VFRC Publications - Page 5

Foreword Meeting human needs within the ecological limits of our planet calls for continuous reflection on and redesigning of our agricultural practices. Growing ecological insights, technological innovations and societal changes have caused transformations that drastically changed the course of agriculture over the past century. These megatrends include dramatic increases in yields, reduced labor requirement, optimized use efficiency of inputs, aligned chain actors and logistics and spatial integration of agricultural and natural functions within the landscape.2 The discovery and use of mineral fertilizers has, undeniably, been one of the driving forces for increased crop yield and agricultural productivity. However, we challenge commonly accepted projections that increasing NPK fertilizer use is required to meet the expected 60% increase in global food demand by 2050 due to rising population and income levels. Instead, we argue for moving from “high volume–low value” fertilizer products to “low volume–high value” products.3 Unintended side effects of fertilizer overuse contributing to eutrophication and climate change are undesirable. Conversely, underuse leads to soil degradation, poverty and hunger. Moreover, the use of unbalanced fertilizers not containing micronutrients foregoes the opportunity to contribute to resolving human malnutrition. They have also not been a very economically effective production factor to lift many poor farmers out of poverty, especially in African countries. Our increased awareness about the need to secure farm livelihood and safeguard our ecosystems that provide services to agriculture, and the need for balanced fertilizers that improve soil, plant and human health, call for reflection on the roles, functionality and form of current fertilizer products.4 For revisiting fertilizers in order to develop fertilizers and fertilization strategies that better serve societal needs within the planetary boundaries, the Virtual Fertilizer Research Center (VFRC) developed its VFRC cockpit. It contains the components for a VFRC conceptual framework based on review studies of the most recent publications as the scientific backbone. VFRC advanced these insights along with findings in on-farm field trials by IFDC to target the need for balanced fertilizers emphasizing micronutrients. 1 Rudy Rabbinge Chair, VFRC Board of Advisors