Another Key Shortage: Fertilizer

Prices skyrocket, ingredients scarce as growing population demands more food
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2008 10:02 AM CDT
Fertilizers are needed not only for food crops like these strawberries, but also for crops destined to become biofuels and those intended to feed animals.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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(Newser) – One of the less touted factors behind the global food crisis is a shortage in chemical fertilizer, which has helped boost crop yields dramatically and particularly benefited the developing world. But while growing demand is unlikely to be met for many years, the environmental impact of producing and using chemical fertilizers is significant and negative, the New York Times reports.

Factories that produce the critical ingredient nitrogen guzzle fuel, and much of that element ends up in runoff water, contributing to "dead zones" in the oceans. But manure isn't chemically rich enough to sustain high crop yields necessary to feed a ballooning population—and produce biofuels. As one scientist puts it, "Without chemical fertilizer, forget it. The game is over.”