An expert group gathers to discuss this elemental problem. The John Innes Centre’s Allan Downie reports on problems and progress.
What is the nitrogen crisis? It is clear that we have introduced major global shifts in production and use of reactive nitrogen without really knowing what happens to the ammonia and nitrogen oxides released to the environment.
The production of nitrogen fertiliser and combustion of fossil fuels doubles the amount of reactive N entering the nitrogen cycle annually.
Continue reading The nitrogen crisis: what are the solutions?
Training female farmers to get the best from their land can reap benefits. IFDC’s former president Amit Roy makes the case for fertilisers and other innovations.
By 2030, the agriculture and agribusiness sector in Africa is predicted to become a US $1 trillion industry. Farming has long been hailed as the engine of the African economy, and over the next 15 years it is going to need a jump-start if it is to feed the rocketing population, particularly in urban areas. Many factors will fuel this growth, but fertilizer is going to be critical.
Currently, 65 percent of land in Africa is degraded and lacking in the essential nutrients crops need to grow. Yet much of the world’s remaining arable land is in Africa. Replenishing undernourished soils is a unique opportunity for African agricultural growth.
Continue reading If agriculture is Africa’s engine, let’s add fuel
In a video special, the University of Warwick Crop Centre’s Andrew Tock tells the story of plant clinics that help people produce more and lose less.
My feet had landed on African ground for the first time. Despite flying into Entebbe in the wee hours of a mid-January morning, it was really warm. Looking at the low, red-orange full moon, I couldn’t stop smiling and felt a bit giddy. I had a feeling Uganda just had this effect on people.
Continue reading Bridging the information gap for smallholder farmers
Indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals must be chosen with care, says Jørgen Ole Haslestad of the International Fertilizer Industry Association.
When considering the sustainable development of our planet, one sector sits squarely at the cross section of protecting natural resources, feeding the world and reducing carbon emissions: agriculture.
Within that sector, it is often the role of natural and especially mineral fertilizers that could yield the greatest benefit, but also attracts the most criticism.
Continue reading Fertilizers: quality over quantity
If 2014 is truly to be Africa’s Year of Agriculture and Food Security, then Africa’s production potential has to be addressed, says IFA Vice President for Africa Alassane Diallo.
Africa has awoken. Ten of the world’s fastest growing economies are now in Africa, with around one third of our 54 countries seeing annual GDP growth of over 6%.
However, this momentum has not yet spread to all sectors. Cereal crop yields in Africa are only one-third as high as in developing Asia, and only one-tenth as high as the United States. When one in five Africans still goes to bed hungry – how can this sector be ignored?
Continue reading The Africa fertilizer gap
2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. Andrew MacMillan reflects on home-grown food.
A couple of months ago, the United Nations launched the International Year of Family Farming. Hopefully, by the end of the year many more people around the world will come to appreciate the enormously important role that family-run farms play in producing our food in sustainable ways.
When I was turning my compost heaps a few days ago to speed up the processes of decay and have lots of organic fertilizer available for the spring-time planting of vegetables, it struck me how often we risk creating confusion with the difficult words scientists and economists use to describe the kinds of things that small-scale farmers do, let us say naturally, every day.
Continue reading Investing sweat equity to harness ecosystem services
Why add nutrients to food all the time? Why not add them to the soil itself asks Esin Mete.
As global leaders come together to discuss a new set of development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, that expire in 2015, the role of food security and nutrition is key in underpinning the development agenda’s future success.
It has been well documented that growth in the agricultural sector can have dramatic impacts in reducing poverty – in fact, at least twice the potential (see p. 6) of growth from any other sector on average, according to the World Bank.
Continue reading Fortifying fertilizers can fortify food
Individuals, governments and farmers are all responsible for the changes we need, says Oliver Dowding.
My first 13 years of farming saw endless lorry-loads of fertilisers and chemicals coming on to the farm. The controls on their usage, and the consequential problems, were evidently increasing. I re-examined what I was doing and who the gainers and losers were.
Conclusion: I needed to cut down the inputs, improve sustainability, stay friends with the consumer and re-enliven my soils.
Continue reading Business as usual is not an option
Nitrous oxide’s contribution to climate change is no laughing matter, says Keith Goulding.
Carbon dioxide is the most commonly recognised enemy in terms of its contribution to greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, and certainly the biggest culprit in terms of volume, but there are other gases, closely tied with food production, that are also major targets for reduction.
Farming is responsible for about 8% of the UK’s GHG emissions (up to about 19% when the road to consumption is included) but about 40% of its methane emissions, which mainly come from livestock, and 76% of its nitrous oxide emissions, which are mainly due to fertiliser use.
Continue reading Tackling agriculture’s greenhouse-gas emissions
Through our understanding of how plants secure their own nutritional requirements, we can provide new solutions for sustainable food production for the world’s growing population.
Plants must secure high levels of nitrogen, and in conventional agriculture nitrogen is added at high concentrations in the form of inorganic fertilisers. Artificial nitrogenous fertilisers can increase yield by as much as 50% and the global farming system, and hence our own food supply, is now dependent on them. We would face very severe food shortages if nitrogen fertilisers were to become unavailable.
Continue reading Getting to the root of food security