Low concentrations of mineral- and organic-nitrogen compounds in many soils limit plant growth and productivity. Industrial production and use of N-fertilizers relieved this constraint in many agricultural systems and fuelled the Green Revolution of the 20th century. Without N-fertilizers there would be approximately two billion fewer people alive today, yet massive use of such fertilizers (now over 100 million tonnes per year) in many areas is compromising human health and natural ecosystems, and challenging the sustainability of modern agriculture.
In contrast, millions of resource-poor farmers lack sufficient N-fertilizer to ensure good harvests, especially in Africa where yields are often only 10-20% of yield potential for staples like maize.
Solving these contrasting N-crises in agriculture will require concerted efforts on a number of fronts, including political, social, economic, industrial, agricultural and scientific action.
In this talk, Dr Udvardi will discuss basic and applied research and development approaches that aim to reduce the use and environmental impact of industrial N-fertilizers, while maintaining or even increasing plant productivity.
Symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes is helping to improve agricultural yields in resource poor countries now, while associative and synthetic nitrogen fixation in non-legumes may, in the future, substitute for industrial N-fertilizer in both resource-poor and –rich agricultural systems, with benefits for society and the environment.
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