The demographic explosion that followed the Second World War brought another great battle to the 20th century: that of feeding Humanity. The exponential increase in agricultural production ensured that the world had access to food, but this was only possible because chemical fertilisers played a fundamental role in this process.
Fertiliser is the food that plants need to grow and develop. Plants need light, carbon dioxide, water and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. But the soil can hardly provide all these elements in ideal quantities. And it is in order to fill this deficit that fertilisers gain strength, giving plants a better use of their resources.
Man's first real contact with fertilisers goes back to the Neolithic period, twelve thousand years ago, when agriculture and livestock allowed prehistoric man to settle.
Animal waste, vegetable debris, ash and clays were the first natural fertilisers used by man to fertilise the land, during the Neolithic Revolution or “Agricultural Revolution”, which took place in different places, such as the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, expanding all over the world.
Throughout this period, prehistoric man settled. They developed agriculture, domesticated animals and plants, invented advanced metal utensils and established cultural and commercial exchanges with other groups. Thanks to a sedentary lifestyle, the population increased and the first cities or settlements emerged.
The CUF’s former fertiliser warehouse in Barreiro (now Bondalti)
Farmers were dedicated to cultivating the land and the techniques of fertilising with ash and animal manure continued to flourish, becoming a kind of business in the region that comprised France, Belgium and Flanders, even during the Middle Ages. To compensate for the loss of nutrients in the soil, farmers also introduced fallow and crop rotation.
But the development of cities, with their enormous needs for food supply and the emergence of industry, has exponentially accelerated the consumption and dispersion of these nutrients from the soil, far beyond their capacity for regeneration.