Capping Fertilizer Use while Enhancing Food and Nutrition Security in China

Despite concerns about the ability of China to be self-sufficient in food, it has increased the per capita availability of food for its 1.4 billion people and dramatically reduced food insecurity over the past decades. However, China's self-sufficiency in food production came with dramatic environmental trade-offs due to excessive use of fertilizers. In response, the government of China imposed a policy of zero growth in the use of chemical fertilizers by 2020, with a challenge to the agricultural and fertilizer community to improve the nutrient use efficiency (NUE) of crops. These objectives have to be met while still ensuring food and nutrition security, and sustaining ecosystem health. In this paper we make a case for revisiting the functioning of fertilizers, in order to achieve a more effective and multifaceted impact on ecology and society. This leads to the notion of adopting a range of strategies with the potential for addressing the low NUE. These include identification of currently most effective fertilizer products and improved nutrient management practices for the immediate term, while designing innovative fertilizers based on plant nutrient physiology, developing "smart" fertilizers that recognize plant cues, deploying bio-nano-technology, and fortifying basic fertilizers with micronutrients.
Nanotechnology, Micronutrients, Nutrient use efficiency