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Agronomy Journal Abstract - Forum

The Contribution of Commercial Fertilizer Nutrients to Food Production


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 97 No. 1, p. 1-6
    Received: May 5, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): mstewart@ppi-far.org
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  1. W. M. Stewart *a,
  2. D. W. Dibbb,
  3. A. E. Johnstonc and
  4. T. J. Smythd
  1. a Potash and Phosphate Inst., 2423 Rogers Key, San Antonio, TX 78258
    b Potash and Phosphate Inst., 655 Engineering Dr., Suite 110, Norcross, GA 30092
    c Rothamsted Research, Harpenden AL5 2JQ, England
    d Dep. of Soil Sci., Box 7619, North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC 27695-7619


Nutrient inputs in crop production systems have come under increased scrutiny in recent years because of the potential for environmental impact from inputs such as N and P. The benefits of nutrient inputs are often minimized in discussions of potential risk. The purpose of this article is to examine existing data and approximate the effects of nutrient inputs, specifically from commercial fertilizers, on crop yield. Several long-term studies in the USA, England, and the tropics, along with the results from an agricultural chemical use study and nutrient budget information, were evaluated. A total of 362 seasons of crop production were included in the long-term study evaluations. Crops utilized in these studies included corn (Zea mays L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.], rice (Oryza sativa L.), and cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. The average percentage of yield attributable to fertilizer generally ranged from about 40 to 60% in the USA and England and tended to be much higher in the tropics. Recently calculated budgets for N, P, and K indicate that commercial fertilizer makes up the majority of nutrient inputs necessary to sustain current crop yields in the USA. The results of this investigation indicate that the commonly cited generalization that at least 30 to 50% of crop yield is attributable to commercial fertilizer nutrient inputs is a reasonable, if not conservative estimate.

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