What did you have for dinner last night? Was it a vegetable stew, spaghetti with sauce, spicy chicken or a delicious hamburger? There’s more than enough to choose from in the Netherlands. But have you ever asked yourself where all that good food comes from? That tender beef, those fresh beans, that crispy lettuce? Ultimately, we get all that delicious, healthy food from our farmers, who are responsible for keeping soil fertile, for planting seeds, and for ensuring plants have plenty of sunlight and water. Millions of farmers around the world work every day to make sure that we have enough food. But they can’t do that without fertilizer.
Producing more food on less soil
In 1960, there were 11 million mouths to feed in the Netherlands. Today there are almost 17 million. In that same period, some of the farmland that covered the Netherlands was replaced by housing estates, business parks and nature reserves. The amount of farmland has only decreased, in other words. Our farmers have to use the land still available to them more efficiently than ever. Fortunately, they can: modern farming methods and our fertilizer mean they can grow more grain and more vegetables, raise more livestock and produce more fruit, all on less soil. The Netherlands is now an example for the rest of the world when it comes to the sensible use of fertilizer.
But what about our children?
We naturally want our children to have as much healthy food to eat in the future as we do today. That’s something parents all over the world want. Forecasts are that the world population will reach around 9 billion people in 2050, and that prosperity will increase worldwide. The challenge is how to feed all those people. Farmers will have to produce 70% more than they do now, and that means growing even more grain, more soy, more rice and more vegetables. But the amount of available farmland is shrinking. Emerging countries will have to start using more efficient farming methods, the way the Netherlands has. Sensible use of fertilizer – the right amount at the right time and in the right place – is and will remain a necessity if we hope to feed the world population.
What’s for dinner tomorrow?
This article was published in Dutch on Thursday January, 30 in the supplement "Agri and Food, the story behind your food" of the Dutch newspaper 'Telegraaf'.