The crucial role of plant nutrition in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

Plant nutrients achieve more than food security: they play an important role in achieving several of the Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Find out below how they contribute to SDG Goals by clicking on thumbnails below :

Goal 1: No Poverty

  • Adequate and affordable access to fertilizers allows subsistence farmers to produce a surplus that they can sell, using the income to not only buy additional food for their families, but also send their children to school and pay for health care.
  • The impact of fertilizers is immediate: within a single cropping season, and with the adequate use of other crop inputs (e.g. water) farm productivity can be doubled or tripled. For every 1 kg of nutrient applied, farmers obtain 5-30 kg of additional product.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

  • Half the food we eat today is produced thanks to mineral fertilizers. Fertilizers provide crops with the nutrients essential for their growth and health, which helps increase crop yields and food production.
  • The agricultural sector needs to increase its productivity by 60% compared to 2005 levels to meet the increasing demand for food. (FAO, 2012) This must be accomplished in the context of the shrinking availability of arable land. Achieving global food security today and in the future cannot be achieved without fertilizers.
  • Micronutrient-enriched fertilization is considered one of the most promising ways to fight malnutrition, and to alleviate nutrient deficiencies worldwide, especially for zinc, selenium and iodine.
  • When applied according to Best Management Practices, fertilizers (both mineral and organic) can fulfil their primary function of providing plants with consistent and easily available nutrients more efficiently; while the risks of losses, and the negative effects of their over, under or misuse are minimized.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

  • Fertilizers can increase gender equality in agriculture. They have an important role to play in terms of bringing female farmers to the same level as their male counterparts.
  • Improving women’s access to fertilizers could feed a further 150 million people, according to the FAO.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

  • Nutrient losses to water can be significantly reduced with Fertilizer Best Management Practices.
  • Ensuring the proper placement of the fertilizer source close to the plants' roots to optimize its uptake (right place) and scheduling fertilizer application according to regional climate and weather conditions (right time) have proven to be very efficient methods to reduce nutrient losses to water beds. (IFA, 2018)
  • The sustainable management of water has become a priority on most fertilizer production sites: manufacturers work hard to monitor and adjust their water use to ensure that losses are minimized while recycling and reuse are maximized.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure

  • The manufacture of fertilizers is becoming ever more efficient thanks to Best Available Technology (BAT) and innovation on plant sites.
  • Technological advances in agricultural production, nutrient and water management have enabled significant gains in fertilizer application efficiency and reduction of nutrient losses to the environment.

Goal 13: Climate Action

  • Fertilizers contribute to climate change mitigation through preventing deforestation and increasing soil carbon sequestration.
  • Improved agricultural practices, such as Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM) (which entails using on-farm organic sources of nutrients and supplementing them with manufactured fertilizers) lead to higher Soil Organic Matter (SOM) which improves not only soil health and productivity but results in more CO2 sequestration. This is very important as soils represent 89% of agriculture's mitigation potential.
  • Fertilizers can help farmers adapt against climate change: Healthy soils and plants can better withstand climate stress than those with nutrient deficiencies. Fertilizers can considerably increase crops' resilience to climate change when applied following best management practices.

Goal 14: Life Below Water

  • Fertilizer Best Management Practices can help preserve the health of seas and oceans: The 4Rs can substantially improve the uptake of nutrient by plants, and thus reduce losses to water streams, and by extension, seas and oceans.

Goal 15: Life on Land

  • Fertilizers help prevent soil degradation and desertification: Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM), plays a central role in maintaining soil health: it entails using on-farm organic sources of nutrients and supplementing them with manufactured fertilizers to achieve the farmer's yield goal. IPNM allows for the best use of both organic and mineral fertilizers.
  • Fertilizer best management practices help adapting to a water-scarce environment : Fertilizers added to irrigation water through a method called “fertigation” can make it possible to synchronize crops’ nutrient requirements with fertilizer through their growth cycle, and address the rate, time and place dimensions of nutrient stewardship, while reducing overall water consumption due to precise placement and timing when using micro-irrigation systems.

Agenda 2030: Transforming Our World

IFA has created a new series showcasing the fertilizer industry's engagement in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) called "Agenda 2030: Transforming our world".

Each issue of the Series provides background information on a specific Goal, and provides case studies from IFA Member companies.

IFA Publications

14 Essential Nutrients for Improving and Protecting Plant Health
Nutrient Management Handbook
Integrated Plant Nutrient Management