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Living Standards Measurement Study

Soil Fertility

Randomized survey experiments implemented in Ethiopia and Uganda have tested the relative accuracy and cost effectiveness of soil fertility assessment based on farmer reporting and infrared spectroscopy-based lab analyses vis-à-vis wet chemistry—the gold standard in soil science. The empirical evidence has showcased the systematic error in farmer reporting and has lent support to the use of infrared spectroscopy-based techniques that are significantly cheaper compared to conventional wet chemistry-based ones. The results from our experiments are featured in working papers and peer-reviewed journal articles and have informed our Guidebook on soil fertility assessment in large-scale household and farm surveys. Ongoing methodological research efforts are now assessing the feasibility and accuracy of low-cost, handheld spectrometers for in-situ soil fertility assessments, without having to transport soil samples to centralized locations for lab analyses.