Cutting back on chemical fertilizer results in high yields, ecosystem protection
Published: August 2, 2022
Category: Regenerative Agriculture, The Non-GMO Blog
Relatively simple sustainable farming practices can increase crop yields and allow significant cutback of chemical fertilizer use, a new study finds. Rothamsted Research in the UK analyzed 30 EU and African farms and concluded that adding manure and compost to soils, growing nitrogen-fixing plants, and expanding crop diversity will boost harvests while improving natural ecosystems on the farms.
“Reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers would help to buffer farmers and consumers against economic shocks, such as the current spike in fertilizer costs and consequent increase in food prices,” said Chloe MacLaren, lead author of the paper published in Nature Sustainability.
The nine-year study took data from over 25,000 harvests of wheat, corn, oat, barley, sugar beet, and potato crops. Yields were not increased if the practices accompanied the standard high amount of fertilizer application; the greatest yields resulted with the addition of nitrogen to soils. Fertilizer prices have tripled, in part to the pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine war—those two countries being major artificial fertilizer manufacturers. That, along with extreme weather events damaging harvests, has created a global food crisis—close to 200 million people face acute “famine-like” hunger with hundreds of millions more experiencing shortages.
Fertilizer overuse is a critical problem in the developed worlds, leading to water pollution and algal blooms killing fish and wildlife. The authors note some beneficial practices quick to implement, such as application of animal manure and introduction of cover crops.
Source: The Guardian
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