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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #401022

Research Project: Agricultural Management for Long-Term Sustainability and Soil Health

Location: Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research

Title: Grappling with the success and trade-offs of global nutrient redistribution

item Kleinman, Peter
item Harmel, Daren

Submitted to: Environment, Development and Sustainability
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/30/2023
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The global trade in fertilizer nutrients represents one of the great achievements of modern society, contributing to more than a 40% increase in crop production over the past century. While this redistribution of fertilizer nutrients represents a great success in tackling the inequitable distribution of resources supporting agriculture, it has also produced trade-offs that require system level response if they are to be addressed. ARS scientists from Fort Collins, CO document the challenges and opportunities for improving the sustainability of nutrient cycling in agriculture.

Technical Abstract: Inputs of fertilizer nutrients in agriculture are estimated to have contributed to > 40% increase in crop production over the past century, resulting in widespread benefits to food security and prosperity. However, fertilizer nutrient redistribution has fundamentally altered global and local nutrient cycles alike, yielding trade-offs in socio-economic and environmental outcomes. David Pimentel’s body of work on the management of energy, water, and soil resources in agriculture, along with his perspectives on agronomy and sustainable resource management, resonate with a critical understanding of the consequences of nutrient redistribution in agriculture, offering a vision for system level change. Although Pimentel regularly called for transformational change, he could be critical of simplified solutions to complex resource challenges. With Pimentel's legacy in mind, we consider key challenges caused by global nutrient redistribution, opportunities for improved recycling of nutrients in agricultural systems and the important role of system level analysis in agricultural development.