by Chris Fraser, CEO | 28/06/2018
By 2050 the global population is expected to reach a total of 9.8 billion people[i]. To accommodate them, more food must be produced than ever before in human history.
But even today, food production rates are struggling to keep up – availability of quality arable land is decreasing and previous methods employed to feed the world are no longer sustainable. Global food demand outstrips supply, resulting in rising prices and food shortages for those unable to afford them.
It is into this climate that Sirius Minerals emerges. As a bulk supplier of a unique multi-nutrient fertilizer, capable of increasing yields and helping to improve farming sustainability practices, we have both a business opportunity and huge social responsibility to succeed in our goal to become a world class fertilizer business and in doing so, make a major positive contribution to global food security.
Global gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is set to increase by 50 percent (from approximately US$10,000 today to US$14,000 in 2030)[ii]. It will grow at its fastest rate in the emerging economies of the world, where it will more than double over the same period. Rising incomes are accompanied by a higher demand for meat, which in turn has a significant impact on the demand for grain and soy beans for animal food. Depending on the source of meat and the feed systems a significant amount of grain is needed to produce meat. In the case of beef, it can take up to seven kilograms of grain to produce each kilogram of meat in intensive feedlots.
What is more, all this is happening at a time when availability of arable land is decreasing. The Latin America / Caribbean and North African regions depend on imports for over 50% of their grain, either due to domestic shortfalls caused by poor soil conditions and farming practices, or because land and water resources are being used to grow higher value export crops[iii]. China is also struggling to deal with the problem of soil degradation and nutrient deficiencies, a legacy of years of environmental mismanagement, caused partly by intensive farming and inappropriate fertilizer use[iv]. All this adds up to a picture of a challenged global agricultural system in need of new solutions.
The role of fertilizer
The basic role of a fertilizer is increase the level of nutrients in the soil that are available to a plant during its growth cycle. In the mid 20th century, increased use of fertilizers played a significant role in driving the ‘Green Revolution’ and improving crop yields. However, the simple thought that more fertilizer brings more yield is not true, as China has discovered to its cost. More efficient, environmentally sustainable and responsible fertilizersolutions are required.
In addition, such fertilizers must be applied at the right rate, time and place and farmers must be educated how to use apply them appropriately. They must contain readily available nutrients at a high density and have no adverse effects on the soil. They should store well, be compatible with other fertilizers for ease of blending and flexibility of use, and must spread evenly to supply crops with equal nutrient levels.
How POLY4 works
POLY4 meets all these requirements and, through our extensive agronomy and marketing programme, the research and development team at Sirius Minerals has proved the product’s efficacy and the role it can play in meeting the challenges of global food production through the promotion of balanced crop nutrition practices. We are able to do this because POLY4 provides four key nutrients in one product, and because it releases its nutrients at a rate that is more closely matched to the needs of the crop.
Traditional fertilizers, which are normally spread at sowing, release their nutrients ahead of the time the crop needs them most, resulting in wastage through erosion, run off or leaching. Because POLY4 releases its nutrients gradually over time, they can be accessed by the plant throughout its growth cycle, resulting in heathier crops, higher yields and reduced environmental impact. What is more, it has been demonstrated that POLY4 actually makes a significant contribution to soil health through the supply of calcium, which strengthens the soil and increases its resilience to erosion, compaction and nutrient loss.
How POLY4 will help
Findings from over 300 crop studies worldwide continue to provide new scientific information, improve knowledge, and challenge entrenched fertilizer industry practices. Through these continued efforts, our team can help ensure that an accurate balance of fertilizer nutrients are applied at the correct rate, time and place for any given crop, while sustainably increasing yields and crop quality. In this way, Sirius and POLY4 can make a tangible difference to the agricultural system and help farmers adapt to their new challenges: creating more efficient, effective, flexible and sustainable fertilizer practices, in order to increase food production.
Fertilizer is not the only solution to the challenge of global food security, but it is one of the most important. It must be treated carefully and correctly, and entrenched behaviours and practices must be challenged. This is what Sirius Minerals is endeavouring to do and why we must succeed in becoming a successful, socially responsible business. We are providing a real solution to real global problems, and will play an important role in feeding the world for years to come.
[i] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, The World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, June 2017: https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html
[ii] World Economic Forum, What will global GDP look like in 2030?, Feb 2016: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/02/what-will-global-gdp-look-like-in-2030/
[iii] US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, International Food Security Assessment 2017-2027, June 2017: https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2017/june/international-food-security-assessment-2017-2027/
[iv] Reuters, China needs patience to fight costly war against soil pollution: government, June 2017: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-environment-soil-idUSKBN19D0N6