UN: Efficient Fertilizer Use Key to Clean Planet

Study claims efficient fertilizer use could result in net savings worth more than $170 million

Published on: Feb 25, 2013

A 20% improvement in fertilizer efficiency by 2020 would reduce nitrogen use by 20 million metric tons, according to a report commissioned by the United Nations Environmental Program.

The report was released at a forum held last week in Nairobi, Kenya, and was developed by nearly 50 experts from 14 countries.

The experts are calling the campaign to improve nitrogen efficiency "20:20 for 2020. Their analysis shows how this could provide a net savings worth more than $170 million by the end of 2020 through intergovernmental framework to address fertilizer use.

"Our analysis shows that by improving the management of the flow of nutrients we can help protect the environment, climate and human health, while addressing food and energy security concerns," said Professor Mark Sutton of the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and lead author of the report.

Study claims efficient fertilizer use could result in net savings worth more than $170 million
Study claims efficient fertilizer use could result in net savings worth more than $170 million

Options to limit waste

The report proposes a package of ten key actions to reduce pollution threats, and makes recommendations for shared action by governments, business and citizens. Key points include:

-Actions that improve the management of nutrients in agriculture, including crops, livestock and manure management. Measures include precision agricultural methods suitable for both developed and developing countries.

-Actions to reduce nutrient losses from industry and waste water treatment, including the recycling of available resources. Develop methods to recapture nitrogen oxides from combustion sources.

-Actions to improve local optimization of nutrient flows, connecting arable and livestock farming to improve nutrient recycling opportunities.

-Lowering personal consumption of animal protein. With rapidly increasing meat and dairy consumption, as Asia and Latin America aspire to European and North American norms, diet choices have a potential to influence future levels of global nutrient pollution.

Co-author Dr Bruna Grizzetti, based at CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie said localizing agricultural production is a really important option.

"Crop and livestock farming are often separated by many hundreds of kilometers. Localization helps improve nutrient recycling, reducing nutrient losses, while bringing the production benefits and pollution responsibilities closer together."