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Published: June 2011
Ammonium sulfate is used mainly as a nitrogen fertilizer material and accounts for about 4% of the world nitrogen fertilizer market. It is valued as an important source of nutrient sulfur as well as nitrogen. Industrial use of ammonium sulfate accounts for only about 5% of world consumption. Small amounts are used in applications such as cattle feed supplements and a variety of small pharmaceutical and chemical uses.
In general, the industrialized regions account for most of the world's ammonium sulfate capacity, with Western Europe and the United States being overtaken by China in recent years. Demand for ammonium sulfate was characterized by steady growth of almost 2.5% annually during 1993–2010.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of ammonium sulfate:
Ammonium sulfate's high sulfur content in the sulfate form makes it readily absorbable by plants. It has a low pH, making it suitable for alkaline soils. As a nitrogenous fertilizer, it competes with urea, ammonium phosphates and ammonium nitrate. Sulfur has become increasingly recognized as an essential nutrient for plant growth since it supports the synthesis of amino acids, proteins, enzymes, vitamins and chlorophyll. It has been found to be beneficial to a variety of crops including canola, alfalfa, wheat, corn, potatoes, rice, tea, citrus, vines and vegetables.
It is superior to other nitrogen products as a provider of nitrogen under some conditions, such as flood irrigation. Ammonium sulfate contains 24% sulfur as well as 21% nitrogen and therefore can be used to supplement some sulfur-deficient soils. In this use, ammonium sulfate must compete with granular gypsum, elemental sulfur, potassium magnesium sulfate and urea sulfur.
Apparent world consumption of ammonium sulfate increased by over 26.0% or 1.0% annually during 1987–2010, with consumption forecast to increase by about 15.5% or 3.0% annually during 2010–2015. During 1987–2010, the largest increases were noted in Southeast Asia, Central and South America, China, and the Middle East, while the largest declines were noted in the former USSR and Central Europe. During the forecast period, all regions are projected to record increases, with the largest gains expected in China.