By Pilar García-Serrano
Over the next ten years, reductions in nitrogen consumption of 3% and increases in P2O5 and K2O of 1.4% and 4.9%, respectively, are expected.
The report entitled Forecast of food and farming and fertilizer use is compiled annually by experts from EU member states and coordinated by the Fertilizers Europe association. This work is recognised by European and international institutions with competence in agriculture and food as a rigorous and independent exercise to be taken into account in policy making.
The latest forecast, just published, points to a long-term consumption of 11.1, 2.7 and 3.2 million tonnes of N, P2O5 and K2O, respectively, to be applied to 133 million hectares of crops. For the third year in a row, projections are negative for nitrogen, and continue to recover from the pre-crisis levels of 2008/2009 for P2O5 and K2O. Some of the factors indicated as being mainly responsible for this development are: the negative trend in agricultural product prices and the strong influence of environmental regulations.
The agricultural area of the EU currently covers 133.8 million hectares, 89.2 million of which are fertilised annually. 78% of these hectares are for arable crops, 16% for fertilised grassland and 6% for permanent crops. It is estimated that, in the EU as a whole, the area for cereals will decrease by 1% over the next ten years, and there will also be decreases in the area for potatoes, beets and rapeseed. Overall, productions would be maintained thanks to expected increases in yields.
As for nitrogen consumption, reductions of 6.4% are expected in Western Europe, while, although somewhat lower than previous forecasts, increases of around 5.1% are expected in Central and Eastern Europe. In P2O5 and K2O, most EU-28 countries predict a recovery in consumption.
Although increases in the yields of the main crops are expected, for example 7% in cereals, at a global level, the consumption of the three main nutrients will experience a slight decline of just under 1%. In contrast, low fertilisation levels are expected to improve in crops such as rapeseed and fodder crops. Experts believe that improved yields will come from investment and innovation, improved cultivation practices and major improvements in fertilisers and fertilisation techniques.
* Source: Fertilizers Europe.