World renowned soil scientist emphasizes crucial role of plant nutrients for soil health at IFA 2015 Annual Conference 


Istanbul, Turkey, 25 May 2015 – To commemorate the International Year of Soils, world renowned soil scientist, Dr. Pedro Sanchez, the 2002 World Food Prize Laureate and Director of Agriculture and Food Security Center at The Earth Institute at Columbia University gave a commemorative lecture titled Fertilizers and Soil Health - Debunking the Myths, at IFA’s 83rd Annual Conference held in Istanbul on 25-27 May.

The lecture was introduced by IFA President Ms. Esin Mete who highlighted the importance of the International Year of Soils saying that “this often overlooked resource is vital to food security and economic development and IFA and its members aim to conserve, sustainably manage and rehabilitate degraded land by promoting the adequate use of soil nutrients.”
Dr. Sanchez highlighted the importance of soil health as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem, that sustains plants, animals and humans.” The lecture went on to debunk what he referred to as “myths about fertilizers and soil health,” which are simply not true. 

“The claim that fertilizers poison the soil is false,” Sanchez explained, as long as they are applied at agronomically correct rates,” highlighted Sanchez. 

Another myth dispelled by Sanchez was that organic fertilizers provide better plant nutrition. Dr. Sanchez insisted that “the plant doesn't care whether the nutrients come from fertilizer dissolution, soil organic matter mineralization, or the decomposition of manures, roots, or crop residues” because crops can only take up nutrients from the soil in their mineral form. Sanchez also indicated that the world’s population could not be fed if farmers only used organic fertilizers, but strongly supported integrated soil fertility management (ISFM), with farmers supplementing on farm organic plant nutrients with mineral fertilizers, and nutrient stewardship, which advises farmers how to apply the right nutrient source, at the right rate, right time and right place.

He added that critics of mineral fertilizers tend to neglect that fertilizers increase crop biomass, which increases soil organic matter, provided that crop residues are incorporated in the soil. He also advocated for the greater use of manures combined with mineral fertilizer, for an even more effective means to building up soil organic matter.

The fertilizer industry acknowledges the importance of healthy soils and assumes its role in preserving and restoring soils. IFA was the first private sector organization to join the Global Soil Partnership and donated 50,000 euros towards the yearlong celebrations of the International Year of Soils. IFA also delivered a series of materials to support bringing soils into the spotlight, including a paper on expert views on soils and a scientific paper on managing fertilizers to enhance soil health; it created the platform curating existing materials on soils and successfully launched the Growing Smart Together portal presenting 40 videos with views on soils by farmers, policy-makers, scientists and private sector in an interactive format.

IFA Director General, Charlotte Hebebrand, referring to the fact that food security needs to be “safeguarded from the ground up,” acknowledged that there is still much work to be done by the industry “to clarify the role of mineral fertilizers in supporting soil health, as well as to ensure ongoing proactive efforts to promote nutrient stewardship and balanced plant nutrition.”



Notes to Editors

The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) is a trade association representing the global fertilizer industry, which provides the crop nutrients that allow farmers everywhere to meet the world's growing food, feed, fiber and bioenergy needs in a sustainable manner. IFA member companies represent all activities related to the production and distribution of every type of fertilizer, their raw materials and intermediates. IFA’s membership also includes organizations involved in agronomic research and training. IFA has some 550 members in about 86 countries. 

The International Year of Soils aims at achieving full recognition of the importance of soils in achieving food and nutrition security, in climate change adaptation and mitigation, essential ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and in sustainable development. IFA strives to raise decision-makers’ awareness about the need for robust investment in sustainable soil management activities and advocate for soil-related initiatives in the context of the upcoming final iteration of the Sustainable Development 

Media Contacts

Ms. Maria Antip, Public Affairs Policy Analyst - Communications & Public Affairs
International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA)
Switchboard: +33 1 53 93 05 00