A global FAOSTAT reference database of cropland nutrient budgets and nutrient use efficiency (1961-2020): Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

Cameron I. Ludemann, Nathan Wanner, Pauline Chivenge, Achim Dobermann, Rasmus Einarsson, Patricio Grassini, Armelle Gruere, Kevin Jackson, Luis Lassaletta, Federico Maggi, Griffiths Obli-Laryea, Martin K. van Ittersum, Srishti Vishwakarma, Xin Zhang, Francesco N. Tubiello*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Nutrient budgets help to identify the excess or insufficient use of fertilizers and other nutrient sources in agriculture. They allow for the calculation of indicators, such as the nutrient balance (surplus if positive or deficit if negative) and nutrient use efficiency, that help to monitor agricultural productivity and sustainability across the world. We present a global database of country-level budget estimates for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) on cropland. The database, disseminated in FAOSTAT, is meant to provide a global reference, synthesizing and continuously updating the state of the art on this topic. The database covers 205 countries and territories, as well as regional and global aggregates, for the period from 1961 to 2020. Results highlight the wide range in nutrient use and nutrient use efficiencies across geographic regions, nutrients, and time. The average N balance on global cropland has remained fairly steady at about 50-55kgha-1yr-1 during the past 15 years, despite increasing N inputs. Regional trends, however, show recent average N surpluses that range from a low of about 10kgNha-1yr-1 in Africa to more than 90kgNha-1yr-1 in Asia. Encouragingly, average global cropland N use efficiency decreased from about 59% in 1961 to a low of 43% in 1988, but it has risen since then to a level of 55%. Phosphorus deficits are mainly found in Africa, whereas potassium deficits occur in Africa and the Americas. This study introduces improvements over previous work in relation to the key nutrient coefficients affecting nutrient budgets and nutrient use efficiency estimates, especially with respect to nutrient removal in crop products, manure nutrient content, atmospheric deposition and crop biological N fixation rates. We conclude by discussing future research directions and highlighting the need to align statistical definitions across research groups as well as to further refine plant and livestock coefficients and expand estimates to all agricultural land, including nutrient flows in meadows and pastures. Further information is available from 10.5061/dryad.hx3ffbgkh (Ludemann et al., 2023b) as well as the FAOSTAT database (https://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/ESB; FAO, 2022a) and is updated annually.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-541
Number of pages17
JournalEarth System Science Data
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2024


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