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II. Consumption of Fertilizers and Plant Nutrients

II. Consumption of Fertilizers and Plant Nutrients

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236



K. D. JACOB



applied directly to the soil) totaled 11,420,876 short tons in the year

ended June 30, 1948 (Food and Agriculture Organization, 1949), an

increase of 27.5 per cent over the comparable average for 1936-1938

(Clark and Sherman, 1946). This increase reflected chiefly the remarkable

rise (2,566,000 tons, 136.5 per cent) in the use of such nutrients in the

United States and the United Kingdom during and after World War 11.

In many countries, however, the consumption decreased greatly during

the war (Jacob and Parker, 1946), and in some-notably Italy, Germany,

Japan, and Spain-the use in 1947-1948 was still much below the prewar

average.

The world consumption of primary nutrients has continued to rise

steadily since 1947-1948, with the setting of new records each year for

each of the nutrients (Fig. 1). Thus, according to a preliminary estimate

(Page, 1957), the use in 1956-1957 totaled 22,162,216 short tons, or

94 per cent more than in 1947-1948. Likewise, the consumption of nitrogen increased 126 per cent, as compared with 61.5 per cent for phosphoric

oxide and 113 per cent for potash. During this period all of the continents

(Table I ) and most of the individual countries showed large percentage

increases in use of the nutrients.

TABLE I

World Consumption of Primary Nutrients, in Short Ton by Continents,

Year Ended June 30, 19570

Total

Increase over

1947-48



Continent



N



Africa

Asia

Europe

North and Central

America

Oceania

South America



237,378

1,278,271

3,381,164

2,209,631

39,606

129,197

_



Total



_



K20



Quantity



(%)



316,306

544,352

3,862,685



62,388

660,688

3,918,649



616,072

2,483,311

11,162,498



187.3

228.6

87.6



2,637,633

719,902

108,347



2,038,658

44,432

73,029



6,785,822

803,940

310,573



74.3

76.1

97.2



PSOS



_



7,275,147



_



_



_



.



8,089,225



_



_



_



6,797,844



22,162,216



93.9



Page (1957); excludes Soviet Union, Chinese People’s Republic, and North Korea.



* Excludes ground phosphate rock used directly as fertilizer.



B. CONSUMPTION

IN THE Urmm STATES

In the United States and Territories the total consumption of primary

nutrients in commercial fertilizers set a new record in 1954-1955 for the



237

sixteenth consecutive year. Thus, the use rose from 1,584,900 short tons

in 1938-1939 (Mehring et al., 1957), to 6,119,139 tons in 1954-1955

(Scholl et al., 1958a), an increase of 291 per cent. Another record

(6,377,541 tons) was set in 1956-1957, corresponding to increases of 308

FERTILIZER PRODUCTION AND TECHNOLOGY



24



-I

-



-



I7



-



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



-



/



,

a'I



-



3,631,083

I



I



1



I



I



I



I



I



-3.5

I



.



and 76 per cent over the use in 1938-1939 and 1947-1948, respectively

(Fig. 2).

With a few exceptions, new records for the consumption of each of

the primary nutrients were set in each year of the period 1947-1948 to



238



K. D. JACOB



1956-1957 (Fig. 3). In 1956-1957 the use of nitrogen was 149.2 per cent

higher than in 1947-1948, as compared with increases of 110.5 and 24.3

per cent for K20 and available P206,respectively. The smaller increase

2.3



-I



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



I



'



-



In

L

t-



0



-



-



-



1.6-



-



0



1.4



0



9



8



0-



-



-



-



-



0.8



-



I

1948



I



I



I



1950



I

1952



I



I

1954



I



I



I



-



1956 1957



YEAR ENDED JUNE 30



FIG.3. Consumption of nitrogen, available phosphoric oxide, and potash in the

United States and Territories, years ended June 30, 1948-1957. ( U . S. Department

of Agriculture.)



in P206relative to nitrogen and K20reflected the trend toward the 1 : l : l

ratio in the consumption of these nutrients. Thus, the ratio changed

in 1947-1948 to 0.93:l.OO:

gradually from 0.46:1.00:0.50( N:P20a:K20)

0.84 in 1956-1957.



