Fertilisers are critical to ensure optimal level of production of sugarcane, but do pose risks to the environmental sustainability if used without adequate management of soil quality and disposal, which can potentially lead to problems such as runoff and pollution of water streams and to the financial sustainability if used outside of the recommended levels of application.
Average fertiliser application has reduced 15% in 2015/16 compared to 2014/15 (the highest application rate in the series at 303.14 kg Phosphate equivalent per hectare). Generally, fertiliser applications are still below the recommended individual application issued by a local expert or derived from locally recognised best practices. In 2015/16 fertilization application was 17.5% below the recommended levels.
When comparing the ratio of mills certified since 2012 to the average of all mills, we observe that these mills have maintained a higher ratio toward the recommended levels (83.8% in 2015/16 compared to 82.5%). However, the ratio is also continuously decreasing over the years .
The revised Bonsucro Production Standard (v.4.2) stipulates that a mill can apply up to 5% more fertilisers in relation to its recommended application rate. Most mills (82.5%) apply less fertilisers than what is recommended, and therefore, are compliant to the Standard’s requirement. Nonetheless, although this is potentially positive in terms of environmental impacts and biodiversity protection, more data and analyses would be necessary to assess whether this “under fertilisation” is sustainable in the longer-term from a productivity and economic perspective.