Integrated Nutrient Management and its Role in Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainability in agriculture is of increasing importance in the 21st century. As agriculture works to provide food, fuel, and fiber for a growing population, managing limited natural resources and caring for the environment are critical considerations. 

Sustainable agriculture practices can protect the environment, increase farm profitability, and increase crop production on critical food and fiber needs. In the long term, sustainable agriculture practices protect crop production, the environment, and economic viability. 

After many years of soil compaction, sustainable practices are needed to address nutrient deficiencies to apply adequate amounts of fertilizers. Increased nutrient use efficiency is needed. Integrated nutrient management for sustainable agriculture addresses these challenges by optimizing fertilizer inputs without reducing crop yield. 

What is Integrated Nutrient Management?

Integrated Nutrient Management, or INM, is a sustainable agriculture method for achieving production needs and protecting the environment for future generations. INM is the application of soil fertility management practices that maximize fertilizer and organic resource use efficiency to enhance crop production. 

Agriculture is a soil-based industry. Soil is the foundation of crop production, as it provides plants with the necessary environment, nutrients, and water for survival. Soil provides anchorage for plant roots and provides ecosystem services that sustain life on Earth. 

While soil does naturally contain a certain amount of nutrients and minerals, specific needs for nutrients and their quantities vary across crops. Even healthy, naturally nutrient-rich soils may need to be supplemented with additional fertilizers.

Integrated nutrient management for sustainable agriculture helps meet soil nutrient needs in an environmentally-conscious way. The FAO notes that INM uses the benefits from all possible sources of plant nutrients to maintain or adjust the plant nutrient supply needed to achieve the desired crop production level. 

This happens through a few different mechanisms, including improving the stock of plant nutrients in the soil, maintaining or improving soil fertility, and increasing plant nutrients. 

These approaches should include a balanced use of mineral fertilizers along with organic and biological plant nutrient sources. By addressing plant nutrient efficiency, nutrient loss to the environment – and the subsequent environmental concerns – are limited. 

The UN Climate Technology Centre and Network indicates another component of INM is participatory, farmer-led INM technology experimentation and development. This on-farm experimentation helps test locally appropriate technologies and empowers farmers by increasing their technical expertise. This supports optimal nutrient source use on a crop system or rotation basis, rather than looking singularly at a single crop. 

The Challenge 

The world’s future food needs will be hefty: feeding nearly 10 billion people by 2050, according to the UN, will require production to grow substantially. But growth alone is not enough; minimizing negative impacts on the environment is what will secure food, fuel, and fiber for generations to come.

Limited arable land and declining natural resource availability underscore this challenge. The International Food Policy Research Institute indicates that the land currently in use will need to be more productive and strategies to grow productivity will need to be linked to using nutrient resources more efficiently than in the past. 

When farmers overuse certain inputs, they can deteriorate the sensitive soil-plant-microbe environmental systems that are vital for productive, sustainable ecosystems. INM helps create balance in the input source and rate to protect the environmental systems that are so critical for plant and microbial life. 

Managing Nutrients and Sustainability with Agmatix

Agmatix, a global agro-informatics company driven by turning agronomic big data into insights, can help make INM a reality on the farm. With crop management software, an automated fertilization plan can meet both sustainability and crop production goals while adhering to the principles of INM. 

Agmatix’s Digital Crop Advisor platform is a crop nutrition recommendation tool that uses data to optimize crop nutrition, increase profit, and lower environmental footprint. Expert knowledge, cutting-edge technology, and local data insights collide in a single plant-integrated nutrient management software, making fully-customizable nutrition management fast and easy. 

With the Digital Crop Advisor crop nutrient management tool, it’s easy to access crop nutrition management plans for a field. The software has 150 crop options and 12 scientifically-proven crop nutrient data profiles for plant-integrated nutrient management. It’s even possible to view nutritional distribution across crops’ different phenological stages. 

With smart fertilizer software, farmers can monitor sustainability KPIs, such as carbon footprint and nitrogen leaching, with recommended crop fertilization plans. It’s also possible to compare various simulations and recommendations to understand options. This plant nutrient management tool makes it seamless to see the tradeoff between maximizing yields and minimizing detrimental environmental effects.

And connecting INM across a global team and directly with growers is seamless with the Digital Crop Advisor management software. Multiple devices, including a mobile app, are supported. Different languages are available. Viewing the real-time status of worldwide operations is easy, meaning INM is possible at whatever scale is necessary. 

Agronomic big data plays a big part in enabling INM on the farm. Open and comprehensive data is available through the Global Crop Nutrient Removal Database, created through collaboration between Agmatix, the International Fertilizer Association, Wageningen University & Research, African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI), and Innovative Solutions for Decision Agriculture. Using this dataset to understand crop nutrient removal rates in the short- and long-term supports improving crop nutrient management and optimizing for sustainability. 

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At Agmatix, we understand the drive to optimize crop yield and nutrition while being good stewards of the land. We strive to empower agriculture professionals with the most accurate, science-based tools to help make the best decisions for businesses, their growers, and the Earth. 

We know that it’s not just the soil or the crop that you make a decision based on – it’s the complex relationship between your crops, the environment, nutrients, and more. That’s why we help you harmonize and standardize all of your agronomic data to turn it into actionable insights. 

That’s the core of INM. It is balancing crop needs, the environment, nutrients, productivity, and profitability to deliver on the needs of today and tomorrow. Integrated nutrient management for sustainable agriculture and Agmatix are a winning combination for building lasting relationships with growers, caring for the Earth, and tackling the challenges of 21st-century agriculture.