Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

E. Frossard, E. Bünemann, J. Jansa, A. Oberson and C. Feller:

Concepts and practices of nutrient management in agro-ecosystems: Can we draw lessons from history to design future sustainable agricultural production systems?


The objectives of this review are to show how the concepts related to nutrient dynamic and use in agro-ecosystems changed with time; to relate the apparition of these concepts with the adoption of nutrient management practices; and to discuss strategies which could allow a better use of nutrients in the future. In early times nutrient deficiencies severely limited crop production. Since theoretical bases in plant nutrition and soil science have been established and since large deposits of nutrients and fossil energy have been discovered, very large quantities of nutrients have become available. These resources are however not used sustainably. Modern intensive, market-oriented agricultural systems often exhibit positive nutrient balances resulting in nutrients losses to the environment, while negative nutrient balances in subsistence agriculture lead to poor crop production, soil degradation, food insecurity and poverty. Integrated nutrient management (INM) is presented as a necessity to increase nutrient use efficiency in agricultural systems and to decrease losses to the environment and as one of the components of the “doubly green revolution” to be implemented to meet the needs of future generations in a sustainable manner.

Key words: Nitrogen, phosphorus, soil fertility, food production, environmental impact.