Online consultation for developing the Code of Conduct for the Management of Fertilizers
Dear Stakeholders and Members,
We are tasked with a unique opportunity to mould the future of fertilizer use globally and are seeking inputs on the development of a Code of Conduct for the Management of Fertilizers (CoCoFe).
The creation of the CoCoFe is being proposed to promote the responsible and judicious use of fertilizers in the interest of the following objectives:
- maintaining or increasing global food production;
- maximizing the efficient use of plant nutrients to enhance sustainable agriculture;
- minimizing the environmental impacts from the use of fertilizers including pollution by loss of nutrients via runoff, leaching, greenhouse gas emissions and other mechanisms;
- minimizing environmental and human health impacts from pollutants such as heavy metals in fertilizers;
- maintaining and increasing food safety.
The aim of the CoCoFe is to assist member countries design policies and regulatory frameworks for the sustainable use of fertilizers. The focus is more on discouraging fertilizer overuse whereas a second document, to be developed later, will address scenarios with low or no fertilizer use under the topic of integrated soil fertility management. The CoCoFe should assist policy makers at the regulatory and extension levels to outline the roles and responsibilities of the multiple stakeholders involved in various aspects of fertilizer management including governments, industry, universities, NGOs, traders, farmers organizations, etc.
Note: The CoCoFe is not designed to provide specific recommendations on field applications of fertilizers, i.e. rates, placement, timing, etc., but rather broader recommendations on what should be considered when designing strategies to manage fertilizers sustainably.
Your input is necessary to allow the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS)1 to better frame the multifaceted needs of all stakeholders who would use the CoCoFe or be impacted by the use of the CoCoFe
This online consultation, through a series of questions, invites you to address the following:
- Given the global scope of the CoCoFe, do you think the objectives are appropriate? If not, how would you add to them or modify them?
- How should be the CoCoFe be structured to have the maximum positive impact?
- Who would be the best audience for the CoCoFe to meet our objectives and how could we broaden and diversify this audience to increase its influence?
- What should the scope of the CoCoFe be? Which nutrient input sources should be included; only synthetic fertilizers, or also manure, biosolids, compost, etc.? Should other products such as bio-stimulants, nitrification inhibitors, urease inhibitors, etc., be included as well?
- Will the CoCoFe assist in promoting responsible and judicious use of fertilizers? Why or why not? What other suggestions do you have to help the CoCoFe meet our objectives?
Thank you very much for engaging in this critical process. We look forward to receiving your valued inputs to make these guidelines a reality.
Director Land and Water Division, FAO
Gary Pierzynski, Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils
Debra Turner, FAO
Ronald Vargas, Global Soil Partnership Secretary
Background and process
The recently published Status of the World’s Soil Resources (SWSR)2 report identified ten major threats to our soils that need to be addressed if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, urgent efforts are required to enable and engage with sustainable soil management (SSM) at all levels.
The Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM)3 produced by the Global Soil Partnership (GSP)4 is a first step to addressing these threats. Two of these are nutrient imbalances and soil pollution and that involve plant nutrient applications that can be excessive, insufficient, or polluting, none of which are sustainable. Chapter 3.3 - Foster nutrient balances and cycles and Chapter 3.5 - Prevent and minimize soil contamination of the VGSSM provide initial guidance on promoting sustainable nutrient use in relation to soils, agriculture and the environment, however further support is required to implement these recommendations.
The ITPS was tasked to develop the CoCoFe and this online consultation soliciting input on what should be included in a CoCoFe is one of the early steps in the process. This input will be utilized to develop a zero-order draft that will be reviewed by ITPS, followed by further review of a first draft by a panel of experts representing all major partners and stakeholders. The process will then continue with the finalization of the CoCoFe and submission to the Global Soil Partnership Plenary Assembly, the Committee on Agriculture (COAG)5 and, if endorsed, to the FAO Council6.
Achieving SSM will generate large benefits for all, therefore, the availability of comprehensive guidelines on the use and management of fertilizers is of major importance.
