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Fertilizers in uncertain times

Climate change, the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine have raised awareness and public debate on the vulnerability of food production. All mineral fertilizers used in Swedish agriculture are imported. A reduction in these imports, even for a single growing season, would lead to large production losses.

Fertilizers are important!

To produce food, a number of agricultural inputs are required. Fertilizers is one of the most important inputs for crops to grow. In the short term, nitrogen is the most important fertilizer as it needs to be applied to the fields every year to prevent yield losses. Without nitrogen fertilization in the spring, the harvest of our most common crops will decrease by 30-60% already the first year. In the longer run, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur also become important constraints for agricultural productivity.

There is currently no production of mineral fertilizers in Sweden

Today, the supply of mineral fertilizer for Swedish agriculture is based on imports, we lack our own production. Agricultural input commodities are purchased on a global market and just-in-time, which makes crop production very vulnerable.

However, a higher degree of self-sufficiency in fertilizers could be achieved through better utilization of existing nutrient-rich residue flows within the country's borders, and increased cultivation of nitrogen-fixing crops.

Project aim

The aim of this project is to develop knowledge that enable an increased self-sufficiency of fertilizer, in the short term for preparedness reasons but also in the longer term to facilitate a transition to a more circular food system. The project also aims to investigate what role different actors play in the value chain and to increase awareness of preparedness amongst key actors.

The project will examine how we can provide the Swedish population with food in a situation where imports of inputs are cut off. In a real crisis, we can expect to be forced to change our diet. Examples of crisis diets have been established by the Swedish Food Agency. What would such crisis diets require in the form of plant nutrition?

How can we provide agriculture with fertilizers?

Through a mapping of relevant businesses, techniques and actors in Sweden, we will identify promising value chains. We investigate technologies for production of fertilizers from nutrient-rich residual flows and study the practical conditions for quickly switching to a use of these residual flows in the event of a crisis. What facilities and existing infrastructure are there that can be used? What logistics and solutions are required? What new technologies are being developed, and when might they be in place?

We must not compromise with sustainability

It is important that preparedness and sustainability goes hand in hand. We will evaluate the technical solutions, and with system studies calculate the environmental impact of the scenarios that we develop in the project.

The results will form an excellent basis for future research on development towards a resilient and circular food system, can form an important part designing a national fertilizer strategy, and in the construction of the civil defense.

Reference group

The project has a reference group with members from: Swedish Board of Agriculture, YARA, Lantmännen, Ekobalans, Ragn-Sells, Swedish Water & Wastewater Association, IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.

Reading suggestions

Einarsson, R., Henriksson, M., Hoffmann, M., & Cederberg, C. (2022). The nitrogen footprint of Swedish food consumption. Environmental Research Letters, 17(10), 104030.

Food security portal. Tool: Food and Fertilizer Export Restrictions Tracker.

Borch, A., & Kjaernes, U. (2016). Food security and food insecurity in Europe: An analysis of the academic discourse (1975–2013). Appetite, 103, 137-147.

FAO, 2020. The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050.


Project name

Fertilizers in uncertain times



RISE role in project


Project start


3 years

Total budget



Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU, Department of Energy and Technology, Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI, Participating from SLU: Rasmus Einarsson, Jennifer McConville and a postdoc, Participating from FOI: Erika Öhlund



Project members

Serina Ahlgren

Contact person

Serina Ahlgren


+46 70 630 70 13

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Contact person

Elin Kusoffsky


+46 10 516 69 90

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