THE NEED FOR ECO-FRIENDLY FERTILIZER / Published December 8, 2016 by Olumide Durotoluwa

Olumide Durotoluwa


Under-use of 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.

Better yields mean more food and sustainable food leads to wealth and culture and a better life. But fertilizer has to be smartly applied, with both phosphorous and nitrogen and the difference between them is substantial for subsistence farmers. While nitrogen-based fertilizers can be produced by a process that extracts the element from the air, phosphorus must be mined from rock—and reserves are limited. That makes phosphorus fertilizers expensive, especially in the longer term. This phosphorus-specific yield gap currently lies at around 10% for subsistence farmers, but will grow to 27% by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a paper in Global Change Biology. "This research shows that the imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorus applications has the potential to further limit food production for a growing population in Africa" says Marijn van der Velde of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. "Farmers with limited money are more likely to buy and have access to cheaper nitrogen-based fertilizers. While this might work in the short term, in the longer term it has a negative effect on crop growth as soil nutrients become more imbalanced."

Hence, to boost local production of food, farmers need to have access to a cost-effective and eco-friendly fertilizers.