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Fertilizers - An Essential Ingredient For Securing The Future

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<p>The dependence on fertilizers for supporting agriculture for the production of food, feed, fibre and fuel is well known. According to current estimates approximately 40% of the current crop production is due to the use of chemical fertilizers. With increasing population and with improved standard of living leading to protein rich diets, it is projected that world needs to produce 70% more crops by the year 2050. This will be a herculean task given limited arable land, climate change impacts and competing demands for water, making fertilizer usage as a major driver in achieving this goal.</p><p>Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash are the &lsquo;&rsquo;Primary&rsquo;&rsquo; fertilizer nutrients which are needed in bulk quantities. Apart from these there are micronutrients, though needed in small quantities, nevertheless important for crop production.&nbsp; Naturally occurring minerals mined from various ore deposits supply most of the fertilizer nutrients except Nitrogen, which is abundant in air but is not easily assimilated by plants. Thus nitrogen is synthesised in the form of ammonia, which is the building block of Nitrogen fertilizer. The other primary nutrients, Phosphorous and Potash, which are sourced from underground mines are widely disbursed across the world.</p><p>Intensive cultivation has led to depletion of nutrients from soil leading to poor soil health, mainly leading to micronutrient deficiency. This can have serious impact on human health. Recognising this speciality fertilizers and micronutrient based fertilizers are gaining ground in agriculture.</p><p>Environmental concerns and emphasis on responsible and sustainable agriculture have driven fertilizer production processes into energy efficient mode and consumption of fertilizers into judicious and balanced use of nutrients. Ammonia, the main building block of &lsquo;&rsquo;Nitrogen&rsquo;&rsquo; fertilizer consumes significant amount of energy. Currently more than 900 plants are producing 200 million tons of ammonia annually across the world using energy derived from fossil fuels. While Ammonia is used as nitrogen source through direct application of ammonia in North America, vast majority users apply it in the form of urea, nitrates and nitro-phosphates. &nbsp;</p><p>With a view to decarbonising the production of ammonia efforts are on to produce using solar energy- &lsquo;&rsquo;the green ammonia&rsquo;&rsquo; and also its use as energy source in fuel cells.</p><p>Nitrogen application, though has reached saturation level in developed countries, there is a big potential for increased application in many countries, especially Sub Saharan Africa, where fertilizer application rates are abysmally low. &nbsp;Given the current dynamics, fertilizer will continue to drive the agriculture and food production in the foreseeable future. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
KR Expert - CMT Britto