Joseph Adu-Gyamfi

Management Specialist

  • Institution:
    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


Joseph Adu-Gyamfi works with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as an Integrated Soil Fertility Management Specialist in the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. His work involved the applications of nuclear and isotopic techniques to measure and monitor interactions between soil, water and nutrients in cropping systems as basis for developing strategies to confront and mitigate impacts of climate change on global agricultural systems, and food security in developing countries. He has considerable experience in (i) developing protocols for evaluation of plant root traits that enhance nutrient acquisition and utilization from soil,  (ii) the use of oxygen-18 isotopes in phosphate to trace P sources and cycling in soils, (iii) the use of multi-stable isotope fingerprints to identify sources and transport of agro contaminants in soil and water bodies, and (iv) the surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobials from agricultural areas to the environment using stable isotopes.  Joseph provides technical assistance to IAEA national, regional/interregional technical cooperation projects in selected countries in Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe and Latin America & Caribbean in the fields of soil, water and nutrient management, plant abiotic stresses and sustainable agriculture,  soil and water quality, agricultural-value chain  for agro-based projects, food security advisory and training services. He has over 30 years of international and national experience (including 6-years in executive level research leadership and management) in agricultural-related and agro-based projects in developing countries.

Prior to joining IAEA, he worked for International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) as a Principal scientist in India and Niger and as ICRISAT Country Representative in Nigeria. He was a Chief Technical advisor on agricultural-value chain with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Sudan, a Senior Research Scientist with CSIR (Ghana), an Expert Consultant on monitoring and evaluation of agro-based projects for USAID and Danida, and a Senior Lecturer at the university of Ghana. He obtained his PhD in Plant Nutrition and Environmental Physiology from Hiroshima University, Japan in March 1991.


Population growth and changes in consumption patterns, including new dietary preferences require the production of more and diverse food. Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for plant growth and its deficiency poses a major constraint to sustainable crop production. Although the application of phosphorus fertilizers has immensely contributed to drive agricultural expansion and intensification to ensure food security for the ever-growing population, it has also brought new environmental externalities, including negative impacts on the environment. Excessive and inappropriate use of phosphorus lead to non-point source pollution and eutrophication of natural waters, wiping out fish and other important parts of the underwater ecosystem. Identifying appropriate systems for managing soil phosphorus and reducing the risks of eutrophication are needed to minimize the environmental risks. Numerous procedures (conventional and isotopic methods) have been developed and used to conduct phosphate studies in soil-plant systems and their individual compartments. Isotopic methods are becoming increasingly important, not so much as routine methods but more in investigating the soil P kinetics processes, the soil and plant factors that affect the availability of P to plants and lately for source identification and apportionment of phosphorus pollutants in the agro environment. Identifying and apportioning these contributions is thus essential for national agencies and governments to design policies and target response.

The use of tracers to investigate phosphate cycling in soil-plant systems has been extensively reviewed. Earlier worked focused on the use of P radioisotopes (32P and 33P) that are not appropriate for long-term or field-based studies of soil P dynamics and the fate of P fertilizers in agricultural catchments because of their short half-lives (14.26–25.34 days) and a large-scale radiation protection and safety issues required.

Recently studies have shown that δ18O–P in resin-extractable soil P can be a marker for the rate of biological P transformation and several authors have emphasized the potential importance of the δ18O–P technique to provide critical information on biological processes and to trace the origin and the fate of P in soil–plant systems. However, they have emphasized the need for further development to consolidate the δ18O–P technique with regards to the information on the kinetics of equilibrium between the δ18O–P in different soil P compartments, the proper inventory of the δ18O–P of different Pi and Po pools in the soil, the δ18O–P in different P sources and waters, and the effects of different parameters such as atmospheric humidity, temperature, and supply of P and water on the δ18O–P of metabolic P and structural P in plant. Thus, more data, research and integration of approaches and user-friendly analytical tools that improves the precision and breadth of existing analyses and provide more accurate guidance on appropriate mitigation actions are required.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is working on: (1) use of phosphorus radioisotopes to investigate soil phosphorus dynamics and cycling in soil–plant systems, (2) evaluation of phosphate rock sources for agricultural production using phosphorus isotopes, (3) development of protocols and  guidelines using multi-stable isotope fingerprints for tracing the sources of the agro-pollutants, and soil and water management practices to reduce pollutants from phosphate fertilizers in the environment. All the above will be further discussed.