Developing fertilizer recommendations for rice in Sub-Saharan Africa, achievements and opportunities

Improving agricultural productivity to keep pace with the fast-growing food demand is a huge challenge for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Fertilizer is a powerful productivity-enhancing input; nevertheless, farmers of SSA use only 5–9 kg ha−1 of fertilizer, which is ten times lesser than Latin America and Asia (50 and 80 kg ha−1, respectively). Rice (Oryza sativa) is one of the most important food crops of SSA, and its consumption is growing faster than any other commodity in Africa. Rice-based systems have high potential for improving food production through an efficient management of fertilizers. The biophysical environment, cropping systems and socio-economic status of farmers including market opportunities are the main factors for developing appropriate fertilizer recommendations. Many research efforts have been invested in different countries to develop fertilizer recommendation for rice. However, the diversity of rice ecologies, the type and the cost of fertilizers available on local market are the main constraints for development of blanket recommendations of fertilizer usually applied in many countries. Here, we make a reviews of the progress made on the development of fertilizer recommendations for rice-based systems in SSA. The utilization of the new concepts and decisions support tools for development of fertilizer recommendation and the main achievements and weakness are discussed. The opportunities offered by the new concepts, modeling and decision support tools are discussed in a regional strategic approach for better management of fertilizers in the diversified ecologies of rice-based systems.