Integrated nutrient management (INM) is a broad-based remedy against excessive soil fertility decline or accumulation, problems which are increasingly recognised as major constraints to farming in both temperate and tropical hemispheres. The different technical indicators of INM (nutrient stocks, nutrient flows, technologies) are listed in the paper. At the same time, INM requires social interventions to arrive at technologies that simultaneously improve soil fertility in a sustainable way, and make sense to farmers given their different social and economic motives. As the limitations of transfer of technology to promote better INM become more obvious (particularly in lesser-endowed regions in the tropics), there is a need to develop new strategies, focussing on the facilitation of farmer learning to become experts at INM and at capturing the opportunities in their diverse environments. Facilitating INM therefore, requires a praxeology (theory informing practice, and practices feeding new theory) about facilitating innovation, focussing on enhancing the farmers' capacity to observe, experiment, discuss, evaluate and plan ahead. The paper lists the work needed to facilitate this learning with respect to INM, borrowing a leaf from earlier successes in the field of integrated pest management (IPM). Indispensable ingredients are participatory rural appraisals and participatory technology development, which emphasizes mutual open-mindedness and empathy between all the participants. The paper provides guidelines for the development of INM learning, but further field testing still has to be undertaken.
- Extension science
- Farmer field schools
- Farming systems
- Integrated nutrient management