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Gro’s Global Fertilizer Impact Monitor: Updated Scenarios Project Larger Cuts in 2022 Global Nitrogen Fertilizer Use

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Fertilizer shortages brought on by high prices and tight supplies are continuing to threaten global agricultural production. 

Gro Intelligence's Global Fertilizer Impact Monitor, launched earlier this year, is the first tool to help quantify the potential impact on global production of major crops from reduced applications of nitrogen fertilizer under different scenarios in a fully transparent way. 

Now Gro has incorporated the latest scenarios from November 2022 from our partners — the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), an association which represents providers of plant nutrition solutions, and CRU Group (CRU), a leading independent authority on fertilizer.

Overall, the updates from IFA and CRU project that the global fertilizer crisis resulted in even lower rates of nitrogen fertilization applications worldwide in 2022 than was previously estimated. 

Latest Updates: What Does the Data Tell Us?

The monitor originally launched in July 2022 with three scenarios from IFA — “optimistic,” “pessimistic,” and “middle ground.” But IFA in November consolidated its estimates into a single scenario, which projects larger cuts in 2022 global nitrogen fertilizer use than even its “pessimistic” scenario from July. CRU Group’s updated estimates also point to larger declines in nitrogen use than the group previously projected.

Gro modeled the impact on crop yield based on the various fertilizer application scenarios to arrive at production estimates for a given country and crop. The production for four major crops — wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans — is then converted into calories and combined to highlight the impact on food supplies from reduced fertilizer usage. Gro’s production estimates are based solely on the usage scenarios for nitrogen fertilizer, the most widely used fertilizer type, and don’t take into account other variables such as weather conditions, which can further impact production and yield. See more on our methodology here.

Overall, the updates on fertilizer usage from both IFA and CRU show increasingly large effects of a crisis still unfolding. Key takeaways include: 

  • Under the new IFA scenario, Gro calculates a total worldwide reduction of 216 trillion calories, while the CRU scenario points to a 143 trillion calorie reduction. The IFA scenario shows reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use will trim calorie production by at least 5% in  42 countries (mainly in Central and Southern America, Southeast Asia, and Africa) while CRU’s fertilizer use figures point to a greater-than-5% cut in calorie production in 10 countries (mainly in Africa).
  • The average of the IFA and CRU scenarios is now worse than the “pessimistic” scenario from IFA in July 2022.
  • The largest calorie losses under both organizations’ scenarios are in Ukraine.
  • CRU’s scenario points to a calorie increase in China, while IFA has cut calories in China. IFA also indicates much worse impact in Vietnam, Argentina, and India than does CRU.
  • Both the CRU and IFA estimates indicate that production of all four of the major crops (corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans) will be dragged down by cuts in nitrogen fertilizer use in 2022. In USDA PS&D data back to 1965, there have been no years in which production of all four crops dropped in the same year, and only eight years in which three of the crops’ production fell. In addition, only three years going back to 1965 saw such significant declines in corn, rice, and wheat at the same time.
  • In both the CRU and IFA scenarios, wheat production will be impacted the most (down ~2.5% worldwide), followed by corn (~2.3% reduction). Rice production will be down ~1.5% and soybeans down ~0.2%. The projected production declines are based solely on anticipated reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use and don’t take into account other factors such as weather.

The global distribution of the projected outcomes, compared with the IFA and CRU estimates from July 2022, varies by country and crop. For example:

  • For the US — the global leader in corn production — Gro estimates nitrogen fertilizer use cuts based on CRU’s updated scenario will further reduce corn production compared with July estimates by an additional 3.5 percentage points. Using IFA’s updated scenario, Gro’s new corn production estimates have decreased only by 0.34 percentage points compared to their previous “middle ground” scenario. 
  • In much of Europe, IFA’s updated figures point to a doubling of the decrease in calorie production when compared to the association’s previous “middle ground” estimates. In France, fertilizer use cuts now point to a 4.6% decline in calorie production compared to the 2.1% cut indicated earlier this year.
  • For Brazil, IFA's newest scenario points to a calorie reduction from key principal crops compared to July “middle ground” estimates, which projected a calorie gain. CRU's updated estimates now point to an even steeper caloric reduction for Brazil compared to their estimates in July.

These fertilizer application scenarios from IFA and CRU are based on usage exclusively of nitrogen fertilizer, the most widely used fertilizer type, and do not take into account other variables such as weather conditions, which can further impact production and yield. However, Gro’s in-season Yield Forecast Models account for these variables. 

Please reach out to support@gro-intelligence.com to learn more about the Global Fertilizer Impact Monitor.

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