The plant health improvement agents (PHIA) market, which consists of micronutrients, synthetic fertilizers and plant growth regulators (PGRs), is growing steadily in North America mainly due to demand from the food, biofuel and plant-based chemicals industries. Rising healthcare costs combined with healthier eating trends have resulted in increased demand for high-value niche foods such as proteins, nuts, vitamins and minerals allowing for increased PHIA use in horticulture. The Renewable Fuel Standard and other regulations aimed at reducing carbon footprint through use of biofuels and natural products further support market demand.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, "Analysis of the North American Plant Health Improvement Agents (PHIA) Market," finds that the market earned revenues of $15.45 billion in 2013 and estimates this to reach $19.66 billion by 2020. While synthetic fertilizers dominate the North American market with a 91.4 percent share, educated farmers are influencing the development and marketing of high-value products such as micronutrients and PGRs. 

“Rapid advances in plant genetics and seed technology can outpace nutrient innovation and reduce dependence on standard bulk fertilizers,” said Frost & Sullivan Chemicals, Materials and Food Research Analyst Reuben Sequeira. “To sidestep this threat, PHIA market participants are developing new plant nutrient technologies, such as chelated and complexed micronutrients to complement the modern plant.”

However, fluctuating weather, planting and demand patterns in the region alter the balance of nutrient supply and demand creating price volatility in the PHIA market. While nutrient companies are adapting, this issue still affects upstream capacity utilization, especially as excess supply lowers nutrient prices for prolonged periods of time.

Companies that have sustained above-market growth in the midst of demand and price instability are those that maintain strong relationships with customers through well-developed distribution pipelines. These companies anticipate concerns and reduce risk through long-term contracts that ensure steady return on investment for growers.

“Such distribution partnerships will help suppliers meet growers’ needs with highly effective and advanced products,” noted Sequeira. “Innovative products, such as controlled-release fertilizers, micronutrient-bulk fertilizer blends, and targeted micronutrients will also morph into substitutes for bulk nutrients.”