1948

1937

1948

I957



NEW ENGLAND



MIDDLE ATLANTIC



1948

1967

1948

1967



WEST NORTH



3



1948

1957



20



w e



<

z



CENTRAL



EAST SOUTH CENTRAL



l9S7



W



0: 1948



WEST



SOUTH CENTRAL



I957



MOUNTAIN

1948



I967

1948

I967

1908

I967



PACIFIC



TERRITORIES



FIG.4. Regional consumption of primary nutrients in the United States and Territories, years ended June 30, 1948 and

1957. ( U. S. Department of Agriculture. )



240



K. D. JACOB



1. Regdona1 Consumption

Continuing the previous trends, the consumption of total primary

nutrients showed increases in each of the regions' except the New England States (Fig. 4). Especially noteworthy were the very large gains in

the newer areas of fertilizer use. For example, the annual consumption in

1947-1948 to 1956-1957 rose 243 per cent in the West North Central

region, and increases of 192, 115, 112, and 111 per cent were recorded

for the Mountain, West South Central, Pacific, and East North Central

regions, respectively. Likewise, remarkable gains in the use of the individual nutrients, especially nitrogen, usually occurred in each of these

regions.

2. Consumption in Mixed Fertilizers

Since about 1925, the proportion of the annual consumption of total

primary nutrients furnished by mixed fertilizers has ranged from 60 to

75 per cent. The trend was definitely upward before 1947-1948, but it

has tended to reverse in later years. Among the individual nutrients,

mixed fertilizers have supplied consistently the smallest proportion of

the nitrogen and the largest of the KzO.In 1947-1948 to 1956-1957 the

proportions of the nitrogen and KzO used in this way decreased almost

continuously, while the proportion of Pz06increased substantially (Table

11). The considerable decline in the proportion of nitrogen-from 57.6

per cent in 1947-1948 to 39.5 per cent in 1956-1957-reflectedY among

other things, the great increase in the direct use of ammonium nitrate

and anhydrous ammonia, especially the latter, as fertilizers in most parts

of the country (see Section 111, B).



3. Consumption by Crops

Relatively few studies have been made of the fertilizer, and even

fewer of the plant nutrients, used on individual crops in the United

States (Mehring et al., 1957), and they usually have dealt only with

selected crops. However, comprehensive data on such use in 1947, 1950,

'The units comprising the regions are: New E n g l a A M a i n e , New Hampshire,

Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut; Mfddle Atlantic--New York,

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, West Virginia;

South Atlanttc-Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida; East

North CentruLOhio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin; West North CentraL

Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas; East

South Centrul-Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi; West South CentraL

Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas; Mountatn-Montana, Idaho, Wyoming,

Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada; Pactfic-Washington, Oregon, California; Tedtories-Alaska, Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico.



FERTILIZER PRODUCTION AND TECHNOLOGY



241



TABLE I1

Percentages of Primary Nutrients Consumed BA Mixed Fertilizer8

in the United States and Tcrritories, 1948-1957"

Year ended

June 30



N



Available

PZOS



Kz0



Total



1948

1949

1950

1951

1952

1953

1954

1955

1956

1957



57.6

55.7

49.3

47.2

45.6

44.5

42.1

41.0

41.2

39.5



70.5

71.3

68.9

73.1

76.4

78.5

80.3

79.7

79.4

78.8



94.8

93.1

92.3

90.9

89.8

89.3

88.4

88.4

88.3

86.8



73.6

73.6

70.4

71.5

72.1

72.0

70.8

70.0

70.0

68.1



Q



U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The quantities of N, available P~06,and KaO consumed as mixed fertilizers in



1947-1948 were 493,300, 1,307,700, and 872,900 short tons, respectively. The comparable quantities in 1956-1957 were 843,600, 1,816,600, and 1,682,500.



and 1954 were reported recently (Farm Economics Research Division,

1957). The proportionate distribution of the total consumption of nutrients among the principal crops in 1947 and 1954 is shown in Table 111.

