Long-Range Perspectives on Inorganic Fertilizer in Global Agriculture
This document comprehensively analyses the global dependence on inorganic fertilizers, focusing on nitrogen and phosphorus, the two macronutrients that commonly limit crop production. It traces the origins of this dependency back to the 19th century when pioneers in chemistry and agronomy laid the foundations for modern crop production science. The document highlights critical historical events, such as the discovery of Chilean nitrate shipments and the extraction of phosphates in various regions, that promoted the use of inorganic fertilizers. Despite these developments, organic fertilizers remained dominant until the beginning of the 20th century. A breakthrough occurred in 1909 with Fritz Haber's demonstration of ammonia synthesis led to the rapid commercialization of synthetic ammonia production. World War I further accelerated ammonia synthesis as it became crucial for producing nitrates used in explosives. The document emphasizes the significant role of ammonia synthesis, particularly the Haber-Bosch process, in the Green Revolution and the subsequent increase in global food production. The analysis reveals the staggering growth in global fertilizer use over time, with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium applications increasing several-fold since 1950. The document highlights the critical role of inorganic fertilizers in meeting the growing demand for food due to population growth and changing dietary patterns. It emphasizes the essential contribution of nitrogen fertilizers to global protein supply, particularly in low-income countries where over 50% of dietary protein is derived from inorganic fertilizers. The document discusses the challenges of providing sufficient food for a global population that is expected to reach between 7.3 and 10.7 billion by 2050. While population growth is projected to decline, the increasing population in low-income countries poses a significant challenge to food production. The need for further intensification of farming, particularly in Asia and Africa, will drive a continued reliance on inorganic fertilizers to meet nutritional demands.
Environmental conditions, Human Health