Key essential nutrients like phosphorous (P) will be an integral part of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, according to Verdesian Life Sciences and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). All living things require this nutrient for life-sustaining processes, like energy storage. Studies from IPNI suggest P is being under-applied in significant portions of the U.S. Corn Belt.
The issue is balance. In some instances a greater rate of phosphorous is necessary, even when it will reduce the plants’ intake of nitrogen. In other cases, the nutrient is being over-applied, and crops would benefit from less.
“The key to producing higher yields and feeding the growing world population is not simply applying more fertilizer, as one might think,” said Kenneth Avery, chief executive officer at Verdesian Life Sciences. “Rather, it is finding sustainable solutions for nutrients such as phosphorus to be used more efficiently and effectively to produce more food.”
The phosphorus situation is also challenged by many agricultural soils with insufficient levels of plant-available P, and some soils with a high capacity to fix applied P in slowly available forms due to reactions with calcium, magnesium, aluminum or iron. Crops grown in these soils are not able to obtain sufficient P to meet their needs and cannot reach their full yield potential.
If an applied rate of P is less than optimum for a crop under existing conditions, and a practice such as fertilizer placement is changed that increases nutrient use efficiency, yield will usually increase, at least in the short term. However, in other cases, nutrient use efficiency can increase with no effect on yield if a rate exceeding optimum levels is reduced to optimum.
Phosphorous differs from nitrogen in its movement within soil, air and water. Mostly, it doesn’t go anywhere once it is applied. Phosphorous loss usually comes by soil erosion, leading to water quality issues.
“Increased plant uptake of P translates into less of that nutrient being left in the soil, where it is subject to off-site movement into waterways,” Avery said. “It also allows farmers to be good stewards of the land and help minimize the environmental footprint left by P applications.”
As a 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship Partner, Verdesian is committed to helping growers find solutions for nutrient management. The 4R program is build on applying nutrients from the right source, at the right time, at the right rate and in the right place.
“The 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship Program provides a science-based framework for building sustainable systems,” Avery said.