why do we need the fertilizer industry

Question : IБve heard that fertilizers can have negative effects. Why do farmers use fertilizers? Answer : All the nutrients in our food originally come from the soil. In order to create healthy crops full of nutrients, farmers need to work with healthy soil. Soils naturally contain many nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, and potassium. These nutrients allow plants to grow. When soil nutrients are missing or in short supply, plants suffer from nutrient deficiency and stop growing. When the nutrient level is too low, the plant cannot function properly and produce the food necessary to feed the worldsБ population. Once crops are harvested for human consumption, the natural supply of nutrients in the soil must be Бre-filledБ. This is why farmers add nutrients to their soils. Nutrients can be added from a variety of sourcesБorganic matter, chemical fertilizers, and even by some plants. This maintains the soil fertility, so the farmer can continue to grow nutritious crops and healthy crops. Farmers turn to fertilizers because these substances contain plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers are simply plant nutrients applied to agricultural fields to supplement required elements found naturally in the soil. Fertilizers have been used since the start of agriculture. Native American people used crude fertilizers, such as burying a fish in their corn plots, and organic farmers use fertilizer from natural source, such as compost. Most farmers today use fertilizers that are either mined or manufactured. Regardless of the source of the fertilizer, all plants use the same inorganic forms of fertilizer in the soil.


Sometimes the source of nitrogen can be plants called Бnitrogen fixers. Б Many farmers use crops, such as soybeans and alfalfa (called legumes), that can remove naturally occurring nitrogen in the atmosphere, and place (БfixБ) it in the soil for future crops to use. Fertilizer use is very expensive and can harm the environment if not used correctly. Therefore, before adding fertilizer, farmers send a soil sample to a laboratory for baseline testing. By testing their soil, farmers know which nutrientsБand how muchБto apply to the soil. If too little is added, crops will not produce as much as they should. If too much is added, or at the wrong time, excess nutrients will run off the fields and pollute streams and groundwater. So, while fertilizers serve an important purpose, farmers must be careful to use the right amount, at the right time, to avoid potential negative effects to the environment. To stay healthy, humans need to acquire essential nutrients from many different food sources. The demand for food and other products from agricultural systems will increase over the next few decades. This means that we need to keep our soils healthy and full of nutrients in order to feed the growing population. To view SSSA s Soils Support Agriculture video, visit
More educational materials can be found on various SSSA websites: (K-12 Lesson Plans and Activities) (Just for kids! ) (International Year of Soils, with a coloring book and monthly ideas for teachers and scientists! ) Subscribe to SSSAБs Soils Matter blog posts to get monthly answers to common soils-related questions: Become a Friend of Soil Science (no charge) at: Dig in further with a free trial membership at Phosphorus is a vital component to the health of plants, assisting in many biological processes that help to create strong stems and roots, aid in resistance to disease, and create a more productive plant overall.


Phosphorus is derived from phosphate rock, deposits of which are mined all over the world. And while ground phosphate rock can be applied directly to soil, it is most beneficial to first process the phosphate rock into a form that allows the phosphorus to be more readily absorbed by plants. Phosphate rock can be processed into a variety of phosphatic fertilizers. Most commonly, it is processed into Monoammonium Phosphate and Diammonium Phosphate fertilizers, also commonly known as MAP and DAP. Once phosphate rock has been mined, the actual phosphate ore is beneficiated to separate it from the unwanted materials. This is carried out via a wet process, the resulting material of which must first be dried. This is typically carried out in a, an industrial drying system ideal for processing phosphate ore, because of its heavy-duty build and high capacity capabilities. The dried phosphate ore is then most commonly processed into what are referred to as ammoniated phosphates. This is done by reacting the phosphate rock with sulfuric acid to produce phosphoric acid. The phosphoric acid is then reacted with ammonia to produce the ammoniated phosphate MAP or DAP. MAP and DAP are produced utilizing the process illustrated and described below (Click image to view larger) The phosphoric acid and ammonia are pre-neutralized (reacted) in tanks to form a slurry.


This slurry is then fed into a rotary granulator, where it forms granules as it tumbles through the drum and solidifies. These granules are then carried via conveyor or to a rotary dryer where they are dried into their final form. The tumbling action of the dryer further rounds and polishes the granules. Granules exit the dryer and go through a screening process to separate over- and under-size granules. Oversize granules are crushed via a chain mill and fed with the under-size granules back into the process as recycle. On-size product moves on to cooling, which is carried out using a rotary cooler. Cooling helps to prevent caking during storage, and is necessary when material exiting the dryer is too hot for subsequent material handling equipment. While this is the primary processing method for MAP production, an alternate process, which includes the addition of a pipe reactor, is sometimes used for the energy savings it can offer. This method is exclusive to the production of MAP. (Click image to view larger) Instead of being reacted in tanks, phosphoric acid and ammonia are reacted in the cross pipe reactor. The hot melt formed from this reaction is sparged into the rotary granulator and the resulting heat from the reaction flashes off moisture from the granular material. A rotary dryer is still needed, but energy requirements are significantly reduced, since the heat of the reaction can supplement much of the drying energy required.


Again, material is then screened and recycle is separated out, while on-size product moves on to cooling. The addition of a can be a popular option for retrofits, because it is easily installed, and the pre-neutralizing tanks can serve as feeding tanks to the operation. And while no operation requires the use of a pipe reactor, in the right settings, it can offer significant value in energy savings. While phosphate rock is most commonly made into MAP and DAP, it can also be made into a variety of other fertilizer products as well: NPK Б While phosphate is not the base of this product, it is included with potassium and nitrogen to create a variety of NPK blends. These materials may be comprised of varying components, but all are produced using the traditional granulation approach. Phosphate is a key component in sustaining healthy and productive crops. While most phosphate rock goes to the production of MAP and DAP fertilizers, this life-giving mineral can be made into a variety of fertilizer products and blends through the process of granulation. FEECO has been a leader in the fertilizer industry since 1951. WeБve helped companies around the globe to develop premium phosphatic fertilizer products with our custom, heavy-duty fertilizer production equipment and systems. For more information on processing phosphate rock for use in the fertilizer industry, contact us today! FEECO International, Inc. Toll Free: (800) 373. 9347 Phone: (920) 468. 1000 Email:

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