Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), Potassium(K)

The Anticipation group of the JRC Dir. A held a Workshop on "NPK: Will there by enough plant nutrients to feed a world of 9 billion in 2050" ( Brussels, 5-6 December 2011). This event was attended by a group of experts from academia, industry, policy DGs and JRC Institutes. The workshop examined a broad range of issues related to the adequate provision of fertilizers to support future world agricultural production. This topic represents a key factor in the overall question of global food security as we go towards a population of 9 billion.

The workshop provided a unique opportunity to analyse the complex links between various stakeholders and crop production situations around the world. The preliminary conclusions were that while situation is not critical with respect to the production of plant nutrients, it is important to remain vigilant. Indeed, question of reserves (P and K are non renewables), access, changing geopolitical conditions, economic development, energy costs and environmental constraints could lead to shortfalls and possibly crisis situations in some regions of the world. The situation of Africa in terms of production, access and use of fertilizers was reviewed with particular attention as these are a key limiting factor in boosting food production in that continent.

Participants also underlined that some components of the fertilizers production chain could fall in the category of strategic materials. Various time line scenarios were reviewed but the consensus was that, even if horizons of concern are decades away, early initiatives are required to identify long-term policy implications to cope with scarcities. Research and innovation in the area of fertilizer production, recycling and use by the soil-water-plant system need to be pursued. The environmental fate of micro elements associated with use of mineral fertilizers was also identified as a growing health risk factor.

This was the first of a series of JRC Anticipation events that will explore specific issues of medium to long-term relevance to future EU policies. Findings will be published in forthcoming JRC Reports.

The following workshop reports are available:

Final report: NPK: Will there be enough plant nutrients to feed a world of 9 billion in 2050? 
Authors: Jean-Paul Malingreau, Hugh Eva, Albino Maggio
Foresight and Horizon Scanning Series
EUR 25327 , Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2012


Dr. Hugh Eva, Tel. +390332785016, hugh.eva(at)