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Facts about Fertilizer

Food and Nutrition Security

Over the past 50 years, increases in global food production have fed billions more people. Yet an estimated 925 million people remain hungry, almost 1 in 7 people.

Fertilizer use is currently responsible for approximately 50% of the world’s food supply. By 2050, an estimated 70% more food will need to be grown to meet the needs of a growing population. Fertilizer use has helped to dramatically increase global crop yields. According to the World Bank, low fertilizer use has contributed to Africa’s lagging agricultural productivity growth.

By 2050, 77% of future growth in crop production is expected to come from yield increases, with 14% from increased cropping intensity and 9% from bringing new land under cultivation. Fertilizer is a key input for increasing yields.

The FAO estimates that women farmers worldwide are 20-30% less productive than male farmers and one of the main causes is that they have less access to inputs. On family farms, the men use most of the fertilizers for the plots.

Soil Health

Micronutrient-enriched fertilizers increase soil fertility, helping to boost yields and improve health. For instance, there is a strong correlation between zinc deficiency in soils and zinc-related illnesses in humans, especially in Peru, sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. Zinc fertilization is an innovative product to fight malnutrition by adding zinc to fertilizers.
In many developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan
Africa, degraded soils are becoming less productive. This is often because farmers lack access to sufficient fertilizer, either organic or mineral. The low use of inorganic fertilizer is one of the main causes of environmental degradation in Africa.

Modern agricultural practices, such as the use of fertilizer, have helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by increasing yields per hectare. Healthy soils can also sequester carbon, further mitigating climate change.

In many countries, especially in the developing world, the availability of organic sources of fertilizer is insufficient to meet crop needs. They also deliver far fewer essential nutrients per unit weight than mineral fertilizers.

Environmental Stewardship

By 2050, agricultural yields are expected to decrease over much of the world due to climate change. Giving farmers access to yield-increasing inputs, such as fertilizer, can help them adapt to this challenge.

Fertilizers help to increase yields on existing farmland rather than bringing new land under cultivation. This helps safeguard natural habitats and forests while meeting global production needs.

Global studies have shown that higher yielding farms are more water efficient, with the greatest potential for future gains coming from very low-yielding areas. Fertilizers help deepen crops’ root structure.

Sustainable Agriculture

Infrastructure development is a critical, long-term investment for connecting farmers both to input and output markets.

More precise use of fertilizer can help increase its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This means using the right source of nutrient, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.

There is no indication that phosphate production, a primary mineral source used in fertilizers, will peak in the next 20-25 years or even within the next century.

More precise fertilizer application can be achieved by improving the accuracy and timing of applications through the use of engineering and computer-aided technologies, such as remote sensing.

In the 1960s, the breeding of improved varieties of rice, wheat and maize, combined with the expanded use of fertilizers, other chemical inputs and irrigation, led to dramatic increases in yields in Asia and Latin America. Since then high-yielding varieties have been developed for other major food crops. This is known as the “Green Revolution”.

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