Training programs helping to meet the challenges of global food security
By IFA Editor on January 20, 2017

Dr. J. Scott Angle, President and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), speaks to IFA about IFDC’s international training programs and their plans for 2017

IFA: Can you describe some of IFDC’s various international training programs and how they help meet the challenges of global food security?
Dr. J. S. Angle: Training is an integral component of IFDC’s mission to increase global food security. We currently carry out two branches of training activities: field training through our projects and professional training workshops.

IFDC takes a comprehensive approach to field training. As it is commonly said, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so we work to strengthen all links in the agricultural chain. This includes building the capabilities of not only farmers but input producers and suppliers, agro-dealers, policymakers, and government representatives, among others. In 2015, our field projects in Africa and Asia trained nearly 900,000 individuals, 36 percent of whom were women, thanks to our cascading training-of-trainers approach. Agricultural development is often a long-term endeavor, and human capacity building is essential to accomplishing our goals.

IFDC has been holding international training programs since our founding in 1974. Since then we have held more than 700 formal workshops, study tours, and training programs, and since 2001, we have partnered with IFA to host several specifically for professionals in the fertilizer industry. Our specialized programs are geared toward strengthening the skills of fertilizer industry professionals and focus on technology transfer along the entire agricultural value chain. These programs include presentations given by staff from IFDC and other partner organizations, field trips to relevant locations, and built-in networking time to connect with individuals from organizations around the world. Since IFDC has been implementing professional trainings, we have served more than 11,000 participants from 150 nations. While each attendee has a unique experience, we craft both theoretical and practical takeaways. Many have contacted us years after their training experience to let us know the materials and knowledge are still relevant to their everyday work.

: How is the training implemented?

Dr. J. S. Angle: Most, if not all, of IFDC’s field programs include training components. Each project has varying goals and objectives, so training is tailored to those. For example, our USAID-funded West Africa Fertilizer Program’s (WAFP) objective is to improve the supply and distribution of appropriate and affordable fertilizers in West Africa. For this project, training looks more like working with agro-dealers to sell appropriate inputs to farmers in affordable bag sizes. For another project, such as our Scaling Up Fertilizer Deep Placement and Microdosing Technologies in Mali (FDP MD) project, we work with partners to train farmers to use improved fertilizer technologies to increase their cereal yields. So, each project’s goals require varying training approaches.

: What are IFDC’s strategic plans for 2017?

Dr. J. S. Angle: A strategic plan is currently under development. Development began with listening sessions around the world, hearing from elected officials, private companies, NGOs, farmers, and anyone else with an interest in what we do. The final plan will be rolled out in mid-2017. However, there are several elements that we know will be in the plan.

First, IFDC needs to enhance its scientific capacity. Traditionally, IFDC has been the source of new and novel ideas in the fertilizer industry. This capacity has eroded over the years, but we aim to invigorate both our basic and applied scientific abilities.

Second, we plan to contribute to the training of a new generation of professionals with expertise in fertilizers and soil fertility. All segments of the industry complain that they are having trouble hiring employees who have a background in these areas. Whether we are educating high school students through work at our headquarters or helping to establish a new master’s degree in Fertilizer Science and Technology at an international university, IFDC will be an important player in workforce preparation.

Last, we know we need to improve our ability to tell the message of the good work done at IFDC. In such a large organization, it is not easy to summarize the impact of our work in ways that are interesting to those who support our efforts. This is referred to as “Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning” (MEL). How do we tell the story of literally millions of farmers whose lives are better because of programs delivered by IFDC and our partners? We hope to become a model and leader in this area.

: IS there a particular region or country-focus for 2017?

Dr. J. S. Angle: Currently, IFDC focuses primarily on Africa, and this will continue. Africa is where the greatest needs and opportunities exist. Africa currently uses only about 10 percent of the nutrients needed to bring yields up to the world average. Where our programs have been implemented, it is not uncommon to see yields increase threefold, sometimes more. We currently implement other programs in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Nepal. However, we believe needs and opportunities also exist in several areas of the world where IFDC has the capacity to improve agriculture. Southeast Asia represents an area where our expertise can support more efficient agriculture. The problems and needs are different from those in Africa, for example, often requiring different approaches to improve soil fertility with a focus on environmental quality. Haiti and several countries in Latin America can also greatly benefit from the technologies and information IFDC offers. We are currently exploring whether it makes sense for IFDC to initiate programs in these countries.


