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 A low-cost technology boosts farm income in Kazakhstan

ALEPPO, Syria: A low-cost technology developed by scientists at ICARDA to treat high level of magnesium in soil by using calcium has demonstrated the potential to double the crop yield in magnesium-rich soils in Central Asia.

Media contact: Govindan Venkataramani (v.govindan@CGIAR.ORG)

7 November 2007

A low-cost technology boosts farm income in Kazakhstan

ALEPPO, Syria: A low-cost technology developed by scientists at ICARDA to treat high level of magnesium in soil by using calcium has demonstrated the potential to double the crop yield in magnesium-rich soils in Central Asia.

In southern Kazakhstan alone, more than 150,000 hectares of land is affected by high levels of magnesium, which causes soil degradation and seriously reduces crop yield.

Scientists have established that addition of adequate quantities of phosphogypsum (PG), a low-cost source of calcium, in the soil mitigates the effect of excess magnesium and increases crop yield. On-farm trials of the new technology conducted by ICARDA and NARS in Arya Turkestan area of Kazakhstan produced remarkable results

The PG technology has the potential to increase cotton yield to 3 t/ha, while the farmers usually got 1 to 1.5 t/ha without such intervention. The increase in the yield prompted farmers to voluntarily adopt the technology, bearing 30 percent of the cost for transportation and application of PG, a byproduct of phosphorus fertilizer industry easily available in Central Asia.

“I never dreamt of such a bumper crop from this problem soil. Normally, we get only 1-2 tons of cotton per hectare, but now with this simple technology, I can reap an extra ton this year,” says 34-year-old, Abdurashid Koshkarov, a farmer from Stariy Ikan village, 130 km northeast of Shymkent, capital of South Kazakhstan Province. He is one of the 19 progressive growers who voluntarily used PG to improve land productivity in this region, where high magnesium content in the soil crippled crop productivity.

The farm productivity and the profitability have gone up significantly. “I spend about US$ 400 to raise a hectare of irrigated cotton crop in our traditional way, and with PG application it rose to about US$ 540. The returns also increased correspondingly. At the current price of cotton at US$ 475 per ton, the gross income goes up to US$ 1650 per hectare. It meant that with an additional investment of US$ 140, we could get about an extra ton of cotton worth US$ 475 from every hectare,” explained Mr Koshkarov.

Research on the PG technology started in 2001 as part of the Phase 1 and 2 of the ADB-funded Soil and Water project implemented by ICARDA in Central Asia. The technology was out-scaled in 2006 under another ADB-funded project, jointly implemented by ICARDA, IWMI and ICBA, to an area of over 100 ha, says Dr Manzoor Qadir, ICARDA-based Marginal-Water Management Scientist of ICARDA/IWMI, who heads the initiative to out-scale this technology in this region. The Kazakh National Water Management Institute implemented the PG trials in the study area.

More and more farmers in the region are aware of the new technology and are convinced that the yields soared with the application of PG. There is an increased demand for PG in the region, and farmers firmly believe that a “silent green revolution is in store for them”.

Mr Jolaman Dozbayev, a 57-year old cotton farmer in the same village, said: “Until last season, we were in a bad situation. But PG application changed it altogether. The high returns from cotton ushered in a new wave of prosperity in our lives,” he said with a sense of pride.

“Our studies showed that the PG dose per hectare should be based on some simple soil tests, and it works out very economical for the farmers. It is enough if the farmers apply PG once every four to five years,” says Dr Qadir.

For more information: Dr Manzoor Qadir (m.qadir@cgiar.org)

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About ICARDA: Established in 1977, ICARDA (www.icarda.org) is one of the 15 international research centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). ICARDA serves the entire developing world for the improvement of barley, lentil, and faba bean; and dry-area developing countries for the on-farm management of water, improvement of nutrition and productivity of small ruminants (sheep and goats), and rehabilitation and management of rangelands. In the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region, ICARDA is responsible for the improvement of durum and bread wheats, chickpea, pasture and forage legumes and farming systems; and for the protection and enhancement of the natural resource base of water, land, and biodiversity.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (http://www.cgiar.org) is a strategic alliance of countries, international and regional organizations, and private foundations supporting15 international research centers that mobilizes cutting-edge science to promote sustainable development by reducing hunger and poverty, improving human nutrition and health, and protecting the environment.

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Keywords associated to this article: magnesium, soil, phosphogypsum
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