How organic-based fertilizers contribute to sustainable agriculture
Making agricultural production more sustainable is an important part of a greener and more competitive economy in Europe. The materials that compose organic-based fertilizers, the beneficial natural processes they generate, and the ways in which they are produced contribute to the sustainable, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy that Europe is committed to building.
Organic-based fertilizers have a long history in European agriculture and have been developed by enterprising agronomists who have always been dedicated to farming that respects the environment. Accelerating innovation has now brought these products to a new stage of development, where their contribution to sustainable agricultural production, whether organic or conventional, has the potential to be scaled up. Making sustainable agriculture a reality in Europe will require exactly the kind of innovative technologies, enlightened thinking and mindful farming practices that the organic-based fertilizers industry has been cultivating for years.
Organic-based fertilizers are helping to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing global agriculture in coming years:
- Feeding a global population that is projected to reach at least 9 billion by 2050 will require yield increases and enhanced crop quality. Organic-based fertilizers enhance the quality attributes of produce as well as yield, thereby contributing to both the food quality and security we need.
- An increasing population increases demand for food and increases stress on the soils in which we grow our food. With 40% of the planet’s surface being used for agriculture, it is crucial that we encourage technologies that respect soil biodiversity and are aligned with sustainable agricultural production. The nutrients provided by organic-based fertilizers follow the natural cycle of nitrogen release in the soil and work in harmony with both climatic conditions and crop growth patterns.
- Organic-based fertilizers are rich in organic matter that enhances the biological activity of soils, thereby also improving and sustaining their biodiversity. In doing so, organic-based fertilizers help to perform a vital ecological service. Soil is the medium that sustains a wide range of beneficial organisms – such as essential bacteria, fungi and earthworms, among others. Without soil biodiversity, both agricultural productivity and the well-being of the wider biosphere would suffer.
- Organic-based fertilizers have the potential to make a significant contribution to the development of a low-carbon economy, which is one of the key targets of the EU’s growth strategy. Through their organic matter content, organic-based fertilizers help not only to transfer atmospheric carbon dioxide into the soil, but also impede its emission back into the atmosphere. The technology therefore plays a valuable role in soil carbon sequestration, which is a natural, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly way to offset emissions from fossil fuel combustion. As a result, beyond the obvious benefits they bring to agronomic productivity, organic-based fertilizers can help to mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Extreme temperatures, water scarcity and other stressful growing conditions related to climate change will require increasingly resilient crops. Among other resilience-enhancing effects, organic-based fertilizers boost the efficiency of water use to render crops more robust and resistant to drought.
- Organic-based fertilizers help improve soil health by maintaining or increasing the soil’s organic matter content over the long term. This will become increasingly important in Mediterranean growing regions, where the organic matter in soils is particularly low. Enhancing organic matter also enables the healthier soil to retain water more effectively, better resist erosion, and reduce losses through leaching.
- By minimizing leaching, organic-based fertilizers reduce the environmental impacts of farming and safeguard surrounding ecosystems. Organic-based fertilizers are rich sources of organic carbon, which enhances fertilizer efficiency through an intelligent, slow release of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. This also means a higher return on investment for farmers and better use of the natural raw materials from which many organic-based fertilizers are derived.
Read ECOFI’s blog post on the subject – Organic-based fertilizers: reducing waste to benefit society.