Advancing knowledge on the costs and benefits of sustainable soil fertility management in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh /India.

The majority Indian rural households depend for their livelihoods on the productivity of the farming systems. Almost universally, the yield gap between potential and achieved productivity is large, water and nutrient use efficiency is low and land degradation can be widely observed (Lobell et al. 2009, Conklin & Stilwell 2007). Also in the States of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh livelihoods of around 65% of the rural population depend on agriculture and related activities. A large share of them are smallholder farmers with often low and unstable crop and livestock productivity. At the same time, land degradation is a major concern also driven by changing cropping patterns. Overall, there has been a steady decline in the area under water efficient crops like groundnut, pigeon pea and other millets. The area under rice and cotton has increased in the recent decades mainly owing to the (over)exploitation of groundwater. Besides, there is indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and unbalanced-application of nutrients. Policies subsidizing inorganic fertilizers, particularly N and P also encourage the farmers to rely more strongly on inorganic fertilizer than on organic ones.