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The fertilizer industry is a collective of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers that provide nutrients to farmers who need them to grow crops. Many members of this industry are multinational companies that have a business presence around the world. Like other significant industries, it is represented by trade and lobbying organizations that engage in activities such as working with lawmakers and educating the public about the products and services that are available through the industry.
Fertilizers supply needed nutrients to farming crops. Some soils might require nutritional supplementation because they cannot meet the needs of the crops grown on them, and in other cases, although the soil is adequate, plants will be healthier and stronger when fertilizer is used. Appropriate fertilizers also can increase yields, whether in a home flower garden or an industrial wheat field. The fertilizer industry supplies a variety of products and accessories.
Some companies focus on the development of synthetic fertilizers, using chemicals to produce very precisely calibrated mixtures. The chemical and petroleum industries are closely tied to the fertilizer industry as suppliers of feedstock that is used to make various products. Others make organic fertilizers, which tend to be more expensive because they are labor-intensive. These companies take advantage of compost, animal manure and other natural sources of nutrients to supply their customers.
The production of fertilizer is only the first step. These companies must package and sell their products, either directly or through distributors. Transport of fertilizer is a major need, whether in tanker trucks full of chemical products for bulk applications or on flatbed trucks with bags of fertilizer for home gardens. The industry also supplies accessories such as tools for applying fertilizer, soil testing kits to check on nutrient levels and other gear that is related to fertilizer application.
Some members of this industry have environmental concerns and try to limit pollution, the use of harmful chemicals in production and other environmental issues associated with fertilizer use and production. Agricultural runoff in some regions of the world is a significant contributor to fish kills, algae blooms and other environmental issues, and fertilizer is a key component of that runoff. Some companies work on programs such as farmer outreach and education to teach people how to use fertilizer safely and effectively, with the goal of limiting the environmental effects of fertilizers.
Members of the fertilizer industry also have an interest in developing newer and better products to meet the needs of farmers and consumers. They offer a range of timed and slow-release fertilizers in addition to instantly effective products, and they constantly have new products and services in development. Employment in the fertilizer industry is open to people who have a wide variety of skills, including chemists, farmers, engineers, marketing specialists and attorneys.