Farming With Rocks and Minerals: Challenges and Opportunities


Farming With Rocks and Minerals: Challenges and Opportunities

Peter Van Straaten
Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1
Manuscript received on September 29, 2005; accepted for publication on March 13, 2006
Presented by Othon H. Leonardo

ABSTRACT

In many parts of the world food security is at risk. One of the biophysical root causes of falling per-capita food production is the declining quality and quantity of soils. To reverse this trend and increase soil fertility soil and plant nutrients have to be replenished. This review provides a literature survey of experiences of using multi-nutrient rock fertilizers for soil fertility enhancement from temperate and tropical environments. Advantages and limitations of the application of rock fertilizers are discussed. Examples are provided from two successful nutrient replenishment projects in Africa where locally available rock fertilizers are used on highly leached acid soils. The potential of combining organic materials alongside rock fertilizers in soil fertility replenishment strategies is stressed.

 

Food is essential for life. But despite major efforts to alleviate food shortage and outright hunger of millions of people, there are still approximately 800 million individuals who go to bed with empty stomachs every night. The need to feed approximately 9 to 10 billion people during the middle of the 21st century will put increasing pressure on land resources and it is obvious that the production of food will have to rise to keep pace with rising food demands. The per capita food production is still declining in some parts of the world, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa.  One of the biophysical root causes of falling per capita food production is the declining quality and quantity of the land resource base, in particular the soil (Sanchez et al. 1997, Sanchez 2002). Soils, the foundation for survival and food security, are increasingly over-exploited in some parts of the world. In order to reverse this trend of land and soil degradation it is necessary to either expand the land base under cultivation or to intensify crop production per unit of land.

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