World Food Forum: Exploring options for future soil and plant nutrition

October 22, 2022, Gypsy: Efforts to consolidate and promote alternative sources of fertilizers and to pursue new technologies for cheaper, cleaner and more efficient soil and plant nutrition were on the agenda on Thursday during an event of the World Food Forum’s Science and Innovation Forum.

The high-level ministerial session on innovations in soil and plant nutrient management at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) addressed what needs to be done to ensure that the Earth’s soil will be able to feed the growing population without harming the planet.

Earth matters

Soil is an important ingredient for growing food and an important building block in the food system. Current and future food security depends on the ability to increase yield and food quality by improving soil fertility and plant nutrition.

Soil fertility status is declining due to several factors, including soil erosion, nutrient imbalances and salinity, among other drivers of soil degradation and unsustainable nutrient management.

Topsoil, the most fertile layer of soil, is being lost as a result of a variety of factors, including unsustainable agriculture. An estimated 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost per year due to erosion.

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This is taking place against the background of a global population that is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, competition for land and water resources and the effects of climate change.

In addition, vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa, Latin America and Asia, are grappling with skyrocketing fertilizer prices and where smallholder farmers lack access to inorganic and organic fertilizers.

Long-term care

In his speech at the ministerial meeting, FAO Director-General QU Dongyu made extensive comments on the importance of soil health and innovations to maintain it.

“Mark, it’s not just a short-term issue – we all know it’s long-term. Perhaps it may take our whole life, and still we could not see the real, direct results of our efforts, but we must do it for future generations – it is a long-term commitment. Based on my experience, if you take care of the black soil, for example, it will take 40 years to see a 1 cm increase in the topsoil, says Qu.

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The director-general added that we must base our efforts on science and technology, such as how to increase soil organic matter.

“Let’s do more in a pragmatic and systematic way, to design how to reverse soil erosion, soil degeneration and soil salinity, for example,” Qu said.

Qu also emphasized the need for investment, especially long-term investment, for soil mapping, which he said reduces the need for fertilizers, for scientific task forces to carry out long-term monitoring and inspections, and for harmonizing agronomic practices with other measures, such as . such as tillage.

Better soil and plant nutrition

Five ministers and former ministers made statements on the most important land issues in their countries and their thoughts on efforts to maintain and improve soil health.

The participants were Oumar Ibn Daoud, Minister of Agricultural Development of Chad, Omer Hussein Oba, Minister of Agriculture of Ethiopia, Redouane Arrach, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Marine Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forestry of Morocco, Anxious Jongwe Masuka, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development of Zimbabwe, and William Dar, former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture of the Philippines. The panel discussion was moderated by journalist Thin Lei Win.

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The topic of soil mapping often came up together with biofertilizers during the statements and panel discussion. Soil data, agricultural policy, soil analysis, water resource conservation, soil health programs, modernization of land management systems, investment and climate change preparedness were all mentioned.

FAO Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi contributed to the session with a summary of the main points of the discussion highlighting that information is the foundation of sustainable nutrition management. She also pointed to the consensus that sustainable land management is one of the most cost-effective solutions to increase the content of macro- and micronutrients in the soil.

FAO is involved in many initiatives related to soil, among them the Global Soil Partnership, the Global Soil Doctors Program and the publication of reports including the Global Assessment of Soil Contamination.

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