Crop Nutrition

Global Fertilizer use rose by 40 percent since 2000

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14 December 2021, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has published its World Food and Agriculture Statistical Yearbook 2021, which provides a comprehensive overview of the global food and agricultural landscape and a summary of data on food, nutrition and agriculture. According to the Statistical Yearbook, total agricultural use of inorganic fertilizers, expressed as the sum of the three nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (expressed as P2O5) and potassium (expressed as K2O), was 189 million tonnes in 2019.

As shown in below chart, the breakdown was 108 million tonnes of nitrogen (57 percent of the total), 43 million tonnes of phosphorus (23 percent) and 37 million tonnes of potassium (20 percent). The overall fertilizer use in 2019 was 54 million tonnes, or 40 percent, higher than in 2000 (33 percent higher for nitrogen, 34 percent higher for phosphorus and 73 percent higher for potassium).

Asia represented 56 percent of world total agricultural use of inorganic fertilizers in 2019, followed by the Americas (26 percent), Europe (12 percent), Africa (4 percent) and Oceania (2 percent). This ranking of the regions is the same for all nutrients. The main users of inorganic fertilizers are, in descending order, China, India, the United States of America and Brazil, with China the largest user of each nutrient.

Fertilizer use increased in all regions between 2000 and 2019. The total for the three nutrients went up 33 million tonnes – the largest increase in absolute terms – in Asia, or 46 percent. The fastest increase took place in Africa, with a growth of 79 percent equivalent to just 3 million tonnes due to the low starting level. In the Americas, fertilizer use posted a 47 percent increase, or 16 million tonnes, while in Oceania it went up 14 percent (or 0.4 million tonnes) compared to 6 percent in Europe (or 1.4 million tonnes).

The mix of nutrients varies across the regions. Nitrogen is the dominant nutrient, accounting for at least 60 percent of fertilizer use in Europe (64 percent), Africa (61 percent) and Asia (60 percent), and around half of the total in Oceania (51 percent) and the Americas (49 percent). The use of phosphorus accounts for 17 to 25 percent of the total in all the regions except Oceania, where its share is 36 percent. The share of potassium in fertilizer use is the highest in the Americas with 26 percent, followed by Europe (19 percent), Asia (18 percent), Africa (14 percent) and Oceania (13 percent). The use of phosphorus declined in Europe and Oceania between 2000 and 2019, while the use of potassium declined only in Europe over the same period.World agricultural use of inorganic fertilizers per cropland area rose by 34 percent during the 2000–2019 period, to 122 kg of nutrients per hectare – expressed as the sum of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This corresponds to an increase of 31 kg/ha compared with 2000. Of the total amount, 70 kg/ha correspond to nitrogen (up 28 percent), 28 kg/ha to phosphorus (up 28 percent) and 24 kg/ha to potassium (up 63 percent).

Fertilizer use per cropland area in 2019 was the highest in Asia, at 180 kg/ha, followed by the Americas (135 kg/ha), Oceania (82 kg/ha), Europe (80 kg/ha) and Africa (26 kg/ha). With a growth rate of 49 percent between 2000 and 2019, Africa was the region with the fastest increase in fertilizer use per cropland area, ahead of the Americas (+47 percent), Asia (+37 percent) and Europe (+12 percent) – Oceania is the only region showing a decrease (-8 percent).

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