News & Media :: Daily Log
Leadership in Action
Oct 23, 2010
In a heavily attended meeting associated with the award of the "World Food Prize," Howard Buffet said that a "brown revolution" focused on building soil quality is more important than new seeds and fertilizer in promoting food security in Africa. The comments were made in Des Moines, Iowa on October 13th.
His talk emphasized the complexity of enhancing food security, leading him to predict that "Simply distributing seeds and fertilizer, if that's the plan, will fail long term."
The exact same point is made in the commentary "The Browning of the Green Revolution" by R.L. Mulvaney, S.A. Kahn, and T.R. Ellsworth, three scientists affiliated with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois.
This compelling commentary explains how excessive nitrogen fertilizer use can accelerate the decomposition of organic matter, eroding long-term soil quality.
Fertilizer can help boost crop yields in the short run in most resource-poor regions with degraded soils, but excessive use tends to trigger spikes in soil microbial populations. Hungry microbes gotta' eat, and soil organic matter is their meal of choice.
Howard Buffet is 100% correct in calling for greater focus on building soil quality and fertility as a first order of priority. Healthier soil must form the foundation of higher levels of productivity, if higher yields are to be sustained and not come at ever-higher cash and environmental costs.
Source: Alan Bjerga and Andrew Frye, "Africa Needs 'Brown Revolution' in Soil, Howard Buffet Says", Bloomberg, October 13, 2010.