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Mineral and Chemical Fertilizers: 2002-2017

2019 Update: Inputs of Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate to Agricultural Soils from Mineral and Chemical Fertilizers, 2002-2017

Rome, 18 Dec 2019 - FAO releases today the 2019 analysis of the FAOSTAT Fertilizers statistics. The FAO data facilitate analysis on the availability, distribution, use and loss to the environment of chemical and mineral fertilizers, with regional and global trends, 2002-2017. The FAOSTAT data are collected from FAO member countries via questionnaires, and complemented when necessary by alternative official national sources and by FAO estimates. They are meant to provide a first starting point in analyzing national, regional and global fertilizers trends. The data document the important role of chemical and mineral fertilizers applications in agricultural soils for crop growth and yield. Nitrogen inputs can be usefully compared to data on the agricultural use of nitrogen from livestock manure, also disseminated in FAOSTAT.

2019 Update Highlights

Global

  • Chemical and mineral fertilizers provided 192 Mt as input to agricultural soils in 2017: 109 Mt nitrogen (N), 45 Mt phosphorus (expressed as P2O5) and 38 Mt potassium (expressed as K2O);
  • This total agricultural use was 36% higher in the aggregate than in 2002 (31% higher in the case of N and P2O5, and 61% higher in the case of K2O);
  • The compound world annual growth rate was 3.5% during the first five years 2002-2007, and 1.5% during 2007-2012, with the slow down mainly due to a fall in use in 2008 and 2009.In the most recent years, 2012-2017, agricultural use of chemical or mineral fertilizers showed an overall growth of 1.3%, lower than in the two previous periods. Use of nitrogen remained flat around 107 Mt N during most of this period, and use of phosphorous around 44 Mt P2O5. Use of potassium was the driver of growth in this period, with growth of 3.6% over the five years.
  • In 2017, chemical and mineral fertilizers use per cropland area was 123 tonnes of nutrients per hectare. Of this amount, average use by nutrient was about 70 t N/ha, 29 t P2O5 /ha to, and 24 t K2O /ha. This represented an increase in fertilizers use per hectare, of about 30% from 2002 to 2017, which was about 95 t/ha. By nutrient, the increase was about 24% for N, 25% for P2O5, and 53% for K2O.

Regional     

  • In 2017, Asia represented 57% of world agricultural use of chemical and mineral fertilizers, Americas represented 26%, Europe 12%, Africa 3% and Oceania 2%.Over the ten-year period 2008-2017, total livestock manure N inputs grew significantly in Africa (+3.1% yr-1) and Asia (1.1% yr-1), more slowly in South America (0.2% yr-1), while decreasing in Oceania (-0.6% yr-1), Europe and North America (-0.3% yr-1).
  • These figures can be usefully compared to the mean historical growth rates observed over the period 1961-2017, for Africa (+3.9% yr-1), Asia (2.6% yr-1), Europe (-0.3% yr-1) and Oceania (-0.4% yr-1), North America (0.2% yr-1) and South America (1.1% yr-1).
  • In 2017, values of fertilizer use per cropland area were about 185 t/ha in Asia (109 t N/ha, 44 t P2O5/ha, and 33 t K2O/ha), 135 t/ha in Americas (66 t N/ha, 34 t P2O5/ha, 35 t K2O/ha), 79 t/ha in Europe (52 t N/ha, 13 t P2O5/ha, 14 t K2O/ha), 66 t/ha in Oceania (34 t N/ha, 29 t P2O5/ha, 3 t K2O/ha), and 24 t/ha in Africa (15 t N/ha, 6 t P2O5/ha, 3 t K2O/ha).


Country

  • In 2017, the highest N inputs by country were recorded in China (29 Mt N, 12 Mt P2O5, 8 Mt K2O), India (15 Mt N, 6 Mt P2O5, 3 Mt K2O) the United States of America (12 Mt N, 4 Mt P2O5, 4 Mt K2O) and Brazil (3 Mt N, 4 Mt P2O5, 4 Mt K2O).The highest nitrogen inputs per cropland area were computed for Egypt (367 kg N/ha), Netherlands (243 kg N/ha), and China (220 kg N/ha).
  • The highest phosphate inputs per cropland area were computed for Lebanon (149 kg P2O5/ha), China (91 kg P2O5/ha), and Republic of Korea (94 kg P2O5/ha).
  • The highest potash inputs per cropland area were computed for Malaysia (115 kg K2O /ha), Oman (107 kg K2O /ha), and Colombia (104 kg K2O/ha).

