Keywords: Sustainable agriculture, Balanced agriculture, Nutrient balance sheets.
Sustainable agricultural production in Western Europe depends on achieving a balance between the needs of consumers, farmers and the environment. This paper discusses the role of plant nutrients in achieving this balance and provides some pointers for the future direction of farming in Europe while highlighting the challenges facing the European Fertiliser Industry in maintaining a long-term supply of essential nutrients for crop production.
The complexity of providing nutrients for the human food chain is not easily understood by consumers, many of whom misunderstand the important and essential role of inorganic fertilisers in food production. Environmental concerns demand a more targeted approach to reduce leakage in nutrient supply systems. In future, fertilisers should be regarded as a controllable management tool, used to positive effect as part of a balanced farming system.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nutrient balance sheetsÃ¢â‚¬Â which include animal wastes as well as inorganic fertilisers, will be essential calculations on most farms within the next decade. Research and extension work still has an important role to play in bringing about a sustainable balance. National government funding is being slowly withdrawn, and acceptance that future funding will have to be on a partnership basis between fanners and the supply industries, will take time to establish.
The needs of the consumer, and the importance of communication with consumers, cannot be forgotten in today’s fast changing situation. The health and well-being of future generations depends not only on sustainable food production, but also on a balanced approach to the needs of the environment and countryside in which we all live.
It has taken 50 years to develop Europe’s highly efficient, production driven industry and the achievement of a better balance and understanding will not happen overnight. However difficult the changes are, the re-direction of agriculture and its supply industries towards a more holistic approach is essential as we move towards the 21st century.
John A Farmer, Kemira Agro, Finland.
20 pages, 3 figures, 2 tables, 7 references.