Fertilizer is a natural or synthetic chemical substance, or mixture, that enriches soil to promote plant growth. The three primary nutrients that fertilizers provide are nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. In ancient times, and still today, many commonly used fertilizers contain one or more of the three primary ingredients: manure (containing nitrogen), bones (containing small amounts of nitrogen and large quantities of phosphorus), and wood ash (containing potassium).
At least fourteen different nutrients have been found essential for crops. These include three organic nutrients (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are taken directly from air and water), three primary chemical nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium), and three secondary chemical nutrients (magnesium, calcium, and sulfur). The others are micronutrients or trace elements and include iron, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, and molybdenum.
Prices - The average price of ammonia, a key source of ingredients for fertilizers, fell by -3.8% yr/yr in 2006 (latest data available) to $302 per metric ton. The average price of phosphate rock in the U.S. in 2006 rose by 3.1% yr/yr to a record high of $30.52 per metric ton. The average price of potash in the U.S. in 2006 rose by +28.3% yr/yr to a record high of $295.00 per metric ton.
Supply - World production of nitrogen (as contained in ammonia) in 2006 rose by +1/6% yr/yr to a new record high of 124.000 million metric tons. The world's largest producers of nitrogen in 2005 were China with 32% of world production, India (9%), Russia (9%), and the U.S. (7%). U.S. nitrogen production in 2006 rose +5.97% to 8,520 million metric tons.
World production of phosphate rock, basic slag and guano in 2006 fell -6.0% yr/yr to 142.000 million metric tons. The world's largest producers of phosphate rock in 2005 were China (with 22% of world production), U.S. (21%), Morocco (19%), and Russia (8%). U.S. production in 2006 fell -16.6% y/y to 30.1 million metric tons.
World production of marketable potash in 2006 fell by -10.5% yr/yr to 29.1 million metric tons, down from 2005's 18-year high of 32.5 million metric tons. The world's largest producers of potash in 2006 were Canada with 29% of world production, Russia (20%), Belarus (16%), and Germany (12%). U.S. production of potash in 2006 fell -8.3% yr/yr 1.100 million metric tons.
Demand - U.S. consumption of nitrogen in 2006 fell -2.7% yr/yr to 11.000 million metric tons, down from the 6-year high of 11.900 in 2004. U.S. consumption of phosphate rock in 2006 fell -13.8% to a 25-year low of 32.600 million metric tons. U.S. consumption of potash in 2006 fell -11.9% to 5.2 million metric tons, down from the 2004 9-year high of 6.000 million metric tons.
Trade - U.S. imports of nitrogen in 2006 fell -9.2% to 5.920 million metric tons and the U.S. relied on imports for 42% of consumption. U.S. imports of phosphate rock in 2006 fell -8.0% yr/yr to 2.42 million metric tons, farther below the 2002 record high of 2.700 million metric tons. U.S. imports of potash fell -9.2% to 4.470 million metric tons, and imports accounted for 80% of U.S. consumption.