The future of fertilizer

December 5, 2023
Jake Niederer, senior director of phosphate risk management at CHS, explains how the fertilizer industry is changing and why growers should keep an eye on supply heading into next year.

New management approaches and updated technology are key to improving crop nutrient use and efficiency to grow enough food to feed a growing world. Farmers and the fertilizer industry are working together to make crop production more sustainable and productive.

Fertilizer Advances

“There is a lot of research and development going on around using fertilizers in farming,” says Jake Niederer, senior director of phosphate risk management at CHS.

One particular focus for the industry is decreasing the amount of carbon in the nitrogen production process.

“CHS is working with companies at the forefront of research and development of new products and technologies or that are working on producing old products in new ways,” says Niederer. “We have a partnership with CF Industries, one of the world’s largest producers of fertilizer, to help bring low-carbon nitrogen fertilizer to the marketplace.”

Niederer says low-carbon nitrogen could help farmers and businesses meet sustainability goals.

“Government regulation may be mandating some changes in the industry, but farmers are just as invested in pushing the industry forward,” says Niederer. “Farmers have always been stewards of the land and want to do the right thing.”

“Although these changes in technology may mean a higher cost of production, they give farmers another option to reduce carbon use,” he says.

Fertilizer’s Efficient Future

CHS continuously works to develop new fertilizer products.

“Phosphate fertilizer efficiency products, as well as nitrogen stabilizers, are great at improving efficiency,” Niederer says. “Our role is to bring these options forward and make sure they’re available for growers to maximize their fertilizer investment by minimizing nutrient loss.”

Domestic and Global Events Impact Supply

As farmers make crop nutrient plans for 2024, it’s important to look at the current domestic and global supply of inputs, including fertilizer used in farming.

“In the United States, production of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers is down compared to historical levels,” explains Niederer.

Lower domestic production combined with issues in key fertilizer exporting countries could lead to tight supplies in the spring due to stiff competition for supplies around the globe.

“There are geopolitical events impacting parts of the world where a lot of fertilizer is produced,” Niederer says. “A lot of potash is made in the conflict zones in Israel and Russia. There’s also a lot of natural gas produced in the Middle East, which is close to political hotbeds. We’ve also recently seen the Chinese government taking steps to decrease its exports.”

All these factors impact overall supply for the market and are huge drivers in price.

“It’s hard to predict what demand will be,” Niederer continues. “The U.S. is a net importer for nitrogen and phosphate. That makes it important for growers to keep an eye on global supply when planning their fertilizer needs for next year.”

A man standing on a tractor in a field, ready to work