Report on the Environment
Fertilizer Applied for Agricultural Purposes
What are the trends in chemicals used on the land and their effects on human health and the environment?(Chemicals to include toxic substances, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.)
The above question pertains to all 'Chemicals' Indicators, however, the information on these pages (overview, graphics, references and metadata) relates specifically to "Fertilizer Applied for Agricultural Purposes". Use the right side drop list to view the other related indicators on this question.
- Use the Toxics Release Inventory Explorer to find out about toxic and hazardous chemicals released from facilities in your community
- Contribute ideas and information during the permitting process of facilities that transport, store, or dispose of hazardous waste in your community
- Ask your grocer about organic foods and products
- If you grow your own vegetables or buy from a local community market, practice and support integrated pest management practices
- Consider ways to reduce or eliminate your use of fertilizers
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The acreage of land planted in cotton was 12.4 million acres in the most recent ARMS survey year (2006) and has ranged between 11 and 16 million acres since 1990. Major cotton-producing states include 17 southern states located in EPA Regions 4, 6, and 9. Production of winter, durum, and other spring wheat occurred on about 57 million acres in 2006 and is distributed across EPA Regions 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10. Wheat typically accounts for about 10 percent of all commercial fertilizer used (Daberkow and Huang, 2006).Soybeans were the fastest-growing crop in total acreage, increasing from 57.8 million acres in 1990 to 75.5 million acres in 2006 (USDA NASS, 2007c). The majority of soybean acreage (80 percent) is concentrated in the upper Midwest in EPA Regions 5 and 7. Soybeans require the least fertilizer per acre of the four crops described here.Overall, production of these four crops in the ARMS states used slightly more than 13.25 million tons per year (MT/yr) of fertilizer in 2005-2006 (Exhibit 4-17) of the 21.7 MT/yr estimated (2005-2006 average) by ERS for all crops produced in the entire U.S. Of this amount, slightly less than half (5.8 MT/yr) was applied in EPA Region 5 (Exhibit 4-17), most of which was used for corn. An additional 3.7 MT/yr was applied in EPA Region 7, primarily on corn or soybeans.
- USDA national estimates of fertilizer use are based on sales data provided by states, not actual fertilizer usage, and are susceptible to differing reporting procedures or accuracy from state to state.
- Data to identify cropland used for crop production are from the major land use series discussed in the Land Cover and Land Use indicators and do not include Alaska and Hawaii.
- Within the ARMS, not all states report fertilizer data every year for each crop type, making it difficult to establish year-to-year trends (a decrease in fertilizer use for a specific crop might be attributed to failure of a state to report, rather than an actual decrease of use).
- ARMS sampling is limited to program states, which represent 82 to 99 percent of crop acreage (across all surveyed crops) for the years 2005 and 2006, depending on crop type.
- The NASS Acreage report has estimates of acreage in production for the entire nation by crop, while fertilizer sales data are based only on USDA program states. Even though USDA program states represent the majority of U.S. planted acreage (often over 90 percent), the ability to generalize the data to the country as a whole is unknown, as non-program states, while representing a small percentage of a crop, might have much different application rates due to climate, weather, etc.
- Fertilizer applied to trees that are considered agricultural crops (e.g., nut-producing trees) is included in field crop summaries, but fertilizer applied in silviculture (e.g., southern pine plantations) is not covered by the NASS data collection system.
- Loading of nutrients in aquatic systems is not necessarily correlated directly with fertilizer use, but rather with the levels of fertilizer applied in excess of amounts used by crops, natural vegetation, and soil biota.
