Anne Biklé and David R. Montgomery write: Most of us are familiar with the much-maligned Western diet and its mainstay of processed food products found in the middle aisles of the grocery store. Some of us beeline for the salty chips and others for the sugar-packed cereals. But we are not the only ones eating junk food. An awful lot of crops grown in the developed world eat a botanical version of this diet—main courses of conventional fertilizers with pesticide sides.
It’s undeniable that crops raised on fertilizers have produced historical yields. After all, the key ingredients of most fertilizers — nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) — make plants grow faster and bigger. And popular insecticides and herbicides knock back plant enemies. From 1960 to 2000, a time when the world’s population doubled, global grain production rose even more quickly. It tripled.
But there is a trade-off. High-yielding crops raised on a steady diet of fertilizers appear to have lower levels of certain minerals and nutrients. The diet our crops eat influences what gets into our food, and what we get — or don’t get — out of these foods when we eat them. [Continue reading…]