international fertilizer correspondent
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Fertilizer feeds the world and, if the world is not to go hungry, fertilizers will continue to play the key role in food production. No country has been able to increase agricultural productivity without expanding the use of mineral fertilizers. Farmers and their agricultural advisors know this and so do economists and policy makers. What many seem less clear about is that simply adding more of what the crop has already absorbed to capacity, is unproductive, expensive, wasteful and damaging to the environment. So it is not so much 'fertilizer' that feeds people but the 'balanced use of fertilizer' that will raise agricultural production and make more food available to a hungry world. And there are other benefits along the way.
Higher yields, better quality and lower production costs increase farmers' profit. In IPI-sponsored trials in Madhya Pradesh in India, for each rupee invested in potash, wheat farmers gained an extra five rupees in higher yields. And, because the grain had a better appearance, it also attracted a premium price. With higher yields and income, the purchasing power of people in rural areas improves as well. This attracts other business, creates job opportunities and stimulates rural development. Balanced fertilization can bring prosperity to farmers and to rural communities.
On a national scale, higher agricultural production can reduce the need for imports, may increase export earnings and, by encouraging a thriving rural economy, help to stem the flow of young people seeking their fortune in major towns and cities. When farmers' incomes rise, they spend their extra money on non-agricultural items, bringing, on average, more than double the value to the national economy. So balanced fertilization brings benefits to the nation as a whole.
For many countries of the world, unless higher yields can be achieved on the land already in use, natural areas will be destroyed in an attempt to meet the growing demand for food. Balanced crop nutrition safeguards natural resources by improving efficiency in the use of land and water, and by protecting soil fertility. Furthermore, healthy plants cover the ground more quickly, helping to prevent soil erosion, and healthy plants are better able to resist pest and disease attack, thereby reducing the need for potentially polluting crop protection treatments. Finally, balanced soil nutrition helps people out of poverty which is not only a human tragedy but is also one of the biggest and most insidious risks to the environment.
The message is clear: the use of balanced fertilizer brings benefits to all!