Looking forward to 2030: Nitrogen and the Sustainable Development Goals

Achim Dobermann

Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 2JQ, UK, achim.dobermann@rothamsted.ac.uk


The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a framework for all countries to develop and implement roadmaps for sustainable development in all its dimensions. Agriculture contributes to many of the new SDGs and their Targets. SDG 2 on ending hunger, improving nutrition and achieving a more sustainable agriculture is among the most challenging ones to achieve. Transformative changes will be required in how food is consumed and produced. Nitrogen as the world’s most important nutrient is a key currency for all that, requiring a full-chain approach to increase its overall efficiency and reducing its environmental impact. Agro-food systems in developed as well as developing countries need to become more precise in their management to achieve substantial increases in N use efficiency (NUE). A coherent, well-coordinated effort is needed for monitoring NUE at unprecedented levels of detail, using new sensing and data science technologies that are now becoming available. Many solutions exist, but they will require more investment as well as new ways of working to achieve faster and greater impact. Science should embrace an innovation culture, translating new ideas much faster into commercial technologies and actionable knowledge widely accessible to farmers and businesses along the whole nitrogen chain.