The growth and harvest of food and fiber crops is essential to the survival and wellbeing of humankind. As world population expands, or even “explodes,” the challenge to increase crop production is a formidable one. The major means being employed to meet this challenge are: (1) increasing tilled acreage; (2) improvement of plant strains; (3) introduction of irrigation; (4) chemical and biological control of insects, plant diseases, and weeds; and, not the least of all, (5) introduction of or increase in fertilizer usage. It should be noted, however, that implementation of any of these methods for crop increase automatically dictates a corresponding increase in fertilizer usage. This has become especially clear during the so-called green revolution. During this period, which began in the late 1930s and extends to the present, tremendous advances in scientific crop breeding have made possible dramatic worldwide increases in the yields of corn, wheat, rice, and other staple crops, yet these increases have been sustainable only by suppling the improved varieties with increased nutrients, as fertilizer. Increasing crop acreage, introduction of irrigation, and effective use of pesticides likewise result in increased need for fertilizer in order to realize maximum yield benefits. Numerous estimates have been made in attempts to quantify the effect of fertilizers on U.S. and world food production. One of the more comprehensive indicates that approximately 37 percent of U.S. agricultural production is directly attributable to fertilizer usage.1 However, even that statistic does not convey the full impact of fertilizer usage because without the use of fertilizer intensively farmed crop land soon would become depleted and nonproductive. For the “developing” countries of the world (as contrasted to “developed” countries) increasing the usage of fertilizer also holds great potential for reducing their dependence on imported food and for increasing human nutrition standards.


Phosphate Rock Ammonium Phosphate Diammonium Phosphate Anhydrous Ammonia Tennessee Valley Authority 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Hoffmeister
    • 1
  1. 1.Retired from National Fertilizer and Environmental Research CenterTVAMuscle ShoalsUSA

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