Fertilizer plays an important role in raising agricultural production in China. However, the negative environmental consequences resulting from high fertilizer use intensity have posed serious challenges to agriculture sustainability in China. The goal of this study is to identify the underlying driving forces of fertilizer use intensity by crops that help to identify challenges and opportunities and provide advices for future policy measures. A complete decomposition method is employed to analyze the nature of the three factors that influence the changes in fertilizer use intensity by crops during the period of 2004 to 2011: fertilizer use efficiency effect, crop structure change effect and production efficiency effect. The results show that: (1) there were marked differences in the driving forces of fertilizer use intensity among different crops. The increase of fertilizer use intensity by grain crops was mostly affected by crop structure change and fertilizer use efficiency; the decline of fertilizer use intensity by economic crops was largely due to the crop structure change from high fertilizer use intensity type to low fertilizer use intensity type, while the increase of fertilizer use intensity by horticultural crops was mainly attributable to the crop structure change effect. The production efficiency had a positive effect on fertilizer use intensity decrease in all crops; (2) For the aggregate agricultural economy, the reduction of fertilizer use efficiency was the main factor in the growth of fertilizer use intensity, while the crop structure change and production efficiency change had minor effects on lowering fertilizer use intensity. We suggest that enhancing fertilizer use efficiency and changing crop structure should serve as essential approaches to reduce fertilizer use intensity in China.
Key words: Decomposition analysis, fertilizer use intensity, agriculture sustainability.
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