Below is an excerpt from an article by Ms Esin Mete, President of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), which discusses the potential of fertilizers biofortified with key micronutrients, such as zinc, iodine and selenium to improve crop yields and resilience, while also making these micronutrients more available to humans when we eat them. Read the full article by visiting the Global Food Security blog.
Improved nutrition not only extends and improves people’s quality of lives but also plays a significant role in boosting their productivity and sustaining a healthy economy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that malnutrition alone costs the global economy around $3.5 trillion dollars each year (around 5% of global GDP) due to lost productivity and healthcare costs.
One way my sector can help is to better understand the potential roles that fertilizers can play to tackle hunger and malnutrition. Evidence shows micronutrient fortification of fertilizers – that’s adding selenium, zinc or iodine to the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium usually present – can offer promising results, and not only in the developing world but in the developed world as well.
In my home country of Turkey, a zinc fertilization programme on wheat in the Central Anatolian region resulted in as much as a 500% increase in crop yield, lifting economic returns by around $150M per year). The application of zinc fertilizers in Turkey also led to the eradication of zinc deficiency among local people. Since crops were able to absorb zinc from the soil, they also had more bioavailability of zinc for the humans who consumed them.
The complexity of the challenge we face demands a coordinated effort. Micronutrient fertilization is not the only solution, but in my view it does offer a simple, cost-effective and sustainable way for improving food and nutrition security.