A diverse range of nutrients is required for a healthy and active human life. Good nutrition, or correct food consumption as per the body's nutritional needs, is essential to provide these nutrients. Nutritional quality has been overlooked in the pursuit of a single-minded goal of boosting food grain production for feeding the ever-growing human population. The resulting dietary issues are the major source of worry for about half of the world's population. Fe insufficiency affects 60-80 percent of the world's population, whereas, Zn deficiency affects about 30 percent. Furthermore, over 800 million people, mostly women and children are unable to fulfil even their most basic energy needs. It is, therefore, crucial to producing food of exceptional nutritional quality to address prevalent nutritional deficiencies among individuals. Nutrition begins with what we consume, the food items and eventually, the agriculture sector. To achieve a sustainable agroecosystem, balanced crop nutrition is an integrated strategy to meet the nutritional demands of the crop throughout its life cycle. It includes the use of secondary nutrients, micronutrients, and organic manures in addition to the traditional nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium applications. Managing soil fertility and understanding the nutrient requirements of plants needed for optimal growth are necessary for achieving balanced crop nutrition.
For optimal plant growth and development, 17 essential plant nutrients are essential. Even if all other essential nutrients are present, a deficiency of any of these has a detrimental impact on the crop. A good crop feeding strategy at the farm level can be achieved with a balanced supply of nutrients. Balanced nutrition is essential to obtain high yields and quality produce, moving towards harnessing the crop’s maximum genetic potential. The balanced fertilization can, therefore, ensure an optimum supply of each essential nutrient at every growth stage avoiding any over or underuse and optimizing crop productivity while conserving the environment. So, the application of nutrients through the right source with the right application rate at the right time and at the right place is essential. The balanced and precise nutrient application can be done through integrated nutrient management approaches involving the use of synthetic fertilizers and organics. Balanced nutrition of crops can be done through soil test crop response technique, site-specific nutrient management and variable rate technology. Fertigation is also the most efficient method of fertilizer application. Biofortification of crops with the desired quality traits can be a value addition to the produced food. Artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) can be used for balanced and precise nutrient applications. Information and communication technology can play a role in the dissemination of technology.
To summarize, nutrient-rich food, grown on healthy soil, produced through balanced fertilization, is cardinal for a healthy human population. There has to be a paradigm shift that acknowledges the critical need for agriculture to focus on providing enough food and a balanced diet of high nutritional quality and diversity for all people, guaranteeing healthy and productive lives.