Fertilizer Use

According to The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) in Washington, D.C., nitrogenous fertilizer still leads the way in U.S. fertilizer consumption. In 1999, use of nitrogen fertilizers was almost twice that of phosphate and potassium fertilizers together. That number has remained fairly stable since 1998. While the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) reports that farming accounts for nearly 85 percent of fertilizer use in this country, nitrogen is also popular in the non-agricultural field. According to the USITC, golf courses, landscapers and nurseries show a strong demand for nitrogenous fertilizers to assist greening and quick growth.

Nitrogen aids the production of chlorophyll. TFI statistics show that the most commonly used nitrogen fertilizers were nitrogen solutions, with more than 10-million short tons used. According to the USITC, nitrogen solutions are usually composed of urea and ammonium nitrate (UAN), with a temperature-sensitive nitrogen content of 28 to 32 percent.

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Phosphorus helps both root development and plant maturation. TFI says that the most commonly used phosphate material was diammonium phosphate (DAP), with more than 3 million short tons used.

Potassium chloride was the most commonly used potassium fertilizer, with more than 5 million short tons used. According to the USITC, most potassium chloride in the United States is found in underground deposits. While fertilizer production capacity increased for nitrogen and phosphate from 1994 to 1998, it declined for potassium by more than 20 percent.

Even though nitrogen leads the pack today, 40 years ago, nitrogen, phosphate and potassium were all used equally. Statistics from The Fertilizer Institute's web site show that in 1960, nitrogen, phosphate and potassium were used evenly at about 2.5 million nutrient tons. By the 1970s, nitrogen use had increased to about 8 million nutrient tons while phosphate and potassium use consumed about 5 million and 4 million tons respectively. In 1997, nitrogen use had jumped to more than 12 million nutrient tons, which exceeded 55 percent of nutrient consumption.

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