UNEA-4 Adopts Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management: Global Fertilizer Industry Committed to Doing Its Part

Paris, France, 19 March 2019

The Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, adopted at the 11-15 March UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, calls for coherent evidence-based, global policy coordination to address negative impacts of reactive nitrogen stemming from multiple sources.

“With the numerous uses of nitrogen in industrial transformation, energy production, and, of course, plant nutrition, IFA welcomes this timely proposal to better assess and quantify both negative and positive impacts of nitrogen, and to create a framework to explore and consider options for the improved international coordination, coherent capacity building and promotion of a better understanding of the various sources that influence the nitrogen cycle,” observed Rakesh Kapur, IFA Chairman and Managing Director of IFFCO – the world’s largest fertilizer cooperative based in India.

An improved understanding of this very complex issue is vital to shape the best policy approach. IFA is already contributing to the International Nitrogen Management System (INMS), which is supported by UN Environment, and which has among its objectives a quantification of both the benefits and the adverse effects of nitrogen, which when completed in 2021 will allow for a more coherent and evidence-based policy approach.

“This resolution rightly points to the importance of plant nutrition for global food security,” indicated IFA Director General, Charlotte Hebebrand, “but of course we must continue and further strengthen our efforts to improve nutrient uptake by crops and minimize nutrient losses. This requires improved knowledge transfer to farmers based on the 4R principles (using the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time, in the right place), more tailored fertilizer solutions, utilization of modern technology and effective partnerships.”

An optimal nutrient use efficiency (NUE) should be in the range of 50-90%, according to the EU Nitrogen Expert Panel, whereas currently the average global NUE is around 45-50%. Some cropping systems in West Europe, Brazil, the US and Japan currently already achieve around 70% NUE, but other regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, which are not sufficiently replenishing nutrients following harvests, actually have an overly high NUE, which indicates nutrient mining.

In the meantime, NUE levels are low in most developing Asian countries but improvements have been observed for almost a decade in China. Efforts by the fertilizer value chain and other stakeholders to help farmers improve nutrient management performance are anticipated to produce a steady enhancement of the average global NUE.

IFA and a delegation of IFA members, headed by Tip O’Neill, CEO of IRM, Convener of IFA's UN Outreach Group and Vice Chairman of its Public Affairs & Communications Committee, were pleased to actively engage in UNEA-4 activities in Nairobi, where they emphasized the industry’s commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of fertilizers, while helping to close agricultural yield gaps and food security.

Furthering the discussion on sustainable nitrogen management at UNEA, Dr. James Mutegi (IPNI) represented the fertilizer industry at a UN Science Division organized event, Solving the Broken Nitrogen Cycle Together , where he highlighted the importance of 4R managed nitrogen for food security, forest and wasteland preservation and biomass production.

Organized by UNEP, IFA, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition, a special event on Healthy Food for a Healthy Planet explored the responsibility of business and policymakers for transformative agriculture and nutrition. Moderated by IFA’s Yvonne Harz-Pitre with IFA member participation from Dr. Lilian Wanjiru Mbuthia (ICL), the session examined innovations such as the next generation of fertilizers alongside the need for conducive government policies.

Tackling soil health, another event on Innovative Actions Towards a Pollution Free-Planet: Implementing the UNEA-3 Resolution on Soil Pollution, was organized by IFA, UNEP, the World Health Organization and Croplife , and discussed innovative ways to address soil pollution and identify effective ways to sustainably scale up these actions.



About the International Fertilizer Association

The International Fertilizer Association (IFA) is the only global fertilizer association with a membership of more than 500 entities, encompassing all actors in the fertilizer value chain (producers, traders, distributors, service providers), advisors, research organizations and NGOs. IFA promotes the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients to enable sustainable agricultural systems that contribute to a world free of hunger and malnutrition.

Media Contacts

Yvonne Harz-Pitre


International Fertilizer Association

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