Daberkow, S., and W. Huang. 2006. Nutrient management. In: Wiebe, K., and N. Gollehon, eds. 2006. Agricultural resources and environmental indicators, 2006 edition. EIB-16. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/arei/eib16/eib16_4-4.pdf
Lubowski, R.N., M. Vesterby, S. Bucholtz, A. Baez, and M.J. Roberts. 2006. Major uses of land in the United States, 2002. EIB-14. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib14/
USDA Economic Research Service. 2007a. Data Sets: U.S. Fertilizer Use and Price. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FertilizerUse/
USDA Economic Research Service. 2007b. Data Sets: Major Land Uses. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/MajorLandUses/
USDA NASS (United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service). 2007a. Acreage. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/Acre/2000s/2007/Acre-06-29-2007.pdf
USDA NASS. 2007b. Agricultural chemical usage, 2006 field crops summary. May. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC/2000s/2007/AgriChemUsFC-05-16-2007_revision.pdf
USDA NASS. 2007c. Crop Production Historical Track Records. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/htrcp//2000s/2007/htrcp-04-27-2007.pdf
USDA NASS. 2006a. Acreage. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/Acre/2000s/2006/Acre-06-30-2006.pdf
USDA NASS. 2006b. Agricultural chemical usage, 2005 field crops summary. May. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC/2000s/2006/AgriChemUsFC-05-17-2006.pdf
USDA NASS. 2005a. Acreage. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/Acre/2000s/2005/Acre-06-30-2005.pdf
USDA NASS. 2005b. Crop production: 2004 summary. Cr Pr 2-1 (05). http://jan.mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/nassr/field/pcp-bban/cropan05.pdf
USDA NASS. 2004. Acreage. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/Acre/2000s/2004/Acre-06-30-2004.pdf
USDA NASS. 2001. Agricultural chemical usage, 2000 field crops summary. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/nassr/other/pcu-bb/agcs0501.pdf
|Fertilizer Applied for Agricultural Purposes|
|2.||ROE Question(s) This Indicator Helps to Answer|
|This indicator is used to help answer one ROE question: "What are the trends in chemicals used on the land and their effects on human health and the environment?(Chemicals to include toxic substances, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.)"|
This indicator describes the use of the three major fertilizers (nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], and potash [K]) in pounds per acre of land per year used for crop production from 1960 to 2006, based on annual fertilizer sales data and nationwide surveys. This information helps characterize changing fertilizer usage in the United States, which can impact aquatic ecosystems through runoff.
Information on commercial fertilizer use in the U.S. is based on two sets of summary data from the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Economic Research Service (ERS): annual estimates of fertilizer use from 1960 through 2006, by nutrient, and annual estimates of the acreage of cultivated (harvested or failed) cropland from 1960 to 2006.
Information on fertilizer use for four common crops (corn, cotton, soybeans, and wheat) in major agriculture-producing state is based on fertilizer use data from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Agricultural Chemical Usage reports, which report data collected by the Agricultural Resources Management Survey (ARMS).
This figure is based on two sets of summary data from USDA ERS. The full data set used in the indicator for annual estimates of fertilizer use from 1960 through 2006, by nutrient, is available from USDA ERS (2007a) (available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FertilizerUse/). The acreage dataset, used to calculate fertilizer use per acre, is published in Lubowski et al. (2006) (available at USDA ERS, 2007b).
This figure is based on fertilizer use data from USDA's Agricultural Chemical Usage reports (USDA NASS, 2006, 2007). The full set of data used in the indicator is available in the published documents (see http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC//2000s/2006/AgriChemUsFC-05-17-2006.pdf (167 pp, 1.4MB, About PDF) and http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC/2000s/2007/AgriChemUsFC-05-16-2007_revision.pdf (129 pp, 1.2MB) ). The complete underlying dataset can be requested from UDSA NASS (see http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/ARMS/).
Overall commercial fertilizer use is based on annual sales data compiled by USDA's ERS from several sources including ERS, TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority), AAPFCO (Association of American Plant Food Control Officials), and TFI (The Fertilizer Institute). Some limited descriptions of ERS data sources and approaches are provided in the source publication (Daberkow and Huang, 2006) and in USDA ERS (2003), but no details on statistical sampling procedures for calculating annual fertilizer sales are provided.
Basic information on procedures for surveying acreage can be found in Lubowski et al. (2006).
The ARMS survey is a multi-phase, multi-frame, stratified, probability-weighted sampling design. The target population for ARMS is the official USDA farm population in the 48 contiguous states. However, field-level data do not represent the total U.S. acreage of each crop surveyed, but generally represent over 90 percent of acreage and production of the target commodity. Specific commodities are covered on a rotating basis. For a full description, see http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/ARMS/GlobalDocumentation.htm#doc.
To calculate nutrient pounds per acre of cropland, fertilizer sales data, in total tons of nutrients per year (for N, P, and K), were divided by nationwide crop acreage for the corresponding year from Table 6 (from the Summary Tables (USDA ERS, 2007b), not the tables in the main text) of Lubowski et al. (2006) (crop acreage being the sum of "cropland harvested" and "crop failure").
Fertilizer use for four major crops, by nutrient, was calculated based on the crop-years and data sources as follows:
Data were aggregated by EPA Region.
|9.||Quality Assurance and Quality Control|
The ERS QA/QC methodology is described in USDA ERS (2003).
Trained enumerators conduct personal interviews, using questionnaires developed by NASS and ERS, with farm operators to collect data about their farm operations for the ARMS survey. An interviewer's manual outlines detailed enumeration procedures for each phase of the survey. These documents provide specific directions on how the interview is to be conducted and insight into how to interpret each question. NASS provides enumerator training prior to the survey through a series of enumerator workshops. NASS Headquarters and ERS provide training materials to the State survey statisticians who conduct the training.
