Nutrient consumption has been volatile since 2004

A line chart showing the fertilizer use in U.S. agriculture, years 1960 to 2010.

Commercial fertilizer consumption increased rapidly before 1982 as more acreage was devoted to high-yield crop varieties and hybrids that responded favorably to more intensive fertilizer use. As global demand for grains grew, nutrient consumption peaked at 24 million tons in 1981. When grain demand dropped in 1983, government payment-in-kind programs idled record acres and reduced nutrient consumption to 18 million tons. Nutrient use then moved steadily upward, largely due to an increase in corn plantings. (Corn, on average, uses the most fertilizer of all crops.) Beginning in 2004, fertilizer consumption was volatile due to highly variable corn plantings and volatile fertilizer prices in the biofuels era. Record fertilizer prices in 2009 reduced consumption to 18 million tons, a 24-percent decline from 2004. As fertilizer prices declined in 2010, consumption rebounded to 21 million tons. This chart can be found in the ERS report, Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators, 2012 Edition, EIB-98, August 2012.

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