Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

See my points below that I can foresee with additional background arguments and facts if needed. This mail can be considered a contribution from the IFDC. (I did note the comments by Porfirio.) You can find the papers mentioned in the below points and other papers on

Innovation in fertilizer design, packaging and delivery

  • Emphasizing the use of fertilizers in minimizing externalities puts the responsibility of the problems to the users – i.e. the farmers.
  • The industry supports the 4R approach which does exactly that – placing the responsibility on the shoulders of the farmers.
  • Yet, investments in fertilizers have been virtually absent over the past decades (Fugli et al., 2011).
  • Much (more) gain in reducing nutrient losses from fertilizers can likely be made by taking biological and ecological processes as an entry point in the design and development of (innovative) fertilizers (Bindraban et al., 2015).
  • “Innovative fertilizers. There has been virtually no investment in fertilizer research and development over the past five decades. Taking plant physiological and soil processes, rather than chemistry, as a starting point, the redesign of ‘packaging’ and ‘delivery’ nutrients can result in rapid nutrient uptake by plants. Innovative fertilizers – targeted at feeding crops, rather than the soil – would provide multiple benefits, including higher content of multiple nutrients in cereals, the restoration of soil fertility, and increased system resilience and sustainability. (From Save And Grow; FAO, 2016).

Unlocking the multiple public good services from balanced fertilizers (Bindraban et al., 2018)

  • We should better unlock the potentials of fertilizers (beyond NPK).
  • Yield increase (and environmental side effects) are currently the only drivers in fertilizer use, YET
  • The nutritional content of cereals, fruits and vegetables have collapsed over the past 5-6 decades with increasing yield levels but can be revived through micronutrient-containing fertilizers (Dimkpa and Bindraban, 2016) – and with that can contribute to human nutrition and health.
  • Balanced micronutrient- containing fertilizers further
    • enhance drought tolerance (Dimkpa et al., 2017) contributing to resilience
    • improve plant health to resist pests and diseases – with that reducing the need for biocides (Servin et al., 2015)
    • increased metabolite production to improve taste and shelf-life (and with that contribute to reducing food waste) (Kendristakis, 2017)
    • suppress specific weed infestations
    • dramatically increases water use efficiency (my slogan “the best irrigation is fertilization” that applied for most areas, especially semi-arid with the initial response to develop irrigation infrastructure rather than improving soil fertility)
    • increases the use efficiency of NPK and reduces losses (Dimkpa et al., 2017)

A Comprehensive Nutrient Assessment to unlock fertilizer benefits (Bindraban et al., 2018)

  • Currently there is much work done on N and P, but we miss all the other elements.
  • Again – also – emphasis only on yield and externalities
  • But look at the other functions that fertilization can contribute to (pls do realize that I am referring to fertilizer use in the context of integrated soil fertility management including organic compounds and amendments).
  • We need to engage in a much more promising scope for (innovative) fertilizer products in supporting societal goals and with that to be seen more as a public good rather than simply a commodity from the industry – this view might help to engage multiple actors in pushing for change.
  • It would be very important to look in more depth into the pricing mechanism of fertilizers (Hernandez, M.A., M. Torero, 2013).
  • It will also be important to consider the contribution of fertilizers in reducing environmental impact from a more comprehensive approach – we will have to take a package of measures simultaneously to reduce the losses within acceptable limits as currently discussed under the Planetary Boundary concept (see our paper Conijn et al., 2018).

I have not gone into the specifics of objectives etc, that have extensively been commented on, but wanted to 1) ensure that the responsibility for action is placed on the right actor and that 2) we introduce the need for innovations, 3) the need for a comprehensive assessment and 4) “Dutch diamond type approach ( stakeholder meeting and 5) a societal movement. (Fertilizers are e.g. not on the agendas of NGO’s, nor of many policymakers (often only setting limits to losses rather than imposing regulations to push for innovation (except for recycling now in the EU). We need a collective action with all parties to move the sector.

Hope this helps and can still be incorporated.


Some References:

Prem S. Bindraban, Christian Dimkpa, Scott Angle, Rudy Rabbinge, (2018; in Press). Unlocking the multiple public good services from balanced fertilizers. Food Security.

Bindraban, P.S., Dimkpa, C., Nagarajan, L., Roy, A., Rabbinge, R., 2015. Revisiting Fertilisers and Fertilisation Strategies for Improved Nutrient Uptake by Plants. Biology and Fertility of Soils, Vol. 51, Issue 8, pp 897-911.

Conijn, J.G., P.S. Bindraban, J.J. Schröder, R. Jongschaap, 2018. Can our food system meet food demand within planetary boundaries? Agriculture, Ecosystem and Environment 251: 244-256.

Dimkpa, C., Bindraban, P.S., 2016. Micronutrients fortification for efficient agronomic production. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 36:1-26.

Christian O. Dimkpa, Prem S. Bindraban, Job Fugice, Sampson Agyin-Birikorang, Upendra Singh, Deborah Hellums, 2017. Composite micronutrient nanoparticles and salts decrease drought stress in soybean. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 37:5.

FAO, 2016. Save and Grow in practice maize · rice · wheat. A guide for sustainable cereal production. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. Rome, 2016.

Fuglie KO, Heisey PW, King JL, Pray CE, Day-Rubenstein K, Schimmelpfennig D, Wang SL, Karmarkar-Deshmukh R (2011) Research investments and market structure in the food processing, agricultural input, and biofuel industries worldwide. ERR-130 US Dept of Agriculture Econ Res Serv December 2011.

Hernandez, M.A., M. Torero, 2013. Market concentration and pricing behavior in the fertilizer industry: a global approach. Agricultural Economics 44 (2013) 723–734.

Kendristakis, M. (2017). Effect of micronutrients on cucumber postharvest quality. MSc Thesis Report, Horticulture and Product Physiology, Wageningen University, The Netherlands. (student Prem supervised)

Servin, A., Elmer, W., Mukherjee, A., De la Torre-Roche, R., Hamdi, H., White, J.C., Bindraban, P.S., Dimkpa, C., 2015. A review of the use of engineered nanomaterials to suppress plant diseases and enhance crop yield. J. Nanopart. Res. 17:92.

Prem S. Bindraban