About Dr. J. S. Angle:

Dr. J. Scott Angle is president and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), a public-international organization providing solutions to alleviate global hunger and poverty through the promotion of sound agricultural technologies, economic development, and self-sufficiency.

Feeding the world in a sustainable way: the importance of nutrient stewardship
By IFA Editor on January 2, 2017

Dr. Harold Reetz Jr. presents his latest book “Fertilizers and their Efficient Use”, published by IFA

IFA: Your book explains what fertilizers are, and why they should be managed efficiently. Why focus on this topic?
Dr. Reetz, Jr: Because fertilizers help feed the world. They are responsible for approximately half of the world’s food production today. 48% of the global population lives thanks to the increase in crop production that was made possible by the widespread use of mineral fertilizers. The world’s population is estimated to grow to 9.7 billion in 2050, and its demand in food will continue to increase too, but in a context of shrinking arable land and climate change.

It’s therefore important for people to know what fertilizers are, how crucial for the global food security they are, and how to use them efficiently to avoid negative effects on the environment and improve farming profitability. This book is designed as a reference guide on their use for farmers and their advisors.

: A key concept in your book is nutrient stewardship, what does it entail?

Dr. Reetz, Jr: Nutrient stewardship refers to the management of plant nutrients in a way that improves the social, economic and environmental performance of fertilizers.

Readers will find an overview of key concepts of nutrient management, like the 4Rs, which entail applying the right nutrient source at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place, but also ways to implement these concepts! Recommendations on how to follow good science and the 4R principles are given throughout the book, such as testing soil or using enhanced-efficiency fertilizers (Right source); estimating crop nutrient requirements (Right rate); tracking weather patterns (Right time); placing nutrients next to the roots (Right place).

The book also presents innovative technologies in farming that have proven to increase and improve plants’ uptake of nutrients, helping increase productivity on arable land.

: What are the main takeaways from your book?

Dr. Reetz, Jr: Fertilizers, when applied following Fertilizer Best Management Practices (FBMPs), not only enhance crop production and farming profitability but also reduce their potential negative impacts on air and water resources. FBMPs fulfil four management objectives of productivity, profitability, cropping system sustainability and a favourable biophysical and social environment; a complete integrated farming system includes FBMPs, crop management, and all soil and plant nutrient management components.

The book also highlights the multiple environmental, economic and social benefits deriving from the 4R nutrient management framework, such as better crop performance, improved soil health, reduced environmental impacts, the protection of biodiversity, the increase in farmers’ profits, the reduced prevalence of hunger and malnutrition, improved rural livelihoods and stronger farmer communities.

  Find out more about the book by listening to our 2016 webinar with Dr. Harold Reetz, Jr. available on YouTube! “Fertilizers and their Efficient Use” is also available for download from our Library.

  About Dr. Reetz, Jr:

Dr. Reetz is an agronomic consultant and owner of Reetz Agroonomics LLC. which provides consulting services in agronomy, high yield cropping systems, precision farming technologies and on-farm research. He previously worked with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, as Midwest Director (US) and as President of the Foundation for Agronomic Research. He has focused his career on integrated crop and soil management systems for high yield crop production, promoting technologies for nutrient management and precision agriculture.

Reducing nitrous oxide emissions and nitrogen losses from fields with the 4Rs
By IFA Editor on October 19, 2016

Dr. Cliff Snyder, IPNI’s Nitrogen Program Director, explains the importance of implementing best management practices to reduce nitrogen (N) losses, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions from farm fields.

: Why is it important to reduce nitrous oxide emissions?

Dr. Snyder: Nitrous oxide is one of the three leading greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) which contribute to global warming and climate change. It has a warming effect (radiative forcing) about 300 times that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide has long atmospheric lifetime (about 120 years) and is the most significant emissions contributor to depletion of the ozone layer in our stratosphere.

