Advances in the understanding of nutrient dynamics and management in UK agriculture.
Increasing the inputs of nutrients has played a major role in increasing the supply of food to a continually growing world population. However, focusing attention on the most important nutrients, such as nitrogen (N), has in some cases led to nutrient imbalances, some excess applications especially of N, inefficient use and large losses to the environment with impacts on air and water quality, biodiversity and human health. In contrast, food exports from the developing to the developed world are depleting soils of nutrients in some countries. Better management of all essential nutrients is required that delivers sustainable agriculture and maintains the necessary increases in food production while minimizing waste, economic loss and environmental impacts. More extensive production systems typified by 'organic farming' may prove to be sustainable. However, for most of the developed world, and in the developing world where an ever-growing population demands more food, it will be essential to increase the efficiency of nutrient use in conventional systems. Nutrient management on farms is under the control of the land manger, the most effective of whom will already use various decision supports for calculating rates of application to achieve various production targets. Increasingly, land managers will need to conform to good practice to achieve production targets and to conform to environmental targets as well.