IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Editorial: e-ifc No. 34, June 2013


Dear readers,

We all agree that more food needs to be produced to improve global food security. We also agree that this should not be at the expense of the environment, meaning inputs should be used wisely and with a minimal environmental footprint. But what are the pathways to achieve this?

Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), presented his views on these topics at the Annual Meeting of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), which was held in Chicago in May 2013. He emphasized the need to invest more in R&D of fertilizers and fertilization practices and to use more slow release fertilizers and fertigation, in order to improve nutrient use efficiency (NUE). Deep placement of urea and integrated soil-crop systems can also improve NUE. But having only ‘hardware’ (e.g. better fertilizers) is just one solution. Dr. Fan stressed the need for public-private partnerships, improving smallholder access to fertilizers, and more research on micronutrient fertilization - all of which will increase the efficiency of fertilization.

So how far can efficiency progress? An interesting example can be derived from a project IPI supported in collaboration with the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), in Pune, Maharashtra (2002-2005). This project demonstrated that with a drip irrigation system and fertigation, water use efficiency doubled (from 5.4 to 12.1 kg of sugarcane per m3), and nutrient use efficiency with the best treatment increased by 50% (from 210 to 321 kg of sugarcane per kg of NPK nutrient), compared to the regular soil application of fertilizer, used with furrow irrigation. Furthermore, N application with the best treatment was 30% less than the dose recommended to farmers.

The conclusion from this, as Dr. Fan and many others state, is that by using advanced but existing technology, it is possible to bring about a tremendous, tangible contribution to food production while saving inputs and increasing the efficient use of water and nutrients.

I wish you an enjoyable read.

Hillel Magen

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