Global emissions of nitrous oxide have been increasing. Emissions are estimated to be about 20% higher than what they have been over many past centuries. About 2/3 of the human-induced emissions originate from agriculture.

It is important to recognize that annual emission of nitrous oxide from most farm fields represents a nitrogen loss equivalent to less than 1 to 2 % of the applied nitrogen. Because fertilizer nitrogen (and manure) use is increasing globally, many believe there is a greater likelihood that nitrous oxide emissions will also increase, unless mitigation practices are more widely implemented.

: Does an increase of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) result automatically in a reduction of nitrous oxide emissions?

Dr. Snyder: Improved crop or cropping system recovery of the applied nitrogen (one expression of nitrogen use efficiency) usually results in reduced risks of loss of nitrogen from fields via all the major nitrogen loss pathways (nitrate leaching, drainage, runoff; ammonia volatilization; nitrous oxide emissions; di-nitrogen emissions). Yet, because of the episodic and pulsed nature of nitrous oxide emissions - and the number and complexity of management and environmental factors affecting emissions – we have learned that increasing crop recovery of applied nitrogen may not, on its own, always reduce nitrous oxide emissions.

A clearer understanding of the local climate, weather, and soil conditions - and their dominating influence on the soil nitrification and denitrification processes that affect nitrous oxide emissions – can help us better optimize the 4R management (right source, rate, time, and place) of nitrogen application, to help minimize the direct and indirect losses of nitrogen as nitrous oxide.

: What is the optimal way to ensure a high NUE?

Dr. Snyder: Crop nitrogen recovery by major cereal crops in most farmer’s fields averages about 40 percent at the global level, but research has helped us understand that we can raise that recovery to 60 to 70 percent through better cropping system, conservation practice, and 4R nutrient management implementation. These levels can also be reached by farmers adopting best management practices (BMPs). It is important that other essential nutrients (P, K, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients) are adequate and will not limit plant nutrition, or impair nitrogen use efficiency.

The optimal 4R nutrient management program will differ by soil, cropping system, and environmental conditions. There is no single, magical solution to reducing emissions of nitrous oxide; especially while also striving to reduce the loss of nitrogen via other important loss pathways. Nitrogen loss via those other pathways (which can contribute to indirect nitrous oxide emissions) is often greater and causes much larger economic impacts for the farmer and his/her local community. The expertise of skilled agronomists and crop advisers is needed to help identify improved nitrogen management opportunities on a field-by-field basis in order to improve and sustain crop yields, soil fertility and productivity, and farm profitability; while minimizing all nitrogen losses, including nitrous oxide.An important example of fertilizer industry leadership in view of these considerations, is the Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol (NERP), initiated by Fertilizer Canada (formerly the Canadian Fertilizer Institute). NERP aims to reduce on-farm emissions of nitrous oxide in a verifiable way that allows farmers to earn carbon credits. The protocol, based on the 4Rs, is being deployed in the Province of Alberta.


  Find out more about 4R Nitrogen practices by reading IPNI’s new Issue Review entitled “Suites of 4R Nitrogen Practices for Sustainable Crop Production and Environmental Protection”, available here.

  About Dr. Snyder:

Dr. Cliff Snyder is the Nitrogen Program Director for the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI); and coordinates efforts to address environmental nitrogen challenges. He previously served as Midsouth and Southeast Director for the Potash & Phosphate Institute; and as state Extension Soils Specialist with the University of Arkansas. Cliff is a Fellow in the Soil Science Society of America and the American Society of Agronomy; and is a CCA. He received a Ph.D. in Soil Science and Forestry at North Carolina State University; and a M.S. in Agronomy (soil fertility) and B.S. in Agriculture (soil science) at the University of Arkansas.

Ten years after the Abuja Summit, the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign carries on the commitments of the African Green Revolution
By IFA Editor on August 29, 2016

Professor Richard Mkandawire, Vice President of the African Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) explains the objectives of the Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign.

The Smallholders’ Access to Fertilizers in Africa campaign was launched in 2014 by a large coalition of partners: AFAP, AGRA, CNFA, IFDC, IITA, IPNI, IPI, One Acre Fund and IFA. Through the campaign AFAP, IFA and their partners work to enable smallholders to access to critical inputs and services, such as: soil nutrients/fertilizers; financing for purchase inputs; improved seed varieties; crop protection products; irrigation and crop insurance.

: Professor Mkandwire, why is this campaign important? What are its main objectives?

Professor Mkandwire: The fertilizer industry is called upon to increase linkages between agribusinesses and farmers, to open up domestic markets and get inputs to farmers on time and at affordable cost. The campaign is raising global awareness to the critical challenges faced by SMEs and smallholder farmers as catalysts for fertilizer value chain development in Africa, and to encourage the private sector to invest in them. In addition, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for the African Green Revolution signed in Abuja, Nigeria in June 2006. During that Summit, African leaders agreed to improve the access of fertilizers smallholder farmers. Ten years on, a lot has been achieved, but gaps remain that need to be addressed, hence the call of the campaign.

IFA: The campaign was launched in 2014, in conjunction with the FAO 2014 International Year of Family Farming 2014 and the African Union 2014 Year of Agriculture. What is the situation like in 2016?
Professor Mkandwire: The farming situation in Africa has changed and continues to change, blending progress and challenges to attain continental food security. Over the last couple of years, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has strongly committed itself to support the transformation of African agriculture. Fertilizers feature prominently in their plans. This has ignited a new hope for the growth of the fertilizer sector and a strong signal to the financial sector. Strategic stakeholders, including governments, are beginning to demand innovative interventions that stimulate increased reach to smallholder famers with timely and appropriate fertilizers. There is clearly a coalescing of voices that demand more efficient, private sector- led approaches to be pursued to support smallholder farmers access and effectively use fertilizers.

The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an important development to the agriculture sector in Africa. SDGs 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere and 2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture as well as SDG 15 Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss directly address problems facing African farmers today. The fertilizer industry, in partnership with governments, needs to speak with one voice to achieve the objectives of the SDGs, which are an essential component to solving hunger and poverty in Africa.

In addition, policy makers in several African countries have understood the need for good governance when it comes to effective agricultural policies. Some are even contemplating the adoption of fertilizer specific policies, for instance Mozambique. Others, like Nigeria, are opening the fertilizer market to private sector participation. In the face of all these changes, AFAP is providing different approaches tailored to specific needs of countries to ensure the smooth flow of fertilizers from suppliers to farmers as well as financial instruments.

IFA: On 05-09 September 2016, the African Green Revolution Forum will take place in Nairobi, Kenya. What are the expected outcomes of this Forum for AFAP?
Professor Mkandwire: The African Green Revolution Forum is an African owned and driven agriculture platform, where African and global stakeholders come together, discuss policies and policy models conducive to the growth of the agricultural sector. Public and private sector officials are invited as well as representatives of financial institutions. This forum provides a great opportunity for all to act on the wide array of commitments by African leaders and the global international community in supporting an African owned Green Revolution.

This year AFAP and IFA are holding a panel discussion as a side-event at the Forum, which will take place on 06 September with the theme, “Seizing the Moment, Accelerating Fertilizer Usage among African Smallholder farmers”. Farmers, private sector representatives, policy makers and government officials are invited to attend to the panel discussion, where we will address the challenges of promoting the use and access to fertilizers in realizing Africa’s Green Revolution. We are also inviting SMEs to take part in this side-event, as the fertilizer access campaign is targeted directly to them and their feedback is valuable to us. We expect to come out with a strong message in support of our actions that will deliver fertilizer to our smallholder farmers and secure a food future for Africa.

