HomeEuropeBuilding a more resilient, sustainable European food system – a challenge accepted

Building a more resilient, sustainable European food system – a challenge accepted

Over the past two years, external shocks — such as increased frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine — have challenged us all, from farmers to food companies and so also to fertilizer producers as a key link in the agri-food value chain. These shocks have exposed some of the weaknesses in our food system and have accelerated the urgency for change.

A well-functioning food system is the basis for a well-functioning society. It is therefore imperative that we increase Europe’s strategic autonomy in food production, including fertilizers, while accelerating the transformation to a more sustainable and resilient food future. This can be done — without jeopardizing the green transition or compromising crop yields or quality.

Three pathways to increasing resiliency

While backing the ambition of transforming the food system in Europe, three important pathways can be identified to realizing a more resilient and sustainable food system when it comes to fertilizers. Yara is doing its part by making every nutrient count, decarbonizing production with renewable energy and recycling nutrients.

Making every nutrient count at farm level has become more crucial than ever, especially during these challenging times. Upscaling best nutrient management practices and decision-support tools at farm level can make a big difference for farmers and for the environment. That’s why Yara has made its digital tools, such as Atfarm and N-Tester, free to use for farmers across Europe. These tools help farmers apply fertilizer where it’s most needed. The result? Farmers can increase yields by around 6 percent and reduce fertilizer use by around 12 percent.

Thanks to precision farming, farmers can increase yields by around 6 percent and reduce fertilizer use by around 12 percent.

All players across the food value chain need to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Mineral fertilizers produced in the EU and Norway already have a significantly lower carbon footprint compared to most non-EU fertilizers, but Yara is not stopping there.

Yara is working to convert more of its production plants to make fossil-free, green fertilizers based on renewable electricity. Its first green fertilizers will be delivered next year. These green fertilizers will have an 80-90 percent lower carbon footprint than the ones produced with natural gas. Switching to green fertilizers will reduce dependency on fossil fuels and also the carbon footprint of crops by up to 30 percent. This is a game changer.

To contribute to a more sustainable and circular value chain in agriculture, nutrient recycling also needs to be upscaled. Reducing nutrient losses also means closing nutrient cycles, which requires collaboration throughout the entire food value chain. That is why through strategic partnerships, and by leveraging crop nutrition knowledge, Yara is identifying optimal ways to recycle nutrients. It has launched organic-based fertilizers in several European countries and is expanding its portfolio. This underlines the company’s commitment to playing a bigger role in organic and regenerative farming and in contributing to the circular economy. In addition, organic-based fertilizers complement Yara’s offering of mineral fertilizers and biostimulants, which help farmers meet current challenges.

Collaborating to build to a more resilient food system

There is already a lot we can do to bring us closer to a more resilient and sustainable food system. Using existing solutions and best practices, farmers in Europe can increase nutrient-use efficiency by 20 percent, increase yields and incomes by 5 percent to 7 percent and lower their carbon footprint linked to mineral fertilization by up to 20 percent. Now the public and private actors across the whole agri-food value chain have to work together to scale up these solutions, while also exploring other options — from new business models to targeted policy incentives.

Green fertilizers will have an 80-90 percent lower carbon footprint than the ones produced with natural gas.

To continue European production and reduce dependencies, it is essential to further support EU farmers through the existing mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy. Farmers need the best products and tools to produce more with less. Practicing balanced plant nutrition and selecting nitrate-based fertilizers produced in Europe, which have among the lowest carbon footprints and ammonia emissions, will ensure that crops are of the highest quality and will also minimize the impact on the environment. Therefore, reducing barriers for farmers to use low-carbon fertilizers and digital tools will help Europe decarbonize its food production.

A clear lesson from the war in Ukraine is that we also need to speed up investments, innovation and the transition to renewable energy sources in order to realize Europe’s zero-emissions future. By doing so, we will become less dependent on fossil fuels and, in turn, on Russian gas. This will ensure a competitive future for our fertilizer sector and secure Europe’s strategic autonomy in fertilizers and consequently food production. We should do this in combination with other measures supporting best nutrient management and agricultural practices, circular economy, digitalization and regenerative farming.

Transforming the food system in Europe, while securing its long-term sustainability and resiliency, can only be successful if supported by collective efforts — a challenge we all need to accept. Yara will do its part and is ready to continue to be a reliable partner in this transformation.



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