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Declines in corn and soy acres to cut US fertilizer use

03 Apr 2018 17:38 (+01:00 GMT)
Declines in corn and soy acres to cut US fertilizer use

Houston, 3 April (Argus) — US fertilizer use on top row crops in 2018 is likely to decline from last year as cropland shifts away from soybean and corn production, according to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.

Theoretical consumption of nitrogen, phosphates, potash and sulfur are expected to fall from the previous year as the US projects to plant 2.1mn less acres of corn and 2mn less soybean acres, based on the most recent USDA fertilizer application statistics.

Actual fertilizer consumption will vary as farmers deal with trade policy issues that may impact US agricultural commodities and an unfavorable early spring weather pattern, potentially resulting in further planted area cuts.

The USDA's projected 88mn acres of corn planted area translates to an estimated 186,000st drop in theoretical nitrogen demand from last year. But that estimated loss in nitrogen demand is partially offset by a 1.3mn-acre year-over-year increase in cotton and a 1.6mn-acre increase in all wheat acres, except durum. As a result, the total consumption estimate for nitrogen in 2018 is 8.15mn st, 1pc lower than last year and the US five-year average.

Phosphate and sulfur consumption are also projected to marginally decline from last season to 3.65mn st of P2O5 and 331,034st of sulfur, respectively. Estimated sulfur usage represents an 8pc increase from the five-year average, while phosphate usage is on par with the five-year baseline.

Potash use is estimated to decline by 1pc from the prior year to 3.84mn st of K2O, a 2pc drop from the five-year average.

The projected US corn crop will consume an estimated 5.72mn st of nitrogen, 1.96mn st of P2O5, 2.11mn st of K2O and 214,727st of sulfur. This is a 3pc decline across the board from last season.

New fertilizer usage data from the USDA caused baseline differences to vary when compared to the 2018 forecast estimates. Nitrogen usage is pegged down 2pc from the average, while P2O5 and K2O use fell by 5pc and 3pc, respectively. Increased sulfur application rates on corn have resulted in the 2018 crop posting a 9pc increase in consumption from the five-year average.

The consumption breakdown for the projected 89mn-acre soybean crop is 203,306st of nitrogen, 849,529st of P2O5, 1.3mn st of K2O and 41,000st of sulfur. The drop in acreage cut the crop's consumption rate for all fertilizers by 6pc year-over-year and by 7pc from the five-year average.

Projected fertilizer usage on the estimated 45.3mn acres of US wheat acres except durum is 1.76mn st of nitrogen, 664,391st of P2O5, 177,548st of K2O and 48,422st of sulfur. The planted area estimate for wheat would be the second lowest on record, trailing only 2017-18, leading reductions in nutrient usage by 5pc in nitrogen, 4pc in P2O5, 6pc in K2O and 10pc in sulfur.

Theoretical fertilizer consumption for the 13.5mn-acre 2018 cotton crop is 390,979st of nitrogen, 145,681st of P2O5, 197,203st of K2O and 24,746st of sulfur, combining for a 12pc rise from 2017.