The use of the primary nutrients on corn and on hay and pasture

ranked first and second, respectively, in both years, and the same relative

positions were held also by wheat (5),tobacco ( 8 ) , and fruits (9).The

rank of cotton, oats and barley, and nonfarm use was higher in 1954,

while that of vegetables and of potatoes and sweetpotatoes was lower.

Compared with 1947, higher proportions of the nutrients were used on

corn, hay and pasture, and oats and barley and for nonfarm purposes.

The proportions were considerably lower, however, for crops, such as

vegetables, tobacco, and potatoes and sweetpotatoes, which historically

have received high applications of nutrients per acre.

Because of the great diversity in the use of fertilizers for nonfarm

purposes and the large number of dissimilar consumers, estimates of such

use are more difficult to make and are less accurate than those for farm

crops. The data of Table I11 clearly show, however, that the nonfarm

consumption has increased remarkably in recent years, reflecting the

generally high level of national prosperity, the increase in leisure of

large segments of the population, and the trend to suburban living,

among other things. Further evidence of the magnitude of this phase of

fertilizer use is given in a survey by Mehring (1957) which indicates

that in 1956 the nonfarm consumption of fertilizers supplying the primary



2442



K. D. JACOB



nutrients totaled 2,124,000 short tons in the continental United States, or

around 10 per cent of the total use of such fertilizers. The tonnage was

about six times that reported by Scholl and Wallace (1950) for the nonfarm me of fertilizers in the year ended June 30, 1948.

TABLE I11

Percentage Distribution of Total Primary Nutrients Supplied

by Fertilizers Used on Principal Crops in the Continental

United States, Calendar Years 1947 and 1954"

Crop



Corn

Hay and pasture

Vegetables

Cotton

Wheat

Potatoes and sweetpotatoes

Oats and barley

Tobacco

Fruits

Nonfarm use



Total



1947



1954



25.4

11.2

11.0

9.9

8.2

7.9

7.2

6.2

5.4

1.4

93.8



32.1

12.7

6.5

9.7

7.7

2.7

8.2

3.8

3.1

4.3

90.8



Based on data reported by Farm Economics Research

Division (1957). Total consumption of primary nutrients (N,

available P~OS,K10) in the continental United States was

3,396,864 short tons in the calendar year 1947 and 5,873,086

tons in"1954.



Among the opportunities for great expansion in the profitable use of

fertilizer the potential is very large for grass- and rangelands. Forest

fertilization, as yet scarcely done in the United States, appears also to

have great possibilities. More than 100,000tons of fertilizer ,are now applied annually to fish ponds in this country (Mehring, 1957), and it is

expected that such use will rise to far higher levels in the future.

111. Nitrogen



A. FIXATION

METHODS

Long-time commercial operation has been achieved by only three of

the numerous methods that have been proposed for chemical fixation of

atmospheric nitrogen. These are the electric arc, cyanamide, and synthetic ammonia processes.



FERTILIZER PRODUCTION AND TECHNOLOGY



243



1. Nitrogen Oxide Processes

The first commercial application of the arc process-involving the

direct union of nitrogen and oxygen at high temperature to form nitrogen

oxides-was in 1905 in Norway, where it found its principal use. The

process contributed important quantities of fertilizer nitrogen until the

Norwegian plant ceased operation, for economic reasons, in 1939. Closure

of this plant apparently marked the end of the arc process as a factor in

the nitrogen industry. Study has continued, however, of methods for

directly combining nitrogen and oxygen, especially as regards replacement of the electric arc by other sources of heat.