1 ITPS - http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/intergovernmental-technical-panel-soils/en/
2 SWSR - http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5199e.pdf
3 VGSSM - http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6874e.pdf
4 GSP - http://www.fao.org/global-soil-partnership/en/
5 COAG - http://www.fao.org/coag/en/
6 FAO Council - http://www.fao.org/unfao/govbodies/gsbhome/council/en/
This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.
Dr. Scott Angle
For more than 40 years, the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) has been a source of information on fertilizer, soil fertility, and plant nutrition, and a source of support and technical assistance to the agriculture sector and the fertilizer industry. IFDC is a leading center for the research and development of new fertilizer products and for promoting their rational use by means of agro-economic research to improve soil fertility, increase productivity and production, and improve food security and nutrition around the world with a major focus on developing countries.
The following comments serve as IFDC’s official contributions to the CoCoFe.
IFDC scientists believe the judicious use of fertilizer calls for a holistic approach, starting with good quality fertilizer products, with reduced contaminants, which greatly depends on the source of nutrients, beneficiation of mined feedstock, and the production process. When supplied with good quality products and knowledge on their proper application, farmers’ judicious use of fertilizer can produce sufficient, quality, nutritious, and safe food for a fast-growing population while addressing environmental and human health hazards. With a finite amount of resources — namely land, fertile soil, and fresh water — and in the context of climate change, additional factors to consider for promoting the appropriate use of fertilizer are:
IFDC scientists and experts in fertilizer production, agronomy, and economics are well-positioned to support the development of the CoCoFe and its implementation through technical assistance and training to fertilizer supply and demand chain stakeholders.
Specific comments on the CoCoFe
Given the global scope of the CoCoFe, do you think the objectives are appropriate? If not, how would you add to them or modify them?
First, IFDC suggests establishing clearer goals for the CoCoFe from which the objectives can emanate. In addition, fewer objectives will help simplify the elaboration of the CoCoFe and perhaps facilitate its adoption.
IFDC also suggests combining the stated objectives 3 and 4 and to consider the following four objectives, which we believe embrace the CoCoFe goals:
Considering the effects of climate change on agriculture, IFDC further suggests adding the following objective:
4. Support the adaptation of crops to imminent environmental changes for more resilient agriculture production systems considering balanced nutrient fertilizer products, nutrient recycling, and carbon sequestration.
In addition, although the CoCoFe is intended to address the use of fertilizer to “minimize environmental and human health impacts from pollutants from fertilizer,” it is necessary to clarify that the CoCoFe approach will only reduce such effects. However, a lot can be done to further reduce the impacts on environment and human health. Research and innovation should aim at improving the beneficiation of mined feedstock and the production processes of fertilizer to eliminate contaminants and non-nutritious trace elements (pathogens, organic and non-desirable chemicals) to enhance fertilizer quality.
What should the scope of the CoCoFe be? Which nutrient input sources should be included; only synthetic fertilizers, or also manure, biosolids, compost, etc.? Should other products such as bio-stimulants, nitrification inhibitors, urease inhibitors, etc., be included as well?
IFDC believes the scope of the CoCoFe should be on promoting the most efficient use of plant nutrients to effectively sustain agricultural production, which embraces inorganic fertilizer and organic nutrient sources.
Considering the aim of the CoCoFe is “to assist member countries to design policies and regulatory frameworks for the sustainable use of fertilizers,” and the nature of organic materials — which comprises multiple sources with erratic nutrient content depending on the organic material source — makes it difficult to standardize such materials as a source of nutrients, and therefore regulate it. On the contrary, inorganic nutrient sources/fertilizer, given their physical and chemical characteristics, facilitate standardization and regulation.
However, it is crucial to regulate organic materials (biosolids, compost, etc.) for contaminants and hazardous chemicals (heavy metals, pathogens, toxic organics —including pesticides —etc.). To that end, IFDC suggests developing a subset within the CoCoFe clearly addressing the recycling of organic materials to be used as a source of nutrients for food crops.
Recognizing that organic materials can be a valuable source of nutrients, in the traditional intensive production systems, they should be seen first as soil amendments to improve soil structure and increase microbial activity, water retention, and cationic exchange, among others, all of which facilitate the absorption of nutrients by the plant root; and second, as a source of nutrient supply to the soil and the plants. Nutrient supply from organic materials can be considered a positive externality in the context of a circular economy; therefore, organic materials should be supplementary to inorganic sources, not the main source of nutrients. The exception can be purely organic agricultural systems in which organic materials can be both soil amendments and the main source of nutrients.