Global Overview

Statistics on the use of synthetic (i.e., mineral and chemical) and organic fertilizers are crucial for identifying current practices and trends in soil N inputs and to inform planning and policies towards the design and implementation of more sustainable agricultural systems (FAO, 2017). The data in the FAOSTAT domain "Fertilizers by Nutrient” and "Fertilizers by Product" provide estimates of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P2O5) and potash (K2O) inputs to agricultural soils from chemical and mineral fertilizers. Estimates are computed and disseminated by country and in regional aggregates, for the period 2002–2017. Data are collected officially through a dedicated FAOSTAT questionnaire. They are complemented when necessary by alternative official data sources (such as official national statistical publications or web portals), as well as by estimation methods developed by FAO. 

The full methodology is described in the online metadata sheets of the FAOSTAT Fertilizers domains (see, e.g., fenixservices.fao.org/faostat/static/documents/RFN/RFN_EN_README.pdf and fenixservices.fao.org/faostat/static/documents/RFB/RFB_EN_README.pdf ).

Availability and use of mineral and chemical fertilizers parallels agricultural development around the world and has supported the large increases in crop production and yields recorder in FAOSTAT since 1961. Fertilizers provide essential plant macro and micro-nutrients –a key determinant of crop growth and yield. However, inappropriate management and excessive applications can also have detrimental effects on the environment, contributing to the contamination of water and soil resources and to high greenhouse gas emissions (see for example, FAOSTAT emissions estimates linked to fertilizers use). Efficient nutrient management plans and strategies are needed to maximize crop productivity while minimizing the potential environmental impact due to the high amount of nutrients being applied today.At global level, in 2017 total agricultural use of chemical or mineral fertilizers, in nutrients (expressed as N + P2O5 + K2O), was 192 Mt: 109 Mt nitrogen (N), 45 Mt phosphorus (expressed as P2O5) and 38 Mt potassium (expressed as K2O). This total agricultural use was 36% higher than the level in 2002 (31% higher in the case of N and P2O5, and 61% higher in the case of K2O).The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the total world value was 3.5% during the first five years 2002-2007, but it was then reduced to 1.5% during 2007-2012, due to a fall in use levels in 2008 and 2009. This reduction was particularly intense for P2O5 and K2O, with CAGR 2007-2009 of -2.5% and -16.6% respectively, while not so much for N, which during 2007-2009 remained approximately flat, at world level. Agricultural use of fertilizers grew again in 2008-2012, compensating the overall result for the five-year period 2007-2012.In the most recent years, 2012-2017, agricultural use of chemical or mineral fertilizers showed an overall CAGR of 1.3%, lower than in the two previous periods. Use of nitrogen remained around 107 Mt N during most of this period, and use of phosphorous around 44 Mt P2O5 (except for a dip in 2015). Use of potassium was the driver of growth in this period, with CAGR 3.6% over the five years (although it also fell in the middle of this period, 2015-2016).

Regional Overview

By region, in 2017, Asia represented 57% of world agricultural use of chemical fertilizers (expressed as N + P2O5 + K2O), Americas represented 26%, Europe 12%, Africa 3% and Oceania 2%.CountriesIn 2017, the highest N inputs by country were recorded in China (29 Mt N, 12 Mt P2O5, 8 Mt K2O), India (15 Mt N, 6 Mt P2O5, 3 Mt K2O) the United States of America (12 Mt N, 4 Mt P2O5, 4 Mt K2O) and Brazil (3 Mt N, 4 Mt P2O5, 4 Mt K2O). The highest nitrogen inputs per cropland area were computed for Egypt (367 kg N/ha), Netherlands (243 kg N/ha), and China (220 kg N/ha).

The highest phosphate inputs per cropland area were computed for Lebanon (149 kg P2O5/ha), China (91 kg P2O5/ha), and Republic of Korea (94 kg P2O5/ha). The highest potash inputs per cropland area were computed for Malaysia (115 kg K2O /ha), Oman (107 kg K2O /ha), and Colombia (104 kg K2O /ha).

Explanatory Notes

The FAOSTAT domains Fertilizers by Nutrient and Fertilizers by Product, and the associated Agri-environmental domain Fertilizers Indicators, present information on the use of N, P2O5 and K2O for applications to agricultural soils. These estimates are also used as an input to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, which are disseminated in the FAOSTAT domains “Synthetic Fertilizers”.

References

FAO, 2019. FAOSTAT Fertilizers domains, www.fao.org/faostat/en/; www.fao.org/faostat/en/ ; and www.fao.org/faostat/en/. Downloaded Dec 18 2019.

 

Figure 1. Global N inputs to agricultural soils from mineral and chemical synthetic fertilizers (2002–2017)
Figure 2. Comparison of regional average N, P2O5 and K2O inputs from mineral and chemical fertilizers in 2002 to 2017.