Alexander Sakal, Chief Business Development Officer at EOS Crop Monitoring Continue reading
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.
At the Hague conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change, Farming First held a side event ‘Best practices in agricultural value chains’, where spokespeople presented examples of initiatives that aim to increase resilience and productivity at different points in the value chain.
Clyde Graham from the Canadian Fertilizer Institute introduced the Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol (NERP), which helps reduce on-farm emissions of nitrous oxide in a quantifiable and verifiable way that allows farmers to earn carbon credits. It has been approved in the Canadian provine of Alberta – the first jurisdiction of North America to actively regulate greenhouse gas emissions and establish a regulatory carbon trading market.
NERP is based on applying fertilizer using Best Management Practices on the 4R nutrient stewardship system: Right source, @Right rate, Right time, Right place.
The scheme has shown a 15-25% reduction in nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer application, and has also managed the risk of nitrate accumulation in soils. NERP meets the high production, intensified, resilient, sustainable and low-emission criteria of the FAO description of climate-smart agriculture. In the future, NERP could be adapted to be an eco-level and become an internationally recognised standard.
To read more, see the presentation.
The IFA Norman Borlaug Award, in recognition of achievement in crop nutrition work, has been opened for nominations for the 2011 awards.
The award is offered every year by the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) to an individual for work that has led to significant progress in crop nutrition and that has been communicated successfully to farmers.
The IFA Award alternates on a 4-year cycle, celebrating both research and knowledge transfer successes in both developed and developing countries.
This year’s prize will be awarded for research in developed countries and in international agricultural research and development centres. Any individual involved in crop or soil science is eligible to apply. The recipient of the IFA Norman Borlaug Award will receive 10,000 euros and will be invited as a guest to the IFA Annual Conference to be held form 23 to 25 May 2011 in Montreal, Canada.
The award is named after Dr Norman Borlaug who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his contribution to fighting hunger around the world.
Please visit the IFA’s webpage for further details about the nomination procedure.
The Gates Foundation has provided this video to show how one of their grantees’ low-cost treadle pumps are helping Indian farmers access irrigated water for their crops.
These water pumps are supplied by International Development Enterprises (IDE). They are designed to be cost-effective and low-maintenance, with only one part needed to be changed each year at a cost of 20 U.S. cents. Farmers simply dig a bore hole, insert a plastic tube into the hole and then connect the pump to this tube. Farmers then operate the pump using their leg muscles, and they can even pump extra water into adjacent reservoirs for on-going regulated use.
Only one in three farmers currently has access to irrigation in India. Accessing this technology helps smallholder farmers make more long-term investments, such as improved seeds and fertilizers, for their fields. Farmers might even be able to begin growing more lucrative cash crops such as fruits or vegetables.
In an innovative promotional campaign, IDE shares this knowledge with farmers by bringing movie screens into rural communities in the back of a van. Farmers are incentivised to watch a short presentation about the treadle water pumps by the promise of a free movie feature which is aired after the presentation finishes.
Two veteran Wall Street Journal reporters, Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, have teamed up to write a book addressing one of the most pressing questions of the 21st-century: global hunger.
The authors ask why hunger persists when the technology and tools already exist to feed the world:
Since the time of the Green Revolution, the world has known how to end famine and tame chronic hunger. We have the information and tools. But we haven’t done it. We explored the heavens. We wired the world for the Internet…. Yet somehow we haven’t eliminated the most primitive scourge of all.
In the opening chapters, Kilman and Thurow introduce the work of Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize-winning plant scientist who died on Saturday at the age of 95. Back in the 1940s, Borlaug was assigned to a newly launched research centre in Mexico to train Mexican scientists how to boost farm productivity through plant breeding experiments.
Over the next two decades, Borlaug’s research helped boost wheat yields in the research areas almost seven-fold, from 11 bushels per acre in the early 1940s to as much as seventy-five bushels per acre in 1960. Borlaug then travelled elsewhere in the Americas and across to Asia to demonstrate the potential yields which these new varieties could produce and to convince policymakers and farmers to adopt them to feed their growing populations. (Apparently, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ripped up her flower garden to plant the new wheat varieties.)
And thus, the Green Revolution was born. Demographic projections of mass famine and a population implosion were prevented, and the global supply of food exploded.
Yet around the same time, shifts in global agricultural policy began to shift. Starting in the early 1980s, newly independent former colonies in Africa and Asia started to see a reversal in the foreign assistance being given to agricultural development (inputs, infrastructure, extension training, and research support). In addition, the money being targeted at the alleviation of hunger came in the food of foreign-grown food aid shipped into areas of need.
A generation later, in the summer of 2008, the world went through a global food crisis where prices doubled and tripled for many staple foods and global reserve stocks of grain were reduced to dangerously low levels. Kilman and Thurow argue that the time is right for a broad reinvestment into agriculture, similar to how the United States rallied to support the Marshall Plan for Europe in the aftermath of World War II.
The authors argue that public sentiment is in favour of increased support to feed the hungry, and social and political stability are increasingly under threat from those without sufficient resources to subsist. They present a range of options, from investment in infrastruture and new seed technologies to policy reforms relating to how national budgets are allocated and how trade regulations are drawn up.
Africa is a particular target as it is seen as “the world’s final frontier of agriculture” where yields are still low and modern agricutural practices are often non-existent. Coupled with a rapidly increasingly population, African farmers will be expected to double their production by 2030 in order to simply meet their own people’s food demands. This will be no small feat, and it would require a coordinated, collaborative approach to see it through successfully.