Director of European-Netherlands Office IFDC

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Dr.Ir. Prem Bindraban MBA develops a global research network to produce innovative fertilizers taking biological processes and advanced bio-nano-chemistry as entry points. These fertilizers improve crop yield and food quality while reducing environmental effects. He leads a research and implementation program in Ghana by building public-private relations for the fertilizer value chain development. Formerly, Bindraban was Director of ISRIC – World Soil Information and team leader Natural Resources at Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands. He was a researcher at the CGIAR centers CIMMYT and IRRI. He contributed to a “Strategic Plan for Agricultural Development in Africa” as associate director at the request of former UN-SG Kofi Annan. Bindraban has developed various University courses related to Food Security, supervised many PhD candidates and numerous MSc students, and published over 200 research items.


Adapting agriculture to degrading soils and changing climate in Africa – Designing P fertilizer strategies

P.S. Bindraban, R. Pandey, C. Dimkpa, W.K. Atakora, …

Abstract submitted to the International Conference on Phosphates (ICP);15-17 October 2020, Marrakech, Morocco.

Tripling the production of nutritious food in Africa (SSA) in the coming decades under changing climatic and degrading soil conditions entails building of productive and resilient agricultural systems. Such systems should mitigate the impacts from shocks and recover with maximum output and minimum claim on natural resources. The over-reliance on natural nutrient cycling processes for plant nutrition is insufficient to meet food demands. E.g., 80% increase in food production in SSA came from land expansion, while yields remained low under sub-optimal mineral fertilization.

Most mineral fertilizers have been optimized for large-scale industrial processing, ease of logistics and soil application, targeted to bulk NPK products. The instant nutrient release following fertilizer application is not in sync with the gradually increasing nutrient demand during crop growth. This causes high losses. Moreover, plants need other nutrients to be productive and healthy. The bioavailability of phosphorus (P) in particular, strongly limits plant growth and productivity. Phosphate Rock (PR) is mined and processed into water soluble P (WSP) fertilizers but when applied to soil, binds to various components largely unavailable for plant uptake. This pool of P may be lost over time via leaching, runoff, and/or erosion, contributing to eutrophication.

In this paper, we revisit the design and application of P fertilizer products, taking productive and resilient agriculture for healthy people and planet as an entry point. Enhancing edaphic processes to tune the temporal dimensions of P availability to crop demand and interaction with the availability and uptake of other nutrients have been identified as key to this aim. Accelerating the weathering of PR by combination with WSP fertilizers, incorporation of P solubilizing bacteria into PR, or using nanoscale P are discussed as potentially promising options. Interactions and promising combinations of P with other nutrients such as Zn (to enhance drought tolerance and nutritional value), and with nitrogen (N), and Sulphur (S) (for build-up of soil organic matter) will be elaborated. Physiological and molecular traits for identifying cultivars with efficient P uptake and remobilization to edible plant parts are discussed, as is the development of varieties with improved mechanisms for P acquisition like higher exudation of organic acids, phosphatases and protons to mobilize P from the soil. Genes identified for improved P absorption through root or leaf are discussed.

The complexity of interacting edaphic, physiological, and physio-chemical fertilizer products negates the notion of one-size-fits all and underlines the need for site-specific P fertilizer solutions. The proposed approach may generate potentially large favorable impacts on plant adaptation and food and nutrition security.