Decades-Long German Study Reveals That Balanced Mineral Fertilizer Essential for Sustainable Agriculture

Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

Yara International’s Hanninghof research center released findings from its 65-year-long trial, underscoring the crucial role of balanced mineral fertilizer in sustainable agriculture. Conducted in Dülmen, Germany, the study emphasized minimal environmental impact from appropriate nutrient management.

The research, initiated in 1958, highlights the importance of balanced nutrition for maintaining soil health. It offers insights into the pressing challenges of the global food system and the immediate necessity of efficient resource management, safeguarding both food system resilience and environmental preservation.

Rejane Souza, SVP Global Innovation at Yara International, remarked on the global food system’s foundational challenges. “There is a dire need to produce nutritious food for the expanding global population and revamp how it’s produced,” she said. “This study reveals that the correct nutrient application enhances both the environment and farmer profitability.”

Long-term trials, like Hanninghof’s, offer unique perspectives on nutrient application and soil fertility. Soil fertility is a slow-evolving process, necessitating continuous monitoring over extended periods to discern observable changes, such as the reciprocal impacts of environment and agriculture.

Dr. Dejene Eticha, a senior scientist at Yara International, discussed the broader implications. “Agriculture’s integral role in global economy and biodiversity designates it as a pivotal sphere for global conservation,” he stated. The long-standing research underscores that a combined application of mineral and organic fertilizers upholds the pillars of sustainable agriculture: social, economic, and environmental. Eticha added, “This scientifically-grounded approach to crop nutrition guarantees sustainable food production by enhancing crop yields and farmer prosperity.”

Key outcomes from the Hanninghof LTT include:

  • Enhanced soil health, with mineral and organic fertilizers increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) levels, corroborated by global studies such as Magruder LTT in Oklahoma.
  • Elevated water use efficiency, particularly when using nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium fertilizer, contrasting with up to a 63% efficiency drop when nutrients were excluded.
  • Heightened profitability, with balanced nutrition of mineral nutrients leading to optimal crop yield and income. Nutrient omission caused yield decreases and economic losses ranging from 89 to 812 USD per hectare.

The exhaustive study, entitled “Effect of Balanced and Integrated Crop Nutrition on Sustainable Crop Production in a Classical Long-Term Trial,” was spearheaded by scientists Melkamu Jate and Joachim Lammel. It investigated crops on 16 loamy sand soil plots subjected to various fertilizer treatments or none.

The full long-term trial findings are accessible here.

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