With respect to the use of bio-stimulants, nitrification inhibitors, urease inhibitors, etc., they should be part of the discussion and the CoCoFe, since they can help improve nutrient use efficiency and achieve the stated environmental and perhaps human hazards objectives.
Therefore, economic analyses may be needed to weigh the impact from the potential burden introduced by the CoCoFe as opposed to the impact of a lax regulatory system that will make countries vulnerable to questionable nutrient content in organic products and to hazardous contaminants and non-nutritious trace elements in inorganic fertilizers and organic products.
Before I articulate my comments in the following paragraphs, I like to commend FAO for undertaking the development of Code of Conduct on the management of Fertilizers (CoCoFe) and seeking stakeholder inputs. My comments are summarized below.
Fertilizer is a derived demand and its use is determined by several factors including profitability, marketability of produce etc. So COCoFe should be considered in the context of the entire value chain consisting of fertilizer supply, use and output markets. In the management of agricultural system all sources of nutrients (inorganic fertilizers, organic sources, manure and recycle materials) should be considered. So instead of Code of Conduct on the management of Fertilizers the title should be Code of Conduct on the management of Plant Nutrient. This change in title certainly makes the exercise more complex but the outcome would be more useful to the countries and practitioners since there is an upsurge in the use of organic materials and recycle products as a complement to and in some cases substitute for inorganic fertilizers.
In developing the recommendations for nutrient management one should consider the source, rate, placement and time of application based on soil and crop. The soil analyses is vital in determining the nutrient composition of the material and the rate of application not only of primary nutrients but also secondary and micronutrients. Both secondary and micronutrients are becoming more limiting to crop productivity particularly in Africa.
The heavy metal contents in fertilizers, recycled materials and manure need to be addressed from the environment and human health stand point as a part of the Code of Conduct exercise. I have recently done some analyses about the cadmium limits in fertilizers in countries and states. These limits vary widely. The most stringent limits under consideration is in the EU countries. The EU regulation proposes to set a limit of 20 mg Cd/kg of P2O5 in phosphate fertilizers over a time horizon on 12-15 years from current level of ~80 mg Cd/kg P2O5 . This limit is vastly lower than in other areas (Please see the diagram below). The sources cadmium in soils are several including geology of the region, rate of manure application, fertilizer etc. The uptake of cadmium by plants depends on its availability which is influenced by several factors including pH of the soil, the rate and source of organic matter, the available Zinc in the soils. Hence setting the limits for cadmium (and heavy metals) in fertilizers is quite complex and would need analysed in the Code of Conduct exercise.
While the Code of Conduct exercise is very useful and timely, it should lead to the establishment of a permanent structure to act as a clearing house of information for the management of plant nutrients. Such an information system should be 'open source' and the inclusion of information in the database should be peer reviewed.
Hope my comments are useful. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Submission from COPA-COGECA.
Mr. Durlave Roy
sustainable use of renewable natural resources - to achieve the target, we have to improve the efficiency of the fertilizers and fertilizer practises by continuous research and developments and innovation. we must take into focus the balanced and targeted fertilization to improve the efficiency. we have to improve the organic of the soil to boost the root and the efficiency of the nutrient uptake the crop. Solutions - Crop based Balanced Fertilization on soil test based northernfertilizer.org
Dr. Prem Bindraban
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 https://ifdc.org/vfrc-reports/.
Innovation in fertilizer design, packaging and delivery
Unlocking the multiple public good services from balanced fertilizers (Bindraban et al., 2018)
A Comprehensive Nutrient Assessment to unlock fertilizer benefits (Bindraban 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 (https://www.government.nl/topics/development-cooperation/development-cooperation-partners-and-partnerships/public-private-partnerships) 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.
