Specialty fertilizers are granulated fertilizers which supply nutrients to the soil gradually. The measured nutrient uptake by plants can be achieved by usually modifying the fertilizer products through chemical techniques which reduces their solubility, or by physical methods such as coating encapsulation. Specialty fertilizers can be classified into three general categories: slow-release fertilizers where release rates are difficult to estimate, controlled-release fertilizers where release rates are predictable, and fertilizers associated with inhibitors of enzymatic processes. Slow-release fertilizers release their nutrients at a less predictable rate and depend on other aspects of their formulations to release nutrients. The nutrients are available in a form that is not available to plants. They are converted by microorganisms present in the soil into nutrient forms which can be utilized by plants. Slow-release fertilizers can be synthetic or organic. Slow-release fertilizers are affected by multiple factors such as soil moisture, temperature, and ph. Controlled-release fertilizers are coated fertilizers which release nutrients over a specific period of time. The nutrients are usually packed in coated fertilizer granules. The coating materials and release mechanism are different for each product. Controlled release fertilizers are affected only by soil temperature which makes the release of their nutrients more predictable. Higher soil temperature causes the fertilizer to release nutrients more quickly.
The demand for specialty fertilizers is expected to grow due to their advantages over the conventional fertilizers. Specialty fertilizers are more efficient, require less labor, and provide more consistent nutrients to plants. As the nutrients are released only in sufficient amounts which can be absorbed by the plants, the nutrients can be completely utilized by the plant. Specialty fertilizers also produce more compact plants that require less utilization of growth regulators. The risk of loss is high when using conventional fertilizers as the nutrient is soluble, and available in surplus quantity. However, specialty fertilizers are expensive as compared to the conventional fertilizers and have a limited use in the mainstream agriculture. This could hamper the growth of specialty fertilizer market to some extent.
North America is the largest market for specialty fertilizers accounting for a majority of the global demand, followed by Asia Pacific and Western Europe. Emerging economies in Asia Pacific are expected to be the fastest growing markets for specialty fertilizers. Consumption of specialty fertilizers in India is still at a nascent stage. The expansion of Indian economy and increased awareness about the benefits of specialty fertilizers is expected to raise the demand for specialty fertilizers. In addition, concern for the environment is expected to further drive the demand for specialty fertilizers, especially in Asia Pacific and North America. Countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are expected to experience moderate market growth.
The market is dominated by large and medium chemical and agricultural corporations. Some key players in this market include Yara International ASA (Norway), Agrium Inc. (Canada), Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (Canada), Haifa Chemicals (Israel), Vardhaman Fertilizers and Seeds Pvt Ltd (India), Verdesian Life Sciences (the U.S.), Sungro Seeds Ltd. (India), and Sociedad Quimica y Minera S.A. (Chile). The companies are using strategic mergers and acquisitions to increase their market share. In addition, the companies are shifting their production facilities from developed economies to emerging economies due to availability of land, cheap labor, and government subsidies. Furthermore, they are using aggressive marketing tactics to remain competitive in the market.
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