Director General, CIMMYT
What are the key priorities of CIMMYT and main focuses when it comes to plant nutrition?
CIMMYT’s plant nutrition focus is on precision nutrient management in smallholder wheat and maize farming systems across South Asia, Africa and Latin America. Together with partners, we develop and validate decision tools such as mobile apps, which help smallholders manage nutrient use in their fields by providing them with scenarios of yield outcomes under different rates of nutrients.
How important is maize and wheat for animal and human nutrition and what are the key plant nutrition considerations for these two key global crops?
Maize and wheat are two out of three of the world’s most popular and most consumed crops. Maize is the preferred staple food for 900 million poor consumers and the most important food crop in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, wheat is eaten by 2.5 billion people in 89 countries.
Given the enormous extent of cereals cultivation, any improvement in resource use efficiency will have major impact, while also freeing up vast amounts of land for other crops or natural vegetation. According to 2017 figures, maize is grown on 197 million hectares and wheat 218 million hectares, an area larger than France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK combined.
Compared to other crops, the production of cereals such as maize, rice and wheat has relatively low environmental impact. Still, it is both necessary and feasible to further enhance the sustainability of cereal cropping systems. Many new practices have a proven ability to conserve water as well as soil and land, and to use purchased inputs (pesticides and fertilizers) far more efficiently.
What would the ideal fertilizer look like for maize and wheat?
There probably isn’t such a thing as an ‘ideal’ fertilizer for maize and wheat but 5 criteria that help determine the ‘ideal’ use of fertilizer under diverse environments for smallholder farmers:
Affordability and availability
Productivity and profitability increase
Reduced environmental footprint
Ease of application through mechanized options.
How can a multi stakeholder forum such as this one help to identify further research priorities into plant nutrition?
For a such as the High Level Forum on Sustainable Plant Nutrition, allow for scientists to exchange views and inspiration with global funding and research partners. Discussions that will take place at this key event will help innovate and make plant nutrition more sustainable, smart and hopefully more targeted at smallholder farmers, millions of whom carry global food security on their shoulders.