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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2017.06.001
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
Debra Turner, Gary Pierzynski, Zineb Bazza and Ronald Vargas
Dear colleagues and contributors,
The online consultation for contributions to the Code of Conduct on Fertilizer Management (CoCoFe) is now officially closed. We had close to ninety responses during the Forum and as mentioned before they come from many different stakeholders, including the fertilizer industry, academia, the public sector, research institutions, farmer organizations and many others. It has been very interesting and enlightening to read the variety of responses received and all of them will be considered when drafting the first CoCoFe document.
Now that the consultation has ended, the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) will lead and oversee the work of producing the CoCoFe. This will include appointing a special Task Force to provide technical and expert advice to the ITPS on various aspects related to the management of fertilizers, as well as to assist the writing team in producing a first-draft CoCoFe over the coming two months. The ITPS will conduct a detailed review of the draft in mid-April 2018.
An open-ended working group will be established to review and finalize the draft CoCoFe in late April 2018. Our member countries will select members of the open-ended working group so as to represent the global regions. The working group will also include representatives from multiple stakeholders including academia, industry and civil society.
The CoCoFe will be submitted to the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly on 11-13 June 2018. If endorsed, it will be submitted to the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) in September 2018, and subsequently to FAO Council in December 2018.
We will provide updates and any relevant information on the development of the CoCoFe through the FSN Forum and our other relevant networks, including the GSP, to let you all know how things are progressing.
Again, the ITPS, the GSP and FAO thank everyone that participated in this online discussion and for the excellent quality and highly thoughtful comments and feedback that we received. The feedback will certainly benefit the future Code of Conduct on Fertilizer Management document, as well as achieve its aim to manage nutrients more sustainably in the future for more efficient food production systems with increased food security, and with less impacts on the environment, society and and human health.
Warm regards from,
Debra, Gary, Zineb and Ronald (Facilitators of the consultation) and the Forum support team.
Dr. Stephen Dania
Ms. Jessie Rivera Fagan
FAO’s Child Labour in Agriculture Prevention team, Rome, Italy
Regarding the fourth objective that focuses on human health impacts, it is also essential that the Code of Conduct adequately considers the health of all workers, including children.
Today, 71% of all child labour occurs in the agricultural sector. In Africa alone, over 72 million children are engaged in child labour, 32 million of which is hazardous work. Beyond the numbers of children engaged in child labour, many more are also working in agriculture or helping their families on the farm. The prevalence of children engaged in agricultural activities and on farms should be considered when designing responsible systems of fertilizer management.
Depending on the context, fertilizer application has the potential to create hazardous situations of child labour. This may include carrying heavy loads, excessive working hours or manually handling some chemicals that cause irritation. Unfortunately, child labour is often a hidden phenomenon, which is why the promotion of certain production systems and employment initiatives should remain child labour sensitive.
As part of SDG 8.7, it is essential that we focus on child labour prevention in agriculture. Child labour also affects our ability to reach SDGs 1 and 2 on eliminating poverty and hunger; children engaged in child labour risk their healthy development and are less likely to become educated and access gainful, decent employment as youth or adults. They can easily become trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and low productivity with negative repercussions for the development and food security of rural communities.
Dr. Asheri Kalala
COCOFe insist on improving soil testing capability for majority of farmers to access that service. Soil testing in developing countries is still expensive to be afforded by small scale producers.
COCOFe should emphasize a need of soil fertility experts to train extension officers (village officers) who are directly in contact with famers. Majority of extension officer’s knowledge on soil fertility and plant nutrition is still low.
The COCOFe insist the use of available materials at farmer’s environment like organic residues, rock phosphates and lime materials. The knowledge of farmers utilizing them is still low, yet farmers cannot afford the industrial imported fertilizer to replenish the lost nutrients in fields.
COCOFe insist the improvement of other knowledge in agriculture like developing high yielding varieties needs to go hand by hand with research on soil fertility. Working close with plant breeders in most cases evaluation of varieties do not consider soil fertility component.
Maria Giulia De Castro
Dear FSN Forum colleagues,
Please kindly find attached WFO written comments to the Code of Conduct for the Management of Fertilizers.
Thank you and best regards,
MARIA GIULIA DE CASTRO
Junior Policy Officer
World Farmers’ Organisation, WFO