This study examines the agronomic response, efficiency and profitability of fertilizer microdosing in maize. An experiment with the following treatments was conducted: control without fertilizer, microdosing treatments, with the rate of 27 + 27, 53 + 53 and 80 + 80 kg ha−1
, and banding of fertilizer with 100 + 100 kg ha−1
of di ammonium phosphate (DAP) + urea, applied at planting and jointing, respectively. The treatments were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replications. The experiment was conducted during the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 cropping seasons at Ziway, Melkassa and Hawassa in the semiarid central rift valley region of Ethiopia. Compared to the control, the fertilizer treatments had higher yield and fertilizer use efficiency (FUE) profitably. The 27 + 27 kg ha−1
fertilizer rate increased the grain yield by 19, 45 and 46% at Hawassa, Ziway and Melkassa, respectively, and it was equivalent to the higher rates. The value cost ratio (VCR) was highest with the lowest fertilizer rate, varying between seven and 11 in the treatment with 27 + 27 kg ha−1
, but two and three in the banding treatment. Similarly, FUE was highest with the lowest fertilizer rate, varying between 23 and 34 kg kg−1
but 7 and 8 kg kg−1
in the banding treatment. The improved yield, FUE, VCR and gross margin in maize with microdosing at the 27 + 27 kg ha−1
of DAP + urea rate makes it low cost, low risk, high yielding and profitable. Therefore, application of this particular rate in maize may be an option for the marginal farmers in the region with similar socioeconomic and agroecological conditions.