insights - November 2015 - (Page 1)
Publication of Sosland Publishing Co.
Sponsored by INTL FCStone Inc.
The future of fertilizer: Critical to feed a growing world
Fertilizers play a key role in allowing new varieties of grain to reach their yield potential. Some suggest yields would be 30% to 60%
below current levels without fertilizer use. Will there be enough fertilizer to produce sufficient food to feed 9 billion people in 2050?`
KANSAS CITY - If United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization forecasts are realized, the world will need 30%
more food to feed a growing population by 2025, just 10 years
from now, and 50% more food by 2050 as the population reaches
an expected 9 billion. A number of factors are key to achieving
such an increase in food production, and one of the most
important is fertilizer, which is estimated to account for as much
as 60% of the world's food production.
Studies have indicated between 30% and 60% (with numerous
variables such as soils, crops, etc., affecting the outcome) of
current crop yields are the result of fertilizer use. New arable
land available to bring into crop production is limited, especially
amid increasing concerns about sustainable agriculture, water
conservation and the environment. Much of the "responsibility"
to increase food production falls on new higher-yielding crops
and smarter and more precise use of crop inputs in which fertilizer
plays a key, if not the key, role. So one could argue the question
of will there be enough food may well hinge on another question:
Will there be enough fertilizer?
Before answering that question, it's important to look at the
current fertilizer landscape: what exactly is fertilizer, what are the
most important fertilizers, where do they come from and how do
they get to where they need to be? What about organic fertilizer
as organic food demand soars? And how has abundant and lowpriced natural gas affected the fertilizer landscape?
To start, it's important to know the difference between fertilizers
and nutrients. According to The Fertilizer Institute (T.F.I.),
"fertilizer" and "plant food" are terms used to describe additives
that increase soil fertility - its capability to produce abundant
crops. "Nutrients" are substances that provide nourishment
essential for growth and maintenance of life.
"Nutrients are what are provided, through the application of
fertilizer, to enhance the fertility of the soil," T.F.I. said.
The world's largest fertilizer users are China, India, the United
States and Brazil, according to T.F.I. The largest users of fertilizers
in the United States are naturally the largest crops produced:
corn, soybeans and wheat. T.F.I. said it takes about 1.5 to 2 lbs of
fertilizer nutrients to produce 1 bu of corn, 1 to 1.5 lbs for 1 bu of
soybeans and 2.5 to 3.5 lbs for 1 bu of wheat.
"When you consider that every field of crops in the world is
made up of individual growing plants, each in need of nutrients,
the fertilizer industry has a distribution and economic challenge
unrivaled in almost any other business," said Fertilizer101.org, a
sister web site of The Fertilizer Institute.
Fertilizer - the basics
There are 17 essential elements needed to develop and grow crops
to their full genetic potential. Three come from the air or water -
carbon, hydrogen and oxygen - and thus are not a focus of this
paper, other than to say that altitude, greenhouse gases and other
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insights - November 2015