Organic and mineral fertilisers could improve world's food supply
New research suggests that paying more attention to grassland management, with a specific focus on better soil fertilisation using organic and mineral fertilisers, can improve the world’s food supply.

Global improvements in grassland management could see grassland taking on a significantly more important role in food production, according to a study published by the United Nations and Dutch universities.

By paying more attention to soil fertilisation, with a specific focus on using organic and mineral fertilisers, grass growth would reach a level that would allow meat and milk production to increase “considerably” without too many additional grain crops having to be used as feed for livestock.

These are the conclusions of scientists from Wageningen University, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Utrecht University and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Phosphorus

For the coming decades, they suggest the use of four times the amount of phosphorus in fertiliser than is currently the case, “if we are to meet production targets for the year 2050”.

According to the study, grasslands make up two thirds of the global agricultural area. Over three billion hectares of grassland are hardly managed at all, with the exception of some northwestern European countries, including The Netherlands, where the phosphate content in grassland soils is high due to long-term surpluses.

“The fact that grasslands are rarely if ever fertilised is an even greater problem, as this means they become more exhausted every year, among other things, due to a lack of phosphorus.

“In order to grow, grasses require nutrients such as phosphorus from the soil. Grasslands are then grazed by livestock and the phosphorus ends up in the animals’ stomachs. Some of this phosphorus is needed in the production of milk and meat and eventually, thus, is removed from the grassland.

“Much of the phosphorus intake leaves the animals again in the manure. Only half remains on the pastures, as the manure is also used to fertilise arable land for growing food crops such as grains, fruits and vegetables, or for other purposes.”

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Survey: what do you expect from green fertilisers?
Cork academics researching the potential of recycling waste into fertilisers want to hear from farmers on their requirements for these products.

Cork Institute of Technology is running an online survey to collect farmers' views on recycling-derived fertiliser, which includes processed animal manure, urban waste including household food waste, catering waste or green cuttings from recreational areas as well as human waste in the form of sewage sludge.

Import-reliant

"Currently, crop production in the EU is heavily dependent on the import of P-containing [phosphoros] mineral fertilisers, while the production of mineral N [nitrogen] fertiliser requires large amounts of energy," the academics said.

"Paradoxically, however, there are several regions with a nutrient surplus in northwestern Europe," the academics said.

Technologies to recover nutrients from waste are available on the market

Their research is part of an EU-funded project looking into the potential of recycled fertilisers across Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany.

Technologies to recover nutrients from waste are available on the market, but researchers said that until now they have remained little-used by farmers.

Requirements

"It is essential that the end product fulfils farmers’ requirements," said Cork IT lecturer Niamh Power.

"The objective of the survey is to determine the desired properties recycling-derived fertilisers are required to have, to encourage their use over mineral fertilisers.

"This is a great opportunity for the farming community to have their voice heard about what they consider important."

Click here to take the survey, which comprises of 29 questions and takes around 15 minutes to complete.

Read more

Should we ditch CAN fertiliser?

Fertiliser makers seek new import duties

The farmer's daily wrap: inspections, milk price and silage 2019
Here is your news round-up of the five top farming stories and weather outlook for 16 February 2019.

Weather forecast

Met Éireann has said that there will be some mist or drizzle at times on Saturday morning, but most places will be dry during the day.

More general rain is forecast to develop along the west coast by evening.

It will be mild and breezy, with highs of 10°C to 12°C in southerly winds.

In the news

  • In pictures: silage 2019 kicks off in February in Kilkenny.
  • The board of Aurivo met on Friday and increased its January milk price.
  • Farmers are being driven out of business by over-zealous and unaccountable inspectors, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said.
  • Applications for the BEEP scheme, which has a funding provision of €20m, will be accepted up to and including next Friday 22 February.
  • Some 66 projects from across the country will be allocated funding of €62m under the €1bn rural regeneration and development fund.
  • Coming up this Saturday

  • Good week/bad week.
  • Nathan Tuffy reports from Balla Mart.
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