Submitted to: Plant Physiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 27, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) pose a problem in agriculture. While they are critical elements required for plant growth, their overuse has resulted in contamination of water and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, production of N and P fertilizers is not sustainable. Production of both requires nonrenewable natural resources. To ensure food security and protect the environment, farming practices must become more sustainable. This essay describes the problems associated with overuse of N and P fertilizer. In addition, approaches for improving N and P sustainability are discussed. Lastly, research recommendations are made for enhancing plant N and P acquisition and improving soil fertility. This information is important because it makes scientists and policymakers aware of the N and P problem and proposes solutions to that problem.
Technical Abstract: Since 1960 the world's population has doubled to 6 billion people. During the next 40 years the population is projected to stabilize at 8-9 billion people. The expanded use of fertilizers, water, and improved germplasm (Green Revolution) has allowed food production to outpace population growth to the present day. Increases in food production to feed a billion people will strain the limits of agriculture. High use of nitrogen and phosphorus in intensive agriculture have compromised air and water quality. Without sustainable practices these problems will be exacerbated in the future. Moreover, the fact that nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer production is nonrenewable will result in high prices thereby making fertilizer application untenable for subsistence farmers. The crucial question facing agriculture is, "How can plant and crop growth needs be met through sustainable, environmentally friendly approaches?" This essay addresses those concerns.