The Industry Nutrient Stewardship Commitments

Nutrient stewardship refers to the efficient and effective planning and management of plant nutrients in a manner that improves the social, economic and environmental performance of mineral and organic fertilizers.

Closely aligned to IFA’s Mission to “promote the efficient and responsible production, distribution and use of plant nutrients”, the IFA Nutrient Stewardship Commitments reaffirm the overarching goal of IFA members to help farmers to improve nutrient use efficiency and effectiveness, in order to optimize plant nutrient uptake and minimize nutrient losses to the environment.

The 4Rs and Fertilizer Best Management Practices

The goal of fertilizer best management practices is to match nutrient supply with crop requirements to optimize yield while minimizing nutrient losses to the environment. The four areas of nutrient management (source, rate, time and place) provide the basis of “nutrient stewardship,” a science-based framework for the efficient and effective use of plant nutrients.

Read more about the 4Rs and fertilizer best management practices in our Handbook below:


Agroecology is an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems. The FAO has defined 10 elements of agroecology, available here.

The fertilizer industry strongly encourages for these elements to include:

  • Fertilizer Best Management Practices as a key criteria for agroecological practices.
  • The inclusion of the 4Rs in the principles of agroecology.
  • The inclusion of Integrated Plant Nutrient Management (IPNM) into agroecological practices. IPNM entails complementing available organic nutrient sources on the farm with mineral fertilizers to achieve desired yields and restore soil health fertility. Scientific studies have proven to be the best solution for improving crop productivity and soil carbon sequestration.

Soil Health

Optimal nutrient management improves soil fertility, enhances soil organic matter content and improves physical, chemical and biological soil properties.

Most agronomists agree that optimal nutrient management entails starting with on-farm organic sources of nutrients and then supplementing them with manufactured fertilizers to achieve the farmer’s yield goal, and that manufactured fertilizers and organic sources of nutrients can, and should, be used in a complementary fashion.

The integration of organic and mineral sources of nutrients should be seen in the context of overall crop production, which includes the selection of crop varieties, pest control, efficient use of water, soil management and other aspects of integrated farm management.

Read more about Integrated Plant Nutrient Management below:

Integrated Plant Nutrient Management


Soil conservation practices and the widespread adoption of fertilizer best management practices can also help prevent soil depletion (i.e., soils lacking one or several essential nutrients), which in extreme cases triggers desertification. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, primarily caused by human activities and climatic variations. Although other regions, mostly in Asia and Latin America, are also concerned, the most dramatic examples of desertification are found in Africa, where declining soil fertility is linked to declining agricultural productivity.


Biodiversity is fundamental to the well-being of people and the future of our planet. Global efforts and concrete actions are required to halt its continuous decline. Plant nutrients play an important role in preserving biodiversity on the farm, off-site and globally: they are critical for the health of soils, plants and animals, and help maintain natural ecosystems.

Both excessive and insufficient fertilizer use can negatively affect the ecosystem and natural habitat balance. It is therefore crucial for improve nutrient management around the world to avoid losses to the environment.

Read more about this topic here :

6 Plant Nutrient Management Tools and Techniques that Can Help Protect Biodiversity

Biodiversity is fundamental to the well-being of people and the future of our planet. Global efforts and concrete actions are required to halt its continuous decline.

Read more

The IFA Norman Borlaug Award

Every year since 1993, IFA grants the Norman Borlaug Award to a person whose research or extension work has led to significant advances in crop nutrition. The Norman Borlaug Award allows IFA to promote research and knowledge transfer on efficient and effective fertilizer use.

2020 IFA Norman Borlaug Award recipient - DR. CLAUDIA WAGNER-RIDDLE

Noted for her innovativeness in technical methods, Dr. Wagner-Riddle was among the first researchers to apply micrometeorological techniques to monitor and better understand year-round N20 emissions from cropping systems by using a tunable diode laser trace gas analyzer.

Dr. Wagner-Riddle also leads a large collaborative group of scientists at the University of Guelph, where she is currently a professor at the School of Environmental Sciences, in a new outdoor soil monitoring laboratory. The first of its kind in North America, the laboratory is designed to mimic field conditions while also containing highly sophisticated monitoring equipment.

By measuring the timing and volume of N20 emissions from cropland throughout the year and comparing the impact of different combinations of source, rate, timing, and placement of nitrogen fertilizer, in line with 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles, Dr. Wagner-Riddle’s work has helped to paint a clearer picture of how and when nitrogen losses occur and what farmers can do to mitigate them.


Understanding and Managing Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Agricultural Soils