More food from fertile grounds: Integrating approaches in order to improve soil fertility

C.L. van Beek, N. van Duivenbooden, G.J. Noij, H.I.M. Heesmans

Research output: Other contributionPamphlet


Soils represent a major natural capital asset and have enormous potential to increase agricultural production while, at the same time, combating climate change and contributing to green economic growth. Yet, every year more than €3 thousand million is lost due to soil degradation. To unlock the potential of soils, nutrients need to be used more efficiently. This can be achieved by improving the recycling of nutrients, increasing organic matter content and applying fertilizers of the right type in the right amounts, at the right time and in the right place. There are several pathways of change that have been proposed to increase the productive capacity of soils. However, with current trends – globalization, urbanization, resource scarcity and climate change – new approaches are required. In our view, such approaches should be based on Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM), which includes the application of both mineral fertilizers and organic manures. Subsequently, ISFM should be supplemented with site-specific interventions and a better match between supply and demand of (locally available) nutrients to make the best use of available resources, reduce environmental impacts and enhance green economic growth. The Fertile Grounds Initiative (FGI) was designed as an coordinated strategy of collaboration between actors in nutrient management at various spatial scales. It is based on eight subcomponents, which bring together the supply and demand of nutrients within a specific geographical area to make optimum use of site-specific interventions and available nutrients, supplemented with external imports. We expect the FGI to make a significant practical contribution to sustainable development in areas with limited soil fertility and nutrient availability, while at the same time resolving problems arising from nutrient excess in certain parts of the country and from (urban) waste streams, turning these into economic assets.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • soil fertility
  • cropping systems
  • soil degradation
  • africa south of sahara
  • manures


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