Business.2010 newsletter: Agribusiness

Volume 3, Issue 2 - February 2008: Agribusiness

Nurturing biodiversity by feeding crops well

The principles of Fertilizer Best Management Practices (FBMPs) are simple:

Fertilizers should be part of Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM). Farmers should start by recycling on-farm sources of nutrients (such as manures and crop residues) and then complement them with manufactured fertilizers.

Fertilizer use should be adapted to crop- and site-specific conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. ‘Best’ is a relative term, not an absolute judgment.

The right product(s) should be applied at the right rate, time and place. This means that all nutrients should be provided in the ratios required.

The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) is currently elaborating a global framework to foster the development and deployment of site-specific FBMPs. The initiative also aims to define indicators to measure the effectiveness of FBMPs (1).

To support greater nutrient use efficiency, policy-makers should:

• Fund research to better understand the most appropriate practices for various crop rotations under different agro-climatic conditions. As a result of ongoing enhancements of cultivars, climate change, shifting cropping patterns and other variables, best management practices need to be reviewed and refined regularly.

• Ensure that robust extension services exist so that farmers are exposed to recent research. It is even more effective if farmers are partners in the initial research, which allows socio-economic and cultural issues that could otherwise hinder uptake to be incorporated from the outset. Participatory research also strengthens farmers’ capacity to continually fine-tune their practices.

• Provide timely access to a full range of fertilizers so that farmers can make the best choices for their particular situations.

Patrick Heffer is Executive Secretary of the Agriculture Committee of the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA).
(1) See the papers from the March 2007 IFA Workshop on FBMPs as well as the special issue of the IFA newsletter Fertilizers & Agriculture.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme