Agriculture completely revolutionized human civilization and allowed humanity to stop their nomadic lifestyles, settle in solitary locations, and build communities. Thanks to agriculture and domestication, humanity had surplus food and could focus its attention on other aspects of the human experience.
The emergence of fertilizers more than a century ago was a significant boon for the agricultural community and allowed people to significantly increase the amount and quality of food they could produce. However, the world is currently in the midst of a fertilizer shortage due to low supply and high costs that have exacerbated fears of an impending food crisis.
Last year, the European Commission stressed the need to reinforce the sustainability and resilience of food systems via a paper dubbed “Ensuring availability and affordability of fertilizers.”
With the world population expected to increase by 2 billion people over the next three decades, fortifying our food systems will be even more crucial. Research by Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe indicates that this could involve reducing reliance on foreign fertilizer imports, reducing nutrient losses and making fertilizers more efficient. This would essentially kill two birds with one stone as it would ensure that food remains affordable for the masses while maintaining soil fertility for future cultivation.
Soil fertility can be maintained by ensuring the soil is full of organic matter and is home to plenty of biodiversity through the use of nutrient-rich side streams, including food waste, sewage sludge or manure to ensure proper recovery of nutrients occurs. The European Commission noted that farmers in Europe can cultivate healthier plants and achieve higher crop yields while limiting their environmental impact and increasing their operations’ resilience to climate change.
Investing in more ecofriendly means of fertilizer production, such as the use of green hydrogen, agroecological plant breeds and crop diversification to reduce the European Union’s reliance on fossil and mineral fertilizers. On top of reducing the EU’s reliance on these types of fertilizers, green hydrogen will significantly reduce emissions from fertilizer use and help push Europe to a greener future.
The European Union (EU) mission — A Soil Deal for Europe — is busy running research to aid in the transition to healthy nutrient-rich soils and sustainable soil management. Additionally, the European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Sustainability is working to improve innovation, the exchange of knowledge and education to promote farm competitiveness and resilience in the EU.
All in all, the EU currently has 13 projects that are charged with covering a variety of factors that could allow the regional block to make its food system more resilient while reducing emissions from fertilizer use. In the meantime, major fertilizer producers such as Compass Minerals International Inc. (NYSE: CMP) are doing all they can to meet the current demand for these vital agricultural inputs.
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