There are a number of factors indicating the need for producers to increase future fertilizer use and efficiency. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s (CAST) recent study on the demand for more food, fuel and fiber puts these projected increases in perspective for producers.
Global food demands will need to be met without additional land, so crop productivity and soil management must lead the way. Since the 1970’s, removal rates of N, P and K in the U.S. have been on an upward trend, increasing by 77,000, 56,000 and 74,000 St per year, respectively. That means the use of commercial fertilizers supplying these nutrients will need to increase significantly to outpace removal rates in the years to come.
Population dynamics, the impact of biofuels and land use and productivity are all a part of the equation in determining future fertilizer nutrient requirements. For yields to continue to rise, soil fertility, particularly in P and K levels, must be a primary consideration. Because soil fertility accounts for as much as 60 percent of yield, increasing nutrient rates based on nutrient removal is going to be imperative in order to provide for our growing population.
The sooner we begin to address the issues at hand with proper fertility practices, the longer we’ll be able to sustain healthy levels of crop production.