilizers only; this is against the fact that the country’s soils have undergone tremendous nutrient depletion and reduced productivity. Under these conditions, appropriate fertilizer technologies should achieve substantial physical yield improvement with modest external input levels. Fertilizer technologies satisfying the above requirements are not ready-on-the-shelf for Ethiopia. This situation adds a potentially severe threat to the future conditions of poverty and malnutrition in Ethiopia. Therefore, appropriate, effective soil test -crop response index based fertilizer recommendations/technologies need to be developed with some urgency. This observation adds another requirement for appropriate fertilizer technologies: they should be developed in a timely and cost-effective manner.


In addition, biofertilizer and organic fertilizers have become paramount importance in agriculture sector for their potential role in food safety and sustainable crop production. They keep the soil environment rich in all kinds of micro- and macro-nutrients via nitrogen fixation, phosphate and potassium solubilization or mineralization, release of plant growth regulating substances, production of antibiotics and biodegradation of organic matter in the soil. Moreover, biofertilizers do not pollute the soil and do not disturb the ecological balance. In this regard, both sources have paramount significance in integrated nutrient management systems to sustain agricultural productivity and healthy environment.


Therefore, to fill the wide gap between fastest rates of population growth and increased food demand in the country, soil fertility management research focus on the following thematic areas to boost the productivity of major crops produced in different agro-ecological conditions of the country.


The research program at Melkassa deals with both inorganic and organic fertilizers, biofertilizers. Specifically, three research projects namely inorganic soil fertility research, Bio- organic fertilizers research and new fertilizer testing research are implemented at Melkassa. The research program at Melkassa undertaken its activities with different research component and projects since 2016/17 as a component of the GTP II. Nineteen research activities are planned to be implemented in 2017/18 cropping season.



To organize, prioritize, and plan research agenda on inorganic and organic farming, and biofertilizer topics that can address major soil fertility constraints of the country and consequently improve fertility status of various soil types and production and productivity of different crops in the various agro-ecological zones of the country.



§  Develop and implement soil test crop response index-based fertilizer recommendations

§  Establish agronomic and economic optimum mix of blended fertilizers for increasing yield and sustainable production

§  Generate new technologies on biofertilizers and organic fertilizers that ensure crop production, productivity and improved soil fertility

  • Develop integrated soil nutrient management practices that insure sustainable production and productivity

§  Identifying sustainable, profitable fertilizer technology packages, with site-specific nutrient management with the help of Decision supporting tools

§  Validation, Pre scaling and scaling up of SFM packages

§  Making gender mainstreaming in adoption of soil fertility management technology use



Getinet Adugna (MSc)
National Coordinator, New Fertilizer Testing Research Program, MARC
Mob.: +25191 139 1124
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