June 25, 2009
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.