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Sustainable land management technologies: integrated soil fertility management



Integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) is a set of soil fertility management practices that aim to optimize nutrient use efficiency and improve crop productivity. WOCAT describes ISFM as a technology that "is based on three principles: maximizing the use of organic sources of fertilizer; minimizing the loss of nutrients; and judiciously using inorganic fertilizer according to needs and economic availability” (WOCAT glossary). ISFM can be use different land use types, such as cropland and grazing land.


According to the report on sustainable land management (SLM) by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), ISFM practices that combine the use of chemical and organic sources of fertilizer, such as livestock manure, can moderately improve soil quality and could provide other benefits such as soil erosion control, water retention, and accumulation of soil organic Carbon (SOC).

The report also indicated that ISFM practices that use plant-derived carbon from external sources, such as from composts and biochar, can be considered a land-based climate change mitigation option due to the ability to reduce Nitrogen losses and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and enable greater accumulation of SOC stocks. Another important benefit of ISFM is the protection and preservation of soil biodiversity, which is important for the efficient functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide, such as nutrient cycling.

Examples of SLM best practices in ISFM

Below are examples of best practices in ISFM cited in the report on SLM by the SPI.

Planting pits for soil fertilisation and moisture improvement

Planting pits are filled with organic vegetative material mixed with decomposing manure to create a reservoir of nutrients for a banana plantation. Each pit is dug close to a banana stand and is filled with chopped banana stems, a layer of manure covered with mulch to prevent excessive evaporation of moisture, and a top layer of soil. The main objective is to improve soil fertility, reduce soil erosion, improve moisture infiltration and retention, and enable the plantation to withstand the dry months.

Composting using Indigenous Microorganisms

By taking advantage of the natural process of decomposition of organic matter by microorganisms, compost is produced from raw materials such as weeds and bio-waste available on the farm. The raw materials are shredded and sprayed with a mixture of one tablespoon of forest soil and one tablespoon of sugar/molasses in one liter of water to hasten decomposition.

Seed priming and microfertlization

Seed priming and microfertilization are two agronomic measures to increase soil fertility and increase crop harvests in semi-arid drylands. Seed priming consists of soaking seeds for 8 hours prior to sowing, and microfertilization is the application of small amounts of mineral fertilizer to the planting hole.


Read about other SLM Technology groups

vegetation management

water management grazing pressure management animal waste management sustainable forest management

reducing deforestation

afforest_reforestation forest restoration agroforestry agro-pastoralism

minimum soil disturbance

soil erosion control fire pest and diseases control    


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