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By Rakesh Kapur
Chaina AgricWhen 200m farmers are responsible for feeding the entire population of China, any chance of halving hunger levels relies on helping these smallholders become more productive and, in the long term, more efficient. This is precisely what China is doing, and the results have spared 155m people from hunger and malnutrition since 1990, accounting for two-thirds of the global fall in hunger levels. With sub-Saharan Africa facing a hunger crisis of a similar order, China’s rapid agricultural transformation offers valuable insights that could help the region achieve much-needed productivity gains. In China’s case, agricultural output has dramatically increased in part thanks to an effective union of science, government and industry to tackle barriers to productivity and related yield gap factors. Such a tripartite approach has allowed for science-based policies that can be swiftly enacted on the ground.
The smarter use of fertilisers to achieve higher yields is a case in point that shows how this approach can bring enormous benefits. Government and industry were supported in bringing about this transformation by the crucial work of agricultural scientists, six of whom have been recognised with the International Fertilizer Association’s Norman Borlaug Award. Extensive soil mapping over the past decade, led by Professor Fusuo Zhang, identified the nutrient needs of soil and plants while this year’s Borlaug Award winner, Professor Weifeng Zhang, extended this work with a nationwide assessment of fertiliser use. The latter found nitrogen was being liberally applied in China in the hope of higher yields — up to 1.74 times as much as crops needed, and even more in the case of fruits and vegetables — which added to the environmental burden of agriculture, along with unplanned intensification. To reset this and as part of a wider, long-term strategy to improve agricultural sustainability, China set its sights on zero growth in mineral fertiliser use by 2020. At the same time, government, researchers and industry set about helping farmers achieve a more effective balance of mineral and organic products as part of wider efforts to reduce the impact of intensification on the environment. But this is not simply a lesson in “less is more”. It is an example of how agricultural inputs such as fertiliser need to be used at their optimal level to be most effective, and there is no “one size fits all” formula to achieve this. In India, for example, fertiliser use efficiency remains low even with good management practices. One way to address this is to invest in the development and use of best management practices, tools and fertiliser products that allow crops to absorb higher rates of target nutrients. Across Africa, meanwhile, where an estimated 75 per cent of land is degraded to the point of affecting productivity, increased fertiliser use would significantly help recover the 8m tonnes of nutrients lost every year. There are, of course, challenges to overcome, including improving access to the best inputs for smallholders. But Africa can also learn from China’s experience of reaching a point of diminished returns and avoid the potential mis-step of overuse. The formula, then, comes down to using the right product at the right rate at the right time and in the right place. We call this the “four Rs of nutrient stewardship” and calculating these optimum levels of fertiliser requires a science-based approach. This is why Prof Zhang Weifeng was a driving force in China’s agricultural improvements after establishing a national fertiliser database, which identified inefficiencies in fertiliser use. This evidence helped inspire the government’s “zero growth by 2020” fertiliser use policy as well as prompting a review of the subsidies provided for such products. In fact, the zero growth target was achieved by 2017. The state acted not only as policymaker and regulator but as educator and facilitator, playing an active role in setting up demonstrations and workshops across the country to train farmers in best practice. The government has also been supported by industry, which was quick to develop high-efficiency products, allowing farmers to get the best results with the most effective balance of mineral and organic fertilisers, each providing necessary benefits for soil fertility and crop production. So in the search for the optimum tools needed to maximise agricultural efficiency, China has given the world a useful blueprint, centred around collaboration between the government, industry and researchers around a science-based approach. In China’s case, such co-operation has brought about crucial and rapid course corrections that have contributed to greater food security, as well as a more profitable agricultural sector. As many other developing countries, particularly in Africa, strive to achieve the same benefits in the face of challenges such as climate change and rising demand, China’s experience can offer the shortcut to smarter agriculture. Rakesh Kapur is chairman of the International Fertilizer Association and joint managing director of the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited
https://www.ft.com/content/e196e6d2-d784-11e8-a854-33d6f82e62f8

FEPSAN TWITTER

Messages to Farmers

  • Apply fertilizer wisely to avoid wastage
  • Attend trainings on fertilizer use and application
  • Obtain quality fertilizers from reputable suppliers especially FEPSAN distributors
  • Store unused fertilizer away from children, fire, rain and entry of foreign material.
  • Form groups/associations to benefit from group/association dynamics.
  • Allow your crops to fully mature to get quality and values
  • Report fertilizer adulteration to the appropriate authority

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  • Bringing Balanced Fertilizers to Smallholder Farmers Training, Date: November 19 - 23 2018, Venue: Abuja, Nigeria Read more

Mission

To provide a platform for the stakeholders in the public and private sectors of the fertilizer industry to develop effective public private partnerships in order to ensure timely supply of adequate quantity and quality fertilizers; and to promote professional, moral and ethical practices in the industry.

Vision

Attain improved productivity and environmental sustainability of Nigerian Agriculture through balanced and judicious use of fertilizers....Attain improved productivity and environmental sustainability of Nigerian Agriculture through balanced and judicious use of fertilizer...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

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2nd Floor Bank of Industry Building 
18 Muhammad Buhari Way, Kaduna, Nigeria. 
Mobile: +234 (803) 3174409...................sssss