IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

Editorial: e-ifc No. 21, September 2009

Editorial

Growing carbon
Growing carbon. Participants from the IPI-Corvinus University symposium on "Nutrient management and nutrient demand of energy plants" visiting Sándor Bényei's farm in Fadd village, near Szekszárd, Hungary. The farm has the largest collection of Populus nigra clones (Poplar) in Europe, Photo by IPI.

Dear readers,

Some may say it is a little premature to reflect on the achievements of the first decade of the 21st century. But it is, we believe, timely to stop and ask what has been happening during this time and to look to the challenges that we face in the next ten years and beyond.

In 1990, the world's population was approx. 5.3 billion, growing to 6.7 billion in 2009; an increase of more than 25 per cent. Within a period of less than 20 years, global agricultural production must feed an additional 1.4 billion people... equivalent to feeding another India. An enormous challenge indeed.

Average yields of maize, wheat and rice, the major staple foods of the world have increased by 30, 17 and 13 per cent respectively (if the averages are calculated for the years 1990-92 and 2005-07). Bearing in mind that much of the maize is utilized for feed and biofuels, it seems that agricultural productivity is lagging behind population growth, and indeed, additional food is - and probably will have to be - produced on more land previously used for other purposes, or by cultivating virgin terrain.

To do so has a cost. In the past, we only looked at agricultural productivity per se. But now it is necessary to take into account other issues including the ecosystem services that land, water and biodiversity provide, and the carbon cycle which has increasingly attracted much attention.

How to balance the production of food and yet at the same time preserve nature and our atmosphere in a sustainable way will undoubtedly be a major challenge for the years ahead. This approach was not so widely accepted only 10-15 years ago and, in this respect, poses huge challenges for those dedicated to increasing agricultural productivity.

In this edition of e-ifc, we highlight research findings on potassium fertilization of turmeric (Curcuma longa) in India, and alfalfa (Medicago sativa cv. Crioula) in Brazil, and a short paper on the link between mineral nutrition and plant disease. New publications and events are included as usual.

I wish you all an enjoyable read.

Hillel Magen
Director