According to the recently released FAO Global Trends and Prospects for Chemical Fertilizer 2018, by 2018, the world's fertilizer consumption will achieve an annual growth rate of 1.8%.
At the same time, the production capacity of global fertilizer products, intermediate products and raw materials will also be further enhanced,” the report pointed out.
Given that the potential for chemical fertilizer production will exceed its utilization, the global potential balance of the three major soil fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (technical terms describing the relationship between availability and actual demand) will increase.
According to the FAO's outlook report, by 2018, the global use of nitrogen fertilizer, the largest fertilizer category to date, is expected to increase by 1.4% per year, while phosphate and potash use will increase by 2.2% and 2.6% respectively. In comparison, the supply of these three major fertilizers is expected to increase by 3.7%, 2.7% and 4.2% per year respectively.
The report did not forecast future price trends, but mentioned that after the surge in 2011, the fertilizer prices in mid-2014 were generally lower than the 2010 levels.
Nitrogen Fertilizer: Increase and Quantity
Sub-Saharan Africa has the fastest growth in demand for nitrogen fertilizers, which is expected to be 4.6% per year. However, due to the current low usage, nitrogen fertilizer use in the region in 2018 only increased by 340,000 tons on a 2014 basis, which is less than 5% of the global forecast growth.
The use of nitrogen fertilizers in East Asia and South Asia together account for 60% of the global total and will increase slightly in the next four years, but will increase the number by an additional 3.3 million tons.
According to FAO's forecast, the use of nitrogen fertilizer by North American farmers in 2018 is expected to increase by an additional 300,000 tons, with an average annual growth rate of 0.5%, while farmers in Western Europe plan to reduce their use by 50,000 tons.
New ways to maintain healthy soil
Fertilization is a way to supplement the nitrogen that is lost when the crop is harvested. Although the application of large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers may cause waste and damage to water sources, in the post-war period, a significant increase in the use of chemical fertilizers will help to rapidly increase agricultural productivity.
Extreme examples of soil contamination include the overuse of fertilizers in some places resulting in nitrogen deposition, and in some cases the destruction of the water system. On the other hand, in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, insufficient fertilizer use means that the nutrients extracted from the soil from crops have not been replenished, resulting in land degradation and production decline.
The first principle of the FAO publications “Savings and Growth” and the “Building a Sustainable Vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture” provides the means to maintain or restore soil health while continuing to increase crop yields with less input. FAO Plants Clayton Campanhola, director of the Department of Production and Protection, said.
The use of crop rotations, mulching and manure for local conditions also contributes to the nitrogen supplementation of the soil. Some plants, especially legumes such as soybeans, contain microorganisms in their roots that can take nitrogen from the air and provide it to plants.
FAO has also established a method for real-time monitoring of crop growth conditions that can determine the amount of fertilizer used according to specific needs. Different from sowing fertilization, precise fertilization can also reduce the damage caused by waste and nitrogen runoff.
In 2015, it was designated as the “International Year of Soil”. During this period, FAO and other partners worked together to mobilize the general public to pay attention to the sustainable management of soil, an important resource for food production.
Fertilizer use trend
In the next few years, there will be great differences in the use of chemical fertilizers in various regions, of which sub-Saharan Africa has strong demand for nitrogen and potash fertilizers, although its current utilization level is relatively low.
As a whole, Asia is the world's largest consumer of fertilizers, and all three major fertilizers are imported, even though West Asia can continue to provide large amounts of excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium fertilizers.
Europe as a whole can also provide the remaining products of all three nutrients because Eastern Europe and Central Asia have large surpluses. By 2018, the use of chemical fertilizers in Western Europe has changed little, while the easternmost region will increase by 3.6% annually.
According to FAO estimates, during the forecast period, all three fertilizers in Latin America and the Caribbean need to be imported, and the use of fertilizer is expected to see a strong annual growth of 3.3%.
There is still a large difference in total nitrogen demand across continents. In 2018, Africa will need 4.1 million tons, 15.7 million tons in Europe, 23.5 million tons in the Americas and 74.20 million tons in Asia.