The United Nations has issued a new report, “Our Nutrient World,” that claims the world is facing a fertilizer crisis because some areas of the world have too much fertilizer and others not enough.
Although the report acknowledges that the application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer has benefitted the world by allowing plants to produce more food, it also criticizes the use of mass-produced nutrients that “cause a web of water and air pollution that is damaging to human health…”
The report points out that the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has increase nine-fold since the 1960s and phosphorus use has tripled. It is projected that the world will increase its demand and use of fertilizers in the next 40 years by 40 percent to 50 percent.
Without access to fertilizer, however, many parts of the world cannot produce enough food and old practices continue to degrade the land.
With these topics in mind, the report suggests that the world needs to rethink how fertilizers are used so that more food and energy can be produced with less pollution. Ares of particular concern includes Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, where there is not enough access to nutrients.
A question to be decided, says the report, is what body should oversee a new attempt at globally managing fertilizer use.
The lead author of the report is Professor Mark Sutton from the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. He said, “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.”