After questionnaires are completed by the enumerators, each questionnaire is reviewed by supervisory enumerators for completeness, inconsistent responses, or errors, and then transferred to a NASS State office. Supervisory statisticians also review each questionnaire before it is keyed into an electronic format. A computerized edit routine is then used to identify other potential errors or inconsistencies, checking that responses fall within expected ranges and that answers are consistent. When responses are anomalous, State survey statisticians investigate and either correct or verify the responses. A survey administration manual provides specific details about survey administration and data processing procedures.
USDA does not publish specific thresholds or reference points beyond which fertilizer use is expected to affect people or ecosystems.
|11.||Comparability Over Time and Space|
Specific information about the temporal and spatial comparability of data collected for fertilizer sales and for crop acreage each year is not available.
Within the ARMS, not all states report fertilizer data every year for each crop type, making it difficult to establish year-to-year trends (a decrease in fertilizer use for a specific crop might be attributed to failure of a state to report, rather than an actual decrease of use). As fertilizer application rates can vary from state to state, omission of Program States can result in significant differences in results, and the inability to accurately and confidently generalize results to the national level. ARMS sampling is limited to Program States, which represent 82 to 99 percent of crop acreage (across all surveyed crops) for the years 2005 and 2006, depending on crop type.
The NASS Acreage report has estimates of acreage in production for the entire nation by crop, while fertilizer sales data are based only on USDA Program States. Even though USDA Program States represent the majority of U.S. planted acreage (often over 90 percent), the ability to generalize the data to the country as a whole is unknown, as non-Program States, while representing a small percentage of a crop, might have much different application rates due to climate, weather, etc.
|12.||Sources of Uncertainty|
Content under review.
|13.||Sources of Variability|
Both fertilizer sales and acreage cultivated are subject to a variety of exogenous economic factors that may affect the data. Weather at certain times of the year can also affect fertilizer sales and acreage cultivated.
From USDA NASS (2007), p. 111: The [ARMS] surveys were designed so that the estimates are statistically representative of chemical use on the targeted crops in the Program States. The reliability of these survey results is affected by sampling variability and non-sampling errors.
Since all operations producing the crops of interest are not included in the sample, survey estimates are subject to sampling variability. The sampling variability expressed as a percent of the estimate is called the coefficient of variation (cv). Sampling variability of the estimates differed considerably by chemical and crop. Variability for estimates of percent of acres treated will be higher than the variability for estimates of application rates. This is because application rates have a narrower range of responses, which are recommended by the manufacturer of the product, and are generally followed. In general, the more often the chemical was applied, the smaller the sampling variability. For example, estimates of a commonly used active ingredient such as Glyphosate isopropylamine salt will exhibit less variability than a rarely used chemical. A commonly used active ingredient is defined as an active ingredient used on at least 40 percent of the acres planted for a crop at the Program State level. For these active ingredients, cv's range from 1 percent to 10 percent at the Program State level and 1 percent to 52 percent at the individual state level. Active ingredients that are less frequently used have cv's that range from 2 percent to 70 percent.
No trend analysis has been conducted on the ERS data. The data from NASS represent only a snapshot in time, which makes it impossible to evaluate temporal trends.
This indicator includes the following limitations:
Daberkow, S., and W. Huang. 2006. Nutrient management. In: Wiebe, K., and N. Gollehon, eds. Agricultural resources and environmental indicators, 2006 edition. EIB-16. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/arei/eib16/eib16_4-4.pdf (7 pp, 530K).
Lubowski, R.N., M. Vesterby, S. Bucholtz, A. Baez, and M.J. Roberts. 2006. Major uses of land in the United States, 2002. EIB-14. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib14/.
USDA ERS (United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service). 2007a. Data sets: U.S. fertilizer use and price. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FertilizerUse/.
USDA ERS. 2007b. Data sets: Major land uses. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/MajorLandUses/.
USDA ERS. 2003. The Economic Research Service’s information quality guidelines. http://www.ers.usda.gov/AboutERS/QualityGuidelines3.pdf (17 pp, 93K).
USDA NASS (United States Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service). 2007. Agricultural chemical usage, 2006 field crop summary. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC/2000s/2007/AgriChemUsFC-05-16-2007_revision.pdf (129 pp, 1.2MB) .
USDA NASS. 2006. Agricultural chemical usage, 2005 field crop summary. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/nass/AgriChemUsFC//2000s/2006/AgriChemUsFC-05-17-2006.pdf (167 pp, 1.4MB) .