GrowthFrom space, Earth is a blue planet with 75 percent of its surface covered by water. The remaining portion — land — is mostly brown, a mixture of deserts, mountains, ice caps, forests and cropland. While the deserts may be interesting and the mountains may be beautiful, it’s the cropland that makes it possible for the world to support a population of more than six billion people.

Earth may be blue from space, but at ground level it’s the color green that keeps humanity alive and growing. And that life-sustaining green comes from plants — plants that provide food, fiber, fuel, housing, beauty and a host of other benefits.

Soil plus fertilizer can produce more crops than soil alone. Forecasts estimate the world’s population at nine billion by about 2050. Without fertilizer to boost crop production in the areas already cultivated, we would need to put additional land into production to keep people fed and healthy. In North America during the past 40 years, farmers have actually been able to use less land while tripling food production.