VFRC Report 2015/1: Beyond N and P: Toward a Land Resource Ecology Perspective and Impactful Fertilizer Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Food for thought about complexity for nutrient blending
Antagonistic and synergistic effects between nutrients in soil availability and uptake by plants can dramatically affect yield. This report presents experimental results with multiple nutrients and construes initial indications for the existence of complex nutrient relations under field conditions. Whereas the scientific foundation is yet to be firmly established, it suggests that, rather than absolute levels of nutrients present in the soil, it is their proportion expressed as ratios that impacts crop yield. These ratios are particularly important among the basic cations (Ca, Mg and K), between P and micronutrients and among the micronutrients themselves. Such ratios are shown to govern the ecological diversity of vegetation and spatial pattern of soils. It is therefore essential to include all essential nutrients in agronomic and fertilizer research. Limited amount of optimal ratios of (micro)nutrients tuned to local soil chemical properties can have large yield impacts and result in higher fertilizer uptake efficiency.

Citation: R. Voortman and P.S. Bindraban, 2015. Beyond N and P: Toward a Land Resource Ecology Perspective and Impactful Fertilizer Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa. VFRC Report 2015/1. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 49 pp.; 15 tables; 17 figs.; 2 text boxes; 67 ref.


VFRC Report 2015/2: Nanoscale Micronutrients Suppress Disease

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Soil-borne pathogens cause major crop losses in global agriculture, adding up to billions of dollars of lost productivity each year. Alternative strategies applying nanotechnology in agriculture have focused on smart delivery systems and nanosensors to increase efficiency. However, low micronutrient availability in the soil and poor in planta translocation can limit the utility of amendment strategies. The current report addresses a potential strategy that has not been adequately explored: the use of nanoscale amendments (metal, metal oxide, carbon) to suppress crop disease and subsequently enhance growth and yield. The current regulatory perspective for such applications is also discussed.

A peer reviewed article based on this report is available here.

Citation: Servin, A., W. Elmer, A. Mukherjee, R. De La Torre-Roche, H. Hamdi, J.C. White and C. Dimkpa
Nanoscale Micronutrients Suppress Disease. VFRC Report 2015/2. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 33 pp.; 4 tables; 1 figs.; 118 ref.


VFRC Report 2015/3: The Application of Nanotechnology for Micronutrients in Soil-Plant Systems

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Billions of people and many soils across the planet suffer from MN deficiencies, impairing human health. The micronutrients (MNs) use efficiency (MUE) by crops of fertilizers is < 5% due to a lack of synchronization between the fertilizer-MNs release and their crop demand during growth.  
Nanotechnology may transform fertilizers.  Nanomaterials (NMs), when used as nutrients, are taken up and mobilized by plants, although their effects on crops, remain unknown. A novel model for a MN Intelligent NanoFertilizer (INF) is presented that may enhance MUE and food quality by enabling the synchronization of MN release from fertilizers according to crop demand.

Citation: C.M. Monreal, M. DeRosa, S.C. Mallubhotla, P.S. Bindraban and C. Dimkpa, 2015.
The Application of Nanotechnology for Micronutrients in Soil-Plant Systems. VFRC Report 2015/3. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 44 pp.; 1 tables; 5 figs.; 270 ref.



VFRC Report 2015/4: Plant Exudates for Nutrient Uptake

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Many plant strategies for acquiring nutrients rely on the secretion of root exudates. In this report, important classes of exudates related to nutrient acquisition are identified, their mechanisms of enhancing nutrient availability are explained, and their effectiveness in making nutrients in the soil more available to plants are discussed.  A meta-analysis of literature data on plant exudation responses to nutrient deficiencies has been included. Type of exudate and increase in exudation rate under nutrient deficiency strongly depend on the species or even cultivar, and on the deficient nutrient. Possibilities for further utilizing the potential of root exudates for nutrient acquisition in agricultural systems should be explored.

Citation: D.H. Keuskamp, R. Kimber, P. Bindraban, C. Dimkpa and W.D.C. Schenkeveld, 2015. Plant Exudates for Nutrient Uptake. VFRC Report 2015/4. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 53 pp.; 10 tables; 18 figs.; 179 ref.



