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Food security in Africa: growing legumes to reduce the need for mineral fertilizers?
Wednesday, 2023/05/10 | 07:55:15

CIRAD News; April 28 2023


Figure: Groundnut plot in Ndiob, Senegal, where the legume is often grown in rotation with millet or sorghum © R. Belmin, CIRAD


Legumes are true green manure for crops, as they are able to fix nitrogen from the air in the soil and thus boost the growth of plants grown alongside them. In Africa, several farming systems use certain legumes in association with cereals: cowpeas, groundnuts, etc. Could legumes partially replace mineral fertilizers? What role could they play in food security on the African continent?


Ending hunger by 2030 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. This is a huge challenge in sub-Saharan Africa, where one third of all households are still exposed to food insecurity. To meet the demand of the rapidly growing African population, the need to substantially increase cereal crop yields is widely acknowledged.


These crop yields are severely limited in the region by the depletion of soil nutrients after decades of continuous cropping with insufficient fertilization, itself resulting from inadequate use of mineral fertilizers and a lack of biomass available for organic fertilization.


Currently, the quantity of nitrogen input would need to increase 15-fold to reach a cereal crop yield compatible with food security.



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