Fertilizers: an essential resource to meet global food demand
Fertilizers supply nutrients needed for good crop quality and yield. Fertilizer production entails gathering raw materials from nature, purifying them to increase their concentration, converting them into plant-available forms and often combining them into products containing more than one nutrient.
Plants need sun, water and nutrients to grow. The three principal nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K). If one is lacking, plant growth is limited and crop yields are reduced.
Fertilizers are essential to deliver the nutrients crops require in the right amounts at the right time. The addition of fertilizers to crops can result in the doubling or even tripling of yields.
Yield improvements from correct fertilizer application have been demonstrated frequently – by individual farmers, large agricultural companies and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Each individual nutrient, whether required in large or small amounts, plays a specifi c role in plant growth and food production. One nutrient cannot be substituted for another.
N – Nitrogen
Improves the growth and yield of crops
Absorbed from the soil in the form of nitrates or ammonium, nitrogen is the key component of plant growth. As the essential constituent of proteins, it features in all key stages of plant development, protein and yield formation. It is also a component of chlorophyll: essential for optimum crop size.
P – Phosphate
Speeds up crop maturity and improves quality
Phosphorous is essential for root development and cell division; it also accelerates maturity. It plays a key role in energy transfer and is essential for photosynthesis. Most agricultural soils are deficient in phosphorus. When there are problems with phosphorous fixation, this also limits its availability.
K – Potassium
Helps fight crop disease while improving quality
Potassium (potash) activates more than 60 enzymes, substances which play a key role in carbohydrate and protein synthesis. It improves a plant’s water regime and increases tolerance to disease, drought, frost and salinity. It also strengthens stems and roots whilst adding flavour, texture and colour to food crops.