IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Interviews with IPI Members: e-ifc No. 32, November 2012

Interviews with IPI Members

Vladislav Baumgertner, President and CEO, Joint Stock Company Uralkali, Russia

The use of fertilizers in major emerging countries is highly unbalanced, with low levels of potash application a key challenge. In China, India and Brazil, for example, application of potash is less than half the level recommended by scientists, despite almost doubling over the last ten years. In Russia, use of potash is also far below the volumes applied in the former USSR. As a result, crop yields in these regions are failing to reach their potential.

Uralkali is a veteran member of IPI. As an international organization, IPI has the legitimacy, authority and mechanisms that enable it to spread its research and expertise around the globe. The Institute can lead global initiatives, carry out research projects in different regions, accumulate the results, and come out with recommendations for the agricultural community.

At Uralkali, we aim to provide our customers with the best available knowledge on the useful characteristics of potash. In this role, we provide support for educational programmes to which organizations, such as IPI, contribute their scientific expertise.

Through cooperation, we can achieve significant results in the most efficient way and together help address the global food challenge.

Today the world is developing very fast and companies and organizations need to adapt to changing realities. As an institute, IPI addresses an issue of utmost importance for the international community. The mere fact that IPI has survived over such a long period shows that it has been an effective coordinator of international efforts. I am sure that the Institute will further develop and continue making a significant contribution to global food security.

Isaac Goldstein, Senior Vice President Marketing, ICL Fertilizers, Israel

During its 60 years, IPI has successfully pursued its mission to demonstrate the essential role of potassium in plant nutrition, contributing to a better understanding of the mechanisms and behavior of potassium in soil and plants, which has helped to improve fertilizer recommendations.

Today, however, there continues to be an acute need to build strong and stable bridges between research and extension. While the role of K in providing food security to an increasing population is fundamental, in developing countries additions of K seldom match K removals resulting in soils becoming K-deficient over time; balanced K application is urgently needed.

ICLF believes in building research-extension-private sector partnerships for dissemination of improved nutrient management practices to farmers. Supporting and educating farmers with better agronomic advice is one of our company values and this is successfully complemented by IPI activities. Through its network of coordinators, IPI reaches out to farmers, dealers, extension officers, farmers’ cooperatives and foundations. By building these strong connections, IPI research results are reliable, are adopted at local level, have the necessary local validation and have international backup.

ICLF has contributed to the work of IPI, not only through financial funding, but also through the active participation of its agronomists as coordinators in various countries. ICLF agronomists, Meir Bazelet and Abraham Cohen, were actively involved in IPI from the 70s. Their work was continued by a new generation of agronomists, including Hillel Magen and Patricia Imas, who were coordinators for Argentina, India and China. Today our agronomist, Eldad Sokolowski, is the coordinator for India and China, and has the important task of initiating IPI activities in sub-Saharan Africa.

We see sub-Saharan Africa as the next challenge for IPI. Very low and stagnating yields in the region, due to unbalanced fertilization, prevent income generation and thus prevent the development of the agricultural sector. This inhibits rural development and may trigger migration of the labor force into urban areas in search of income and livelihoods. This vicious cycle can be stopped with the proper use of fertilizers, coupled with appropriate crop management and improved varieties and hybrids.

Through the last 60 years, IPI has created awareness, trust and confidence amongst farmers, advisors and decision-makers about the need for appropriate nutrient management, with an emphasis on potassium. IPI will continue its commitment to sustainable soil fertility, and to improving incomes in rural areas while safeguarding resources and protecting the environment.

Valery Ivanov, Director General, Joint Stock Company Belarusian Potash Company, Belarus

In many countries of the developing world, farmers remain insufficiently aware of the benefits and strong economics of potassium application in achieving higher crop quality and yield. Agricultural extension systems are often limited and there is a lack of scientifically-based recommendations for potassium application in many key crops in some regions.

Attaining food security in all the countries of the world is achievable only through science-based cultivation techniques; balanced fertilization, as promoted by IPI, is an integral part of this. To provide the support required for achieving balanced nutrition in sustainable agriculture, all potash producing companies carry out training, often organising joint programmes with ministries of agriculture. Such activities draw on scientific results and recommendations produced by IPI studies, with the Institute active in more than 50 countries and providing information in 22 languages.

IPI has a long history of such activities, having contacts with key international and regional institutions, good standing in scientific and academic circles, and a track-record of acting in the best interests of member countries via an established coordination system. As a member of the Institute, we are pleased to be part of this great work. We are actively engaged in developing IPI’s strategy, defining certain plans and objectives and increasing institutional efficiency. Among our personnel are IPI coordinators in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and we use results of the Institute’s work in the implementation of various agronomic projects of the company.

Valery Kirienko, Director General, Joint Stock Company Belaruskali, Belarus

This year, IPI celebrates its 60th anniversary. The Institute’s foundation in 1952, initiated by German and French manufacturers of potash fertilizers, came out of the long-felt need to provide science-based information primarily from field experiments. Since then, world agriculture has gained extensive knowledge on issues surrounding plant nutrition and IPI has made a significant contribution to this development of agrochemistry.

In the Republic of Belarus, for example, Professor Iosif Mikhailovich Bogdevitch, a prominent scientist in the field of agrochemistry and agricultural radioecology, became a connecting link between Belarusian researchers and IPI on the role of potash fertilizers and their practical application. Prof. Bogdevitch developed the scientific groundwork of effective fertilizer utilization and soil fertility management in sod-podzolic soils. He also developed integrated computer models to assess soil fertility and provide practical measures for farmers. The work of Prof. Bogdevitch has been widely used in the educational work of international scientific and research organizations, including IPI.

The great Russian botanist and plant physiologist K.A. Timiryazev once said, “The true supporter of the peasant is not the earth, but a plant, and the whole art of the farmer consists in releasing a plant and, hence, the farmer from the earth’s power.” Mankind should not depend on new resources from the earth. The main direction, and essentially the only direction to develop modern agriculture, is all-round intensification and industrialization. Our purpose, with IPI, is therefore to offer solutions for better feeding the world. I would like to congratulate the International Potash Institute on the occasion of its 60th anniversary and to wish it further successes in the achievement of this noble goal.

Patrick Losson, Vice President, Tessenderlo Kerley International, Belgium

Correct use of potash is a classic example of sustainable intensification, improving crop yields and boosting the capacity of the crop to withstand difficult conditions, while also minimizing the environmental impact through reduced nitrate losses.

Increasing potash use in developing countries is essential, but depends on several key factors. Farmers need to be aware of how important it is to apply nutrients in the right balance, and there is also a need for logistic advice, so that farmers can access affordable, quality fertilizers at the right moment for the crops. Local authorities and other stakeholders need to understand how optimum fertilizer usage can be embedded in farmers’ business plans, and the potential of micro-credit to support fertilizer purchases.

In addressing these challenges, there is a limit to what any single company can achieve. This is where the International Potash Institute plays such an important role, combining the agronomic services of different producers for the benefit of the farming community. In China, for example, IPI has done much to create awareness of the need for potash within an optimum balance of nutrients, which has been key to achieving food security.

By joining the forces of actors throughout the industry, including governments and NGOs, IPI acts as a catalyst to research and development, pushing its members to be the best in class. It is a perfect example of how, when industry joins forces, the total outcome is greater than the sum of its individuals.

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