Published online: Dec 16, 2009
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The International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) last week released publicly its Short-Term Fertilizer Outlook 2009-2010. The Association is concerned with the current predominance of nitrogen in fertilization practices and the potential yield impact of currently low application rates for phosphorus and potassium. The industry encourages farmers to adopt good agricultural practices, including balanced fertilization for optimum nutrient use efficiency.
IFA's fertilizer consumption data indicates that farmers in a number of countries have been postponing their applications of phosphorus and potassium because of the current volatility of agricultural commodities and input prices. Aggregate consumption in 2008/09[1] is assessed as down 6.7%, to 156.4 Mt nutrients (for the 3 main nutrients NPK[2]). Consumption is estimated to have contracted much more sharply for P and K fertilizers (-10.5 and -19.8%, respectively) than for N (-1.5%). Demand increased in South Asia and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, while it remained fairly stable in Africa and declined in all other regions. The largest changes in volumes occurred in South Asia (+2.1 Mt) on the positive side, and in Western and Central Europe (-4.3 Mt), North America (-3.4 Mt), East Asia (-3 Mt) and Latin America (-2.4 Mt) on the negative side.
Despite application rates well below crop requirements, farmers in the United States are expected to harvest a bumper maize crop, and farmers in France have enjoyed record wheat yields. However, by doing so they are mining their soil nutrient reserves. Such practice is not sustainable in the long-term. The return to sustainable fertilization practices will probably be triggered by more stable and predictable crop prices.