Responsible plant nutrition: A new paradigm to support food system transformation

Achim Dobermann*, Tom Bruulsema, Ismail Cakmak, Bruno Gerard, Kaushik Majumdar, Michael McLaughlin, Pytrik Reidsma, Bernard Vanlauwe, Lini Wollenberg, Fusuo Zhang, Xin Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The coming 10–20 years will be most critical for making the transition to a global food system in which mineral nutrients in agriculture must be managed in a more holistic manner. Fertilizers play a particular role in that because they are among the key drivers for securing global food security and improving human nutrition through increased crop yields and nutritional quality. A new paradigm for responsible plant nutrition follows a food systems and circular economy approach to achieve multiple socioeconomic, environmental and health objectives. Achieving that requires utilizing all available organic and inorganic nutrient sources with high efficiency, tailored to the specific features of food systems and agroecosystems in different world regions. Critical actions include: (i) sustainability-driven nutrient roadmaps, (ii) digital crop nutrition solutions, (iii) nutritious crops, (iv) nutrient recovery and recycling, (v) climate-smart fertilizers, and (vi) accelerated innovation. The outcome of this transformation will be a new societal plant nutrition optimum rather than a purely economic optimum. New partnerships and sustainability-focused business models will create added value for all actors in the nutrient chain and benefit farmers as well as consumers. Research needs to become more problem-driven and merge excellent science with entrepreneurial innovation approaches in order to develop robust solutions faster and at larger scale. Evidence-based policies should focus on creating and supporting the necessary nutrient stewardship roadmaps, including realistic national targets, progressive regulation and incentives that support technology and business innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100636
JournalGlobal Food Security
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Circular economy
  • Fertilizer
  • Nutrient use efficiency
  • Nutrients
  • Plant nutrition
  • Sustainable intensification


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