A Vision for Responsible Plant Nutrition 

Responsible plant nutrition nourishes plants in a sustainable manner, enhancing earth’s capacity to support healthy life.

As a Scientific Panel on Responsible Plant Nutrition, we seek to better understand the links between plant nutrition practices and sustainability outcomes, and to provide the scientific evidence to support a transition in practices to achieve these outcomes. Here we outline this vision.

In agricultural systems, nutrient inputs are needed to replenish those removed by crop harvests, to build fertility in degraded soils, and to enhance the productivity of the land. Responsible plant nutrition nourishes plants to produce quantities and qualities of food, feed, fiber, fuel, and other products that improve lives and livelihoods. This is done in a manner that keeps the soil healthy, the water clean, the air clear, the climate stable, and ecosystems flourishing. Nutrient losses—for example, nitrous oxide linked to climate change, or phosphate linked to algal blooms, or nitrate contaminating drinking water—pose risks to earth’s capacity to support healthy life.

Responsible plant nutrition balances benefits and threats. In today’s world the flows of plant nutrients are linked not only to food and nutrition security and farmers’ incomes and livelihoods, but also to biodiversity, climate change, human health, eutrophication, and air quality.

Responsible plant nutrition encompasses a broad array of practices. Its implementation involves technologies and management practices applied to the flows of nutrients in agro-ecosystems, influencing nutrient use efficiency and losses.

4R Nutrient Stewardship—applying the right source of nutrients at the right rate, right time, and right place—forms an important starting point.

Integrated Soil Fertility Management adds several other crop and soil management practices, including selection of crop species, crop rotations, cover crops, and tillage.  Responsible Plant Nutrition goes further yet and can entail crop genetic improvement, pest management, water management, integration of crops with livestock, and nutrient recovery from waste streams.

As a Panel, we aim to provide a sound scientific basis for principles and practices of responsible plant nutrition in farming systems. Our core functions include advising the global plant nutrition industry and its stakeholders on appropriate nutrient and soil fertility management programs and their implementation, performance metrics, policy, and investments in research and innovation. Our first priorities are to address the issues of biodiversity and climate change. We look forward to a fruitful role in supporting transition toward sustainability.

Human alteration of nutrient cycles potentially threatens the stability and resilience of the earth’s ecosystems. Meeting the needs of a growing population requires balanced attention to nutrient management impacts on all of these issues.