Based on the method developed by Royster (1933) and Cottrell

(1938) for the regenerative heating and cooling of gases, research on

fixation of nitrogen in a gas-fired furnace was started in 1939 at the University of Wisconsin (Daniels, 1955; Foster and Daniels, 1951; Gilbert

and Daniels, 1948). The basic patent (U. S . 2,422,081) was issued in

1947 to Frederick G. Cottrell, who suggested the study.

A double bed of magnesia pebbles served to preheat the air and to

lower the temperature (about 2200' C.) fast enough to prevent excessive

dissociation of the nitric oxide (NO) into nitrogen and oxygen. Removal of the dilute nitric oxide (less than 2 per cent) from the furnace

gas was effected by oxidation to nitrogen dioxide ( NOz) and adsorption

of the latter on silica gel from which it was recovered by heating and

absorbing in water to form nitric acid.

Further development of the process was undertaken by the Food

Machinery and Chemical Corporation at San Jose, California, in 1946,

and in 1951 the Department of the Army authorized construction of a

plant to produce 40 tons of nitric acid (basis 100 per cent HNOs) per

day at Sunflower, Kansas. The plant was completed in May 1953 and

was closed in the fall of 1954 because of the impossibility of maintaining continuous operation of the furnace at 2200" C. with the magnesia

pebbles that were then available. In addition to papers by Ermenc

( 1956), excellent discussions of the plant and the preceding developments are given in the record of the nitrogen symposium held at Rye,

New York, in November 1955 under the sponsorship of the Food

Machinery and Chemical Corporation and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

Renewed interest in the utilization of solar energy has resulted in

the recent development of research-type furnaces capable of yielding

temperatures up to 3500" C. Daniels (1957) pointed out, however, that

the practical use of solar energy is still in its infancy, and he believed



244



K. D. JACOB



that, for some time to come, such energy would not compete with cheap

petroleum and electricity. It is of interest to note, nevertheless, that research on fixation of nitrogen by reaction with oxygen under the influence of solar heat has been done recently in Algeria (Grindrod, 1955).

Harteck and Dondes (1956) reported the use of nuclear energy in

laboratory experiments whereby substantial yields of nitrogen dioxide

were obtained by irradiating air with uranium-235 at about 200" C. and

25 atmospheres pressure.



2. Cyanamide Process

Commercial operation of the cyanamide process-whereby nitrogen

is fixed by reaction with calcium carbide at 1100" C. in the presence of

calcium chloride or fluoride to form crude calcium cyanamide-was

started about 1906 and has been confined chiefly to Europe and Japan.

Kastens and McBurney (1951) have given an excellent description of

cyanamide manufacture at the plant of the American Cyanamid Company, Niagara Falls, Canada, which began production in 1909. Besides

the U. S. Government plant completed at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, near

the end of World War I but not operated after its break-in runs, manufacture of cyanamide in the Western Hemisphere has been confined to

the Canadian plant.

3. Synthetic Ammonia Process

The establishment in 1913 at Oppau, Germany, of the first large-scale

plant for manufacture of ammonia by union of nitrogen directly with

hydrogen at elevated temperature and high pressure in the presence of

a catalyst marked the commercial beginning of a process which now

furnishes most of the world's supply of fertilizer nitrogen (Mittasch,

1951).

Countries that had no synthetic ammonia industry in 1945 but which

had plants in operation or under construction in 1958 included Brazil,

Colombia, Egypt, Finland, Iceland, India, Israel, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru,

Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan, Trinidad, Turkey, Venezuela,

and Yugoslavia.

For more than twenty-five years Canada has supplied the United

States with important quantities of nitrogen fertilizers based on synthetic

ammonia. The Canadian industry-initiated in 1930 with a small plant

at Windsor, Ontario, and a much larger one at Trail, British Columbiawas expanded greatly during World War 11, and several plants have

been added since 1950. The ammonia and other fertilizer operations of

the principal Canadian producer have been described by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited (1954).



