Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Fertilizer use

22 October 2019

This book summarises current best practice in using life cycle assessment to quantify and improve the environmental impacts of different agricultural systems. 

Image: Lynn Betts, USDA, Fertilizer applied to corn field, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 October 2019

This paper outlines the main sustainability challenges linked to nitrogen, including inadequate access to nitrogen fertiliser in some parts of the world and excessive fertiliser application in other areas, leading to water pollution, algal blooms and risks to human health. The paper argues that solving nitrogen problems would have co-benefits for other sustainability issues such as hunger, air, soil and water quality, climate and biodiversity.

Image: Alexandra Pugachevsky, Phosphate Mining at SNPT, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
18 September 2019

This paper reviews the literature on the supply chain of phosphorus, a nutrient required in agriculture, and finds that current reporting is inadequate regarding phosphorus reserves and resources, losses along the supply chain, environmental and sociopolitical externalities, and open access to data.

Image: Max Pixel, Pressure Industrial Pipe, Creative Commons CC0
17 June 2019

Methane emissions from ammonia fertiliser manufacturing plants (which use natural gas as a feedstock and energy source) in the United States are around one hundred times higher than currently reported levels, according to this study. Researchers used a Google Street View car equipped with methane analysers to take measurements downwind of six ammonia fertiliser plants (there are only 23 such plants in the US).

Image: Lorrie Graham/AusAID, The site of secondary mining of Phosphate rock in Nauru, 2007, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
29 April 2019

This paper maps the potential for different subnational, national, or regional areas to reduce their agricultural dependence on imported phosphorus fertiliser by recycling manure or urban waste (including both human excreta and household and industrial wastes).

Image: MD-Terraristik, larvae of the black soldier fly, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
1 April 2019

This paper provides an assessment of the environmental impacts of converting waste streams from the food industry into products such as fertiliser, pet food, livestock feed or feed additives using the larvae of Hermetia illucens, the black soldier fly.

8 October 2018

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has published guidelines for the assessment of nutrient flows and their associated environmental impacts in livestock supply chains. The guidelines are aimed at people and organisations who already have a good working knowledge of life cycle assessment of livestock systems, and are intended to promote consistency through defining calculation methods and data requirements.

2 October 2018

This book, edited by Ramesh Namedo Pudake, Nidhi Chauhan, and Chittaranjan Kole, highlights ways in which nanomaterials can be used in agriculture. The book covers both social and environmental aspects.

Image: Žarko Šušnjar, Among the fields of wheat, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
12 September 2018

A new paper reviews the extent to which sustainable intensification has been achieved in England. It concludes that agricultural intensification drove environmental degradation during the 1980s. In the 1990s, however, yields became decoupled from fertiliser and pesticide use, meaning that some ecosystems services began to recover. The authors interpret their results as meaning that sustainable intensification has begun. Farmland biodiversity, however, has not recovered.

31 July 2018

This book, edited by John Stafford, reviews many of the technologies used in precision agriculture, such as drones, spray technologies and modelling systems, and examines how they can be used, for example to manage fertiliser applications, for irrigation and for protecting crops.

Image: Brian Robert Marshall, Crop spraying near St Mary Bourne, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
10 July 2018

FCRN member Waleed Fouad Abobatta of the Agriculture Research Centre, Egypt, has published a paper on the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture. FCRN readers may be particularly interested in the use of nanotechnology to reduce use of fertilisers and pesticides through greater application efficiency.

11 June 2018

Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and life sciences multinational, has bought US agribusiness Monsanto in a $63 billion deal after receiving approval from antitrust regulatory authorities. The US Department of Justice required Bayer to sell some of its crop science assets to BASF as a condition of approving the merger.

Image: Lynn Betts, Runoff of soil & fertilizer, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
21 May 2018

Structural changes in the food system such as replacing half of animal proteins with plant-based proteins could significantly marine eutrophication in the North-East Atlantic, according to a recent paper. The authors addressed the question of whether Western Europe can reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff to coastal areas without endangering food security.

Image: USDA NRCS Montana, Irrigation31.tif, Flickr, Public domain
19 March 2018

A wireless soil probe that measures soil conditions every 15 minutes could help farmers to apply fertilisers more efficiently and prevent overwatering. Each probe has 23 sensors and sends data to a software interface that summarises the information for farmers. Factors measured include levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, moisture, temperature and aeration.

Image: Andiseño Estudio, volcano-eruption-calbuco-chile-8__880, Flickr, Public domain
26 February 2018

Using volcanic rock dust as a fertiliser on farms could offset around one tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to preliminary estimates.

20 February 2018

This report, edited by the World Bank, reviews the literature to explore the sources and impacts of agricultural pollution in East Asia and propose solutions.

Photo: United Soybean Board, Soil, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0
13 July 2017

In this short perspective piece, researchers from the Netherlands, USA and the UK critically assess the COP21 4 per 1000 initiative, which seeks to increase global yearly agricultural soil organic carbon sequestration by 4‰ (= 0.4%, or 1.2 billion tonnes). The authors argue that as soil organic matter (SOM) also contains nitrogen (N), with a C-to-N ratio always approaching 12, this will require the sequestration of an extra 100 million tonnes of N per year, and they question the feasibility of achieving this. 

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