World Population, Growth and Food Supply
Market Demand for Food and Fertilizers
Demand of food commodity is increasing due to:
- World population is presently at about 6 billion people and by 2025, world population will grow to over 8 billion people. This forecast means food production will need to double in the next 20 years in order to provide world food security.
- Today, 1 out of 3 people in the world lacks what some global food industry observers refer to as food security. They cannot grow or afford to buy enough food.
- Most of the future population growth will be seen in developing nations such as India and China.
- There are also changing diets to higher meat consumption in the developing countries (1kg beef = 8 kg animal feed). As a result, increased demand for crop output.
- If we were to try to feed the world without the aid of fertilizer, billions of more people would starve.
- The United Nation's (UN) forecast world's population to peak at about 9.3 billion by 2050.
- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported the total world demand for agricultural products will be 60% higher in 2030 than it is today.
- Thanks to science, modern fertilizing techniques and best management practices, today's farmers are using significantly less land while feeding twice the number of people as they did 50 years ago as a result of using fertilizers composed of potash, nitrogen and phosphate.
Key Nutrients in Fertilizers and Use
The key nutrients in most fertilizers are Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus, found in the earth and the air. All plants require these 3 nutrients to grow and thrive.
- Potassium ("K") is an element and Potash (KCl) is a general term used to describe various mineral compound deposits containing potassium. Potash is natural mineral deposit left by ancient evaporated seas and is mostly mined from deposits from the earth. Potash is primarily a key nutrient used for crops and plant growth and is required in greater amounts in plants compared to any other nutrient (except nitrogen) with the most common being potassium chloride (KCl). Potash fertilizers range from 20% to 62% K2O and consist in combination with chloride (KCI), sulfate (K2SO4), nitrate (KNO3), magnesium sulfate (K2Mg (S O4))2, and other elements. Discovered in Germany (1840), potash was used as a nutrient to grow better crops. Originally potash was produced by leaching wood ashes and evaporating the solution in iron pots and this is how it got it's name "pot-ash". Nearly every aspect of plant growth is dependent upon an adequate supply of potash which aid plants to fight stress, disease, prevent injury and compares the same as calcium helping build strong bones in people. Insufficient potash stunts growth in plants and may cause more disease, stalk and stem breakage and stress. Presently, approximately 95% of the world's potash is still used in fertilizers.
- Nitrogen ("N") is an element which comes from the air. The air we breathe is 78% nitrogen. Nitrogen is a key element in protein (our bodies are made up of 16% protein). Plants, like us, require nitrogen to grow.
- Phosphorus ("P") is an element which is found in fossil remains found in soil and rock. Phosphate is mined from deposits from the earth. Phosphate is a mineral needed for energy in plants and processes in plants the same as carbohydrates does in people.
Fertilizer companies primarily convert K, N and P nutrients into a usable form for plants. Plants need a balanced diet, just like all living things. When plants absorb the nutrients from the soil, the earth needs to be replenished again with the nutrients. Fertilizer application replenishes nutrient-deficient soil with a new supply of nutrients so crops can grow successfully the following growing season.
In most cases, key nutrients are not widely available in the soil where the crops grow. This is the biggest challenge for plant growth. Nutrients are not man-made; they exist in nature but in other locations than where crops grow. What crop nutrient suppliers do is mine and harvest these nutrients from nature and make them available in an absorbable form "as fertilizers". Fertilizers are "natural nutrients" that plants can absorb as plant food. Nutrients in fertilizers are the same nutrients we eat in food for our bodies.
Other interesting facts are:
- When nutrients are depleted from the ground from harvesting of crops, farmers then "add" nutrients to the soil for future crops.
- Plants grow during the season and absorb the necessary nutrients from the soil.
- When crops are harvested at the end of the season, the nutrients are also harvested, leaving a shortage for the future crop.
- The fertilizing process recycles nutrients back into the land for the future crops to use.
- Plants can't absorb nutrients in their original form (rock & salt) and must be converted into a usable form so the plants can use as "food".
- While nitrogen is in the air and is fully available for all crops, potash and phosphate supplies are usually far from the best farming land.
- While nature can provide nutrients to a limited degree, it takes many years for organisms in the soil to build up enough nutrients to use for decent crop output.
- Nature created the nutrients but fertilizer companies make them accessible for plants to absorb nutrients, therefore helping farmers increase their crop output.
- Without commercial fertilizer the world would produce 1/3 less of current food supply.