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Agricultural & Environmental Letters Abstract - Commentary

Distant Views and Local Realities: The Limits of Global Assessments to Restore the Fragmented Phosphorus Cycle


This article in AEL

  1. Vol. 1 No. 1 160024
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: July 18, 2016
    Accepted: Sept 20, 2016
    Published: October 6, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): sharpley@uark.edu
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  1. Andrew Sharpley *a,
  2. Peter Kleinmanb,
  3. Helen Jarviec and
  4. Don Flatend
  1. a Dep. of Crop Soil and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville AR 72701, USA
    b USDA-ARS, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
    c Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK
    d Dep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada
Core Ideas:
  • Meta-analysis of “big data” can identify P disconnects in P cycles, stocks and flows.
  • Understanding of farming realities is needed to identify root causes of change.
  • Access to “big data” without grounding in reality can lead to misleading conclusions.
  • Researchers must ensure production and conservation tactics consider farming realities.


With more sophisticated data compilation and analytical capabilities, the evolution of “big data” analysis has occurred rapidly. We examine the meta-analysis of “big data” representing phosphorus (P) flows and stocks in global agriculture and address the need to consider local nuances of farm operations to avoid erroneous or misleading recommendations. Of concern is the disconnect between macro-needs for better P resource management at regional and national scales versus local realities of P management at farm scales. Both agricultural and environmental researchers should focus on providing solutions to disconnects identified by meta-analyses and ensure that production and conservation strategies consider farming realities.

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Copyright © 2016. Copyright © 2016 by the American Society of Agronomy, Inc.