VFRC Report 2015/5: Effects of Nutrient Antagonism and Synergism of Fertilizer Use

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The role of mineral nutrients in crops is influenced by antagonistic or synergistic interactions among nutrients. In this report, scientific articles quantifying synergistic, antagonistic, additive, non-significant or negative responses in different plants were identified. The study indicated some general trends: (a) when two nutrients are deficient, a large increase in yield can be expected by diminishing the deficiency; (b) for most macronutrients the mutual interactions on yield levels are synergistic; and (c) antagonistic effects on yield are often found between divalent cations. Because of the limited number of crops, nutrients, soil types and climates in which these interactions have been studied, care should be taken in extrapolating individual results to other situations.

Citation: R.P.J.J. Rietra, M. Heinen, C. Dimkpa and P.S. Bindraban, 2015. Effects of nutrient antagonism and synergism on fertilizer use efficiency. VFRC Report 2015/5. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 42 pp.; 16 tables; 1 fig.; 229 ref.


The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Fertilizers

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The discovery and use of fertilizers has been one of the key drivers for increasing crop yield, agricultural productivity and food security, yet it comes at a high environmental and economic cost. Applying existing fertilizers, primarily NPK, under the right conditions can lessen these issues, but overall progress is inadequate for the desired transformation toward sustainable, nutritive, resilient and climate-smart agriculture.

This paper reflects on current fertilizer use and discusses the need and possibilities for a paradigm shift in fertilizer research and development. A number of innovative changes in the way we apply fertilizer have the potential to resolve problems such as mineral loss and affordability to poor farmers. However, a current lack of focus in fertilizer research and development hinders the progress of these new techniques.

The authors of this report propose a concerted research and development effort among research institutions and private sector players, orchestrated by public debate and policy to further the advancement of these game-changing fertilizers.

Citation: Prem S. Bindraban, Christian Dimkpa, Latha Nagarajan, Amit Roy, Rudy Rabbinge, 2015. Revisiting Fertilisers and Fertilisation Strategies for Improved Nutrient Uptake by Plants. Biology and Fertility of Soils 51 (5): xx-xx.http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00374-015-1039-7.


VFRC Generates High-Resolution Soil Micronutrient Maps

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Based on VFRC review studies and on on-farm trials conducted by IFDC, the VFRC has prioritized R&D on micronutrients. Yet, the lack of awareness about soil fertility constraints is a major limitation to developing sound liming and fertilizer recommendations in sub-Saharan Africa, certainly so for micronutrients. VFRC has, therefore, engaged in research in collaboration with ISRIC–World Soil Information, IFDC and local organizations in Rwanda and Burundi to develop detailed soil maps produced with the most recent geo-spatial statistical methodologies. Maps of primary (P, K), secondary (Ca, Mg, S) and micronutrients (Cu, Zn, B), as well as pH, soil acidity (Al+H), effective CEC and organic matter were generated for the 0-20 cm soil layer by means of digital soil mapping using random forest models at a 250 m spatial resolution for Burundi and Rwanda. The maps form the basis to support soil fertilization strategies, i.e., where to apply which combination of nutrients.

Citation: María Ruipérez González, Bas Kempen, Prem S. Bindraban, Sandra Wolters, Cyrille Hicintuka, Marcien Nibasumba, Zacharie Nzohabonayo, John Wendt, Oscar Nduwimana, John Veerkamp, 2015. Digital mapping of soil nutrients for the Republics of Burundi and Rwanda. Poster presented at the Wageningen Soil Conference, 23-27 August 2015, Wageningen, The Netherlands.



VFRC Report 2015/6: Preliminary Evaluation of the Feasibility of Using Geospatial Information to Refine Soil Fertility Recommendations

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IFDC carries out fertilizer field trials at hundreds of georeferenced locations throughout eastern and southern African countries. This report uses geo-spatial methodologies to make soil maps and to analyse for spatial pattern of yield responses along with the factors causing the differences in the responses.

These insights can support location- or region-specific fertilizer targeting as an alternative to blanket recommendations. The information may also be valuable for fertilizer companies and other actors in the chain at regional scale in finding where to sell which fertilizer composition.

Citation: Kempen, B., Vereijken, P.F.G., Keizer, L.P.C., Ruipérez González, M., Bindraban, P.S., Wendt, J., 2015. Preliminary evaluation of the feasibility of using geospatial information to refine soil fertility recommendations. VFRC Report 2015/6. Virtual Fertilizer Research Center, Washington, D.C. 67 pp; 20 tables; 31 fig.; 30 ref.; 4 appendices.