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The role of technology transfer to improve fertiliser use efficiency


Over the past 80 years, crop yields under developed agriculture have increased rapidly. However, in many countries the rate of increase has slowed significantly. In some areas of the world such as Europe, nutrient inputs have been significantly reduced and yields have stagnated, while in other parts of the world the amount of nutrients applied have been constant with moderate yield increases. In either case, farmers are seeking to improve nutrient use efficiency. The potential to increase yields is significant. The greatest potential exists in areas where yields are low and limited by a readily remedied limiting factor; a situation often encountered in developing nations where nutrient deficiencies persist. Yield response to nutrient application where no other limiting factor exists, is invariably a diminishing return curve, showing strong increases in yield with initial additions of nutrients then plateauing with increasing applications. Remote sensing by satellite and wireless communications offer an opportunity to identify limiting factors in crops globally and provide timely management information to farm managers to control inputs or adjust practices. In the developing world, the use of remote sensed data may be a required focus area, where services are provided and information dispersed, to assist farmers. For example climate and surface temperature monitoring could improve fertiliser efficacy by scheduling applications when soil moisture conditions allow uptake of nutrient, whilst also preventing applications prior to deluges, which would cause fertiliser run off to waterways. This paper explores the use of remote sensing technologies to improve efficiency of fertiliser use.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Reddy Pullinagari and Dr. Gabor Kereszturi in their work in correlating hyperspectral data to plant tissue wet chemistry.This paper was part of a workshop sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems. 

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Correspondence to Miles Grafton.

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The authors are currently engaged with industry and Government in joint funded research in applying the principles of remote sensing and nutrient targeting in hill country farming systems of New Zealand, which is funded by Ravensdown Fertiliser Co-op Ltd and the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, (MPI).

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Grafton, M., Yule, I. The role of technology transfer to improve fertiliser use efficiency. Food Sec. 7, 365–373 (2015).

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  • Remote sensing
  • Nutrient management budget
  • Nutrient losses