  About Professor Mkandwire:

Richard Mkandawire is currently the Vice President of the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), a non-profit that works with the public and private sectors to make fertilizer accessible and affordable for African smallholder farmers. Before joining AFAP, Mkandawire was part of the leadership that drove the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), an innovative framework for agricultural development established by African nations and leaders. CAADP began as part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by growing agriculture. At CAADP's inception, Mkandawire played a critical role in engaging support for NEPAD’s focus on agriculture, and advocating for its acceptance by African heads of state and donor agencies. Mkandawire has received awards for his work on CAADP including the Drivers of Change Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Mkandawire came to CAADP and AFAP with decades of experience as a socio-economist and rural development expert. He earned degrees from the University of Malawi, the University of Missouri and the University of East Anglia. He has taught at multiple universities and is currently an extra-ordinary professor at the University of Pretoria.

Mkandawire continues to lobby for increased investments into the African Agricultural sector for reduced poverty and food insecurity.

Potassium: You cannot overemphasize its importance in South Asian Agricuture
By IFA Editor on July 18, 2016

IPNI’s Vice President for Asia, Africa and Middle East, Dr, Kaushik Majumdar, shares his insights on South Asian Agriculture.

: Why is it important to talk about potassium in South Asian agriculture? What is currently the trend in K fertilizer application in that region?

Dr. Majumdar: South Asian farmers apply inadequate amounts of potassium in crops and cropping systems, leading to yield and economic losses. The current trend shows significant negative balance (input - output) of potassium at local, regional and national scale, pointing towards large-scale mining of native potassium. At a broader perspective, depletion of native potassium in soils may adversely affect future food security and soil health in the region. This issue needs to be in the forefront of discussion to increase awareness of the farmers, scientists and the policy-makers.

IFA: What is holding back farmers from applying K fertilizer to their soils in South Asian countries? How can that be remedied?
Dr. Majumdar: Lack of awareness and last mile delivery of potassium fertilizers are two of the major issues that are holding back farmers from applying K fertilizers. There is a general perception at scientific and policy-making level that South Asian soils are rich in potassium and may not need external potassium application. This perception has percolated to the farmers through the extension specialists. This is a carry-over from the period when population was low, farmers used to grow one crop in a year, yields were low and adding a bit of nitrogen was enough to sustain the crop. Things have radically changed since grow three crops in a year, using high yielding or hybrid varieties, producing yields that are three times or more than local varieties! Not applying potassium in such intensive systems is a very unsustainable practice. There is no dearth of field evidences showing large crop responses to potassium, and these needs to be highlighted to increase the awareness at all levels. Farmers often do not get potassic fertilizer at the nearest retailer shop during application the last mile delivery and access to potassic fertilizer needs to be improved, along with awareness, to improve K consumption in the region.

IFA: What are the main takeaways from your presentation?
Dr. Majumdar: South Asia is one of the most highly populated region of the world. Access to affordable food for the large population in the region is a long-term challenge. To address that challenge, farmers of the region will need to produce more from shrinking land and water resources. That will happen only when crops receive balanced and adequate nutrition. Scientific evidences clearly show that declining factor productivity, low N use efficiency, and declining soil health in the region can be adequately addressed through balanced fertilization, and potassium will be the biggest plank for that. Contrary to general perception, potassium application in crops gives adequate return on investment in most locations. So balanced and adequate application of potassium in crops will benefit the farmers and the society now and in the future as well.


  About Dr. Mujamdar

Dr. Kaushik Majumdar is the Vice President, Asia and Africa Programs, of the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), located at Gurgaon, India.

Dr. Majumdar has a Master’s degree in Agricultural Chemistry and Soil Science from BCKV University, India, and received his Ph.D. in Soil Mineralogy/Soil Chemistry from Rutgers University, U.S.A.

Dr. Majumdar has earlier worked as a Soil Mineralogist at the Potash Research Institute of India (PRII), and later, as the Deputy Director of Eastern India & Bangladesh for the Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada-India Programme, and as the Director, South Asia Program of International Plant Nutrition Institute before joining his current position in 2016.

Dr. Majumdar has developed several fertilizer decision support tools, technical bulletins & training aids, and has over 70 national and international scientific publications. He was the President of the Agriculture and Forestry Sciences Section for the 103rd Indian Science Congress, and also serves at the editorial board of the Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science.