BREAD: Assessing, understanding and targeting nonresponsive soils for improved crop production in small holder farms in sub-Saharan Africa

Lead PI: Cheryl Palm, Bernard Vanlauwe, Dr. Generose Nziguheba

Unit Affiliation: Agriculture & Food Security Center

September 2012 - June 2016
Africa ; Sub-Saharan Africa
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The success of the African Green Revolution depends on increased use of fertilizers and improved germplasm. Yields have doubled or tripled in some locations but evidence indicates that in many fields crop yields are low and yet show little response to fertilizers. There is limited understanding of where, why, and how this non-responsiveness occurs. Inputs that drive the African Green Revolution must be efficiently targeted and managed to realize the benefits of improved crop germplasm.

OUTCOMES: The project will: (i) quantify the occurrence of non-responsiveness as related to soil type, topography/landscape, and management practices; (ii) characterize the soil chemical, physical, and biological processes and properties that result in nonresponsiveness to mineral fertilizers, (iii) evaluate rapid and cost effective field tools for diagnosing these soil factors, and (iv) construct a decision tree for targeting improved management options for these nonresponsive soils. State-of-the art analytical methods (near and mid infrared, total element, x-ray and laser diffraction) will provide the quantitative characterization of soil factors underlying non-responsiveness and be compared to simple field measurements with the aim to develop key diagnostic and recommendations via smart phones.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Pedro Sanchez, Markus Walsh, Ray Weil, Keith Shepherd


International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)



germplasm crop yields nutrition fertilizer soil food ecology african green revolution


Stewardship of the planet