This article examines how Chilean nitrate fertilizer producers and their international marketing agents persuaded farmers in the US South to use nitrogen-rich mineral fertilizers mined from the Atacama Desert, even as cheaper synthetic fertilizers flooded agricultural markets in the early decades of the twentieth century. At the same time, it explores how agricultural experts working in the United States on behalf of Chile's nitrate industry (and increasingly the Chilean government itself) articulated not just connections between nitrogen and soil vitality but also underscored the importance of other mineral “impurities” to healthy plant development. Working in the US Cotton Belt in particular, many of these agents promoted a vision of pan-American ecological and economic interdependence, and through their racialized depictions of agricultural knowledge, they sought to convince US farmers of the unique “all-natural” attributes of Chilean nitrates. In reconstructing this history, the article reveals the far-reaching impact that Chilean fertilizers had on the modernization of US agriculture and advocates for a transnational approach to understanding that process in the early twentieth century. It also traces how the exchange of agricultural commodities and knowledge between Chile and the United States contributed to the emergence of intensive agriculture and what observers would later call the “green revolution.”

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