June 25, 2009

Too Much and Too Little

Jared Margulies, MS

Jared Margulies, MS

Guest Blogger

Center for a Livable Future

covermed2A new take on global fertilizer use blames wealthy countries for over-polluting water ways and accelerating climate change while leaving poor countries with depleted soils and a lack of food.

The world’s use of fertilizer is extreme-in an article out this month in the journal SCIENCE, researchers highlight the disparities between fertilizer use in developed and developing countries. In many parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of access to fertilizers for maintaining soil fertility translates into year after year of low crop yields, chronic malnutrition, and the degradation of soils. Conversely, in developing countries like the United States, over-fertilization of agricultural lands has led to “the degradation of downstream water quality and eutrophication of coastal marine ecosystems, the development of photochemical smog, and rising global concentrations of the powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide.”

While the authors don’t elaborate on how different fertilizers impact soil and agriculture (organic agriculture has been shown to be more drought resistant than agriculture using synthetic fertilizers and better suited to Africa’s economic and climactic environment), they argue that more research into farm nutrient budgets and policies which tackle food security, as well as the ecological and human health effects of agriculture, be implemented.

One Comment

  1. Posted by Janet

    I think this article reveals very clearly the truth about modern agriculture: that it is neither sustainable nor healthy. The author’s voice adds much to this hard-hitting post. Keep up the good work, Mr. Margulies!

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