Affordable nutrient solutions for improved food security as evidenced by crop trials

van der Velde M, See L, You L, Balkovič J, Fritz S, Khabarov N, Obersteiner M, & Wood S (2013). Affordable nutrient solutions for improved food security as evidenced by crop trials. PLoS ONE 8 (4) DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0060075.

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Abstract

The continuing depletion of nutrients from agricultural soils in Sub-Saharan African is accompanied by a lack of substantial progress in crop yield improvement. In this paper we investigate yield gaps for corn under two scenarios: a micro-dosing scenario with marginal increases in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) of 10 kg ha/1 and a larger yet still conservative scenario with proposed N and P applications of 80 and 20 kg/ha respectively. The yield gaps are calculated from a database of historical FAO crop fertilizer trials at 1358 locations for Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Our approach allows connecting experimental field scale data with continental policy recommendations. Two critical findings emerged from the analysis. The first is the degree to which P limits increases in corn yields. For example, under a micro-dosing scenario, in Africa, the addition of small amounts of N alone resulted in mean yield increases of 8% while the addition of only P increased mean yields by 26%, with implications for designing better balanced fertilizer distribution schemes. The second finding was the relatively large amount of yield increase possible for a small, yet affordable amount of fertilizer application. Using African and South American fertilizer prices we show that the level of investment needed to achieve these results is considerably less than 1% of Agricultural GDP for both a micro-dosing scenario and for the scenario involving higher yet still conservative fertilizer application rates. In the latter scenario realistic mean yield increases ranged between 28 to 85% in South America and 71 to 190% in Africa (mean plus one standard deviation). External investment in this low technology solution has the potential to kick start development and could complement other interventions such as better crop varieties and improved economic instruments to support farmers.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM)
Bibliographic Reference: PLoS ONE; 8(4):e60075 (2 April 2013)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:48
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2016 13:05
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/10457

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