Knowledge for Development

Fertilizer nutrient imbalance to limit food production in Africa


Date: 27/02/2014


A new study of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, Austria), published in the journal Global Change Biology, demonstrates that a growing imbalance between phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer use in Africa would lead to crop yield reductions of nearly 30% by 2050. Underuse of phosphorus-based fertilizers in Africa currently contributes to a growing yield gap – the difference between how much crops could produce in ideal circumstances compared to actual yields. This phosphorus-specific yield gap currently lies at around 10% for subsistence farmers, but will grow to 27% by 2050 if current trends continue. While nitrogen-based fertilizer usage has begun to increase in Africa in the last 10 years, the application of phosphorus to cropland has not kept pace, leading to a growing imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorus levels in soil. The new study shows that increases in nitrogen and phosphorus inputs must happen in a way that provides crops with the balanced nutrient input they need.   

(IIASA, 28/01/2014)   

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