Keywords: Micronutrients, bio-fortification, zinc, selenium, fertilisers and human health, balanced nutrition.
A growing global population will be seeking more and more food from farmers who will have to produce higher yields from each hectare of land while being under pressure to reduce their impact on the environment.
Consequently responsible stewardship of crop nutrition inputs has never been higher on agricultural agendas for ensuring future global food security and the international fertilizer industry currently faces its greatest challenges (and opportunities) to help achieve this goal.
Furthermore it is becoming very apparent that the issue of food security comprises more than just quantity and that quality is also crucial to ensure that the crops produced by farmers are more nourishing and therefore contribute to improving overall human health and well-being as well as reducing mal-nutrition in many developing countries.
The outstanding contribution of NPK fertilisers during the Green Revolution in the last decades of the 20th century, when food production was trebled on virtually the same area of land as available in the mid-1960s, is now being recognised.
However during these decades very little attention was paid to application of non-NPK nutrients and as a result ‘nutrient mining’ of essential micronutrients (a.k.a. trace elements) has become apparent in important agricultural regions of the world, particularly in China. India, South East Asia and Central and South America, where all of the future population growth will take place.
And though the Green Revolution eventually provided sufficient food calories for the global population at the time there has since been a ‘pandemic’ growth in micronutrient mal-nutrition which is most pronounced in developing countries. Although some of this can be attributed to a shift towards staple diets based on cereal crops e.g. rice, wheat and maize, which give high yields using NPK applications, I propose that extensive ‘nutrient mining’ as well as ‘nutrient export’ have played their part in the problem too!
As NPK use will certainly play a major role in driving the next Green Revolution (2.0) necessary to ensure food and nutrition security for another 2 billion people, it is considered essential that all future fertiliser programmes should include appropriate micronutrients where they are required to achieve maximum Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE) of all applied nutrients and to optimise crop yield, quality and dietary contribution.
Finally, in recent years the international fertiliser industry has been developing an initiative entitled ‘Fertiliser Use and Human Health’ to establish ‘what we know, what we guess and what we don’t know’ about the direct and indirect benefits of fertiliser applications upon human health and well-being; and to give more focus in the development of future innovation in fertiliser materials, product types and applications. The initiative is expected to complete in mid-2012 and I am confident that it will represent a major contribution to ensuring future food and nutrition security – whilst mitigating climate change — with dual benefits for human health and well-being!
Kevin Moran PhD., Yara UK Ltd, Manor Place, Wellington Road, The Industrial Estate, Pocklington, YO42 1DN, United Kingdom.
28 pages, 11 figures, 13 tables, 64 references.