245

a. Facilities in the United States. Following an abortive attempt by

the Government at Sheffield, Alabama, during World War I, the first

commercial unit for direct synthesis of ammonia in the United States

was placed in successful operation in August 1921 by the Atmospheric

Nitrogen Corporation at Syracuse, New York. From that time the process

has been an increasingly important factor in the domestic nitrogen industry.

The progress in synthetic ammonia before 1950 has been sketched by

Anonymous (1950), Cope (1949), Jones and Baber (1947), Skeen

(1948b), Taylor (1953), and others. The data, partially summarized in

Table IV, reflect the great impact of World War I1 on the demand for

nitrogen.

FERTILIZER PRODUCTION A N D TECHNOLOGY



TABLE IV

Synthetic Ammonia Plants in the United States,

1934-1947"



Year



Number



1939

1941

1943

1945

1947



7

9

17

19

19



Annual capacity,

short tons N

~~~~



370,000

469,000



1,oO0,000

1,127,000

1,258,000



Skeen (1948b).



Under the impetus of continued shortages of fertilizer nitrogen, the

Korean hostilities, and the incentives of the Government's fertilizer expansion program ( Commodity Stabilization Service, 1954; Minor, 1951),

a further tremendous increase in the facilities for making synthetic

ammonia has occurred since 1950, with the result that in 1958 the

capacity greatly exceeded the total domestic and export demand for

nitrogen for all purposes. The plants and their capacities in various years

of this period have been discussed by Anonymous (1954f; 1957c7n),

Adams and Scholl (1956) Andrews (1956), Bradley et al. (1957),

Homer (1955), Matthew et al. (1955), Matthew and Perkins (1954),

Taylor (1953), and others. The data for 1950 and 1957 are shown by

regions in Table V.

In 1950 to 1957 the number of plants increased from 22 to 56 (155

per cent) and the capacity rose from 1,655,000 to 4,104,000 tons of nitrogen (148 per cent). Besides the New England and Mountain regions

and the Territories, which had no plants in 1950, the regional increases

in capacity ranged from 162,000 tons in the Middle Atlantic region to



246



K. D. JACOB



645,000 tons in the West South Central region; the percentage increases

ranged from 44 (Middle Atlantic) to 329 (Pacific). The high capacity in

the West South Central region (28 per cent of the total in 1950 and 27

per cent in 1957) reflects chiefly the ready availability of abundant supplies of natural gas in that area. Synthetic ammonia plants were located

in 14 States in 1950 and 28 States in 1957. The Puerto Rican plant,

opened in 1957, was the first in the Territories and in the West Indies.

TABLE V

Synthetic Ammonia Plants in the United States and Territories, by Regions,

1950 and 1957

Number

of plants

Regiona

New England

Middle Atlantic

South Atlantic

East North Central

West North Central

East South Central

West South Central

Mountain

Pacific

Territories



August

1950



4

1

3

Id

3

6

4



-



Annual capacity,

short tons N



December

1957"

1

8

3

7

6

6

12

2

10

1"



August

1950



-



December

1957



113,000

-



35,000

533,000

459,000

585,000

415,000

386,000

1,107,000

66,000

485,000

33,000



1,655,000



4,104,000



371,000

240,000

184,000

140,Wd

145,000

462,000



__



Total



22



56



See Section 11, B, 1 for the units comprising the regions.

Taylor (1953) ; includes plants under construction.

0 The data are principally from Anonymous (1957c,n); includes plants under construction.

d Excludes the facilities at Louisiana, Missouri, which were being used by the U. S.

Bureau of Mines for research on synthetic fuels.

e Puerto Rico.

(1



b



Construction of two new plants and expansion of several existing

plants was undertaken in 1958.

b. Technological deuelopments. An economical source of hydrogen

is a major consideration in the location of a synthetic ammonia plant.

The hydrogen may be obtained: (1) by processing carbonaceous materials such as coal, coke, lignite, wood, charcoal, petroleum, and natural

gas; (2) by electrolysis of water; or (3) as a by-product of the electrolytic process for caustic soda and chlorine. Also, gases resulting as by-



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