NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Who would have thought that fertilizer could engender such drama?

But over the last few weeks, two hostile takeover battles have simultaneously gripped the sector and its participants, as



tries to buy

CF Industries

(CF) - Get Report

, which is trying to buy

Terra Industries


. Two other major fertilizer players --





(MOS) - Get Report

-- stand on the sidelines, though both have been named in the past as potential takeout targets of the cash-rich Australian mega-miner

BHP Billiton

(BHP) - Get Report


And so we asked readers of


this week

in a poll

: Over the near term, which of these companies will outperform the rest, whether it does so by subsuming a rival, by letting itself be subsumed, or simply by remaining independent?

Before we get to the results, however, let's review some late-breaking developments -- another chapter in the ongoing narrative that is the Fertilizer Wars.

On Friday, the influential proxy advisor RiskMetrics went public

in support of CF Industries

and the slate of dissident directors it has nominated for Terra's board. (Terra will convene its annual meeting on Friday, Nov. 20.) Terra, of course, immediately countered the RiskMetrics report, reiterating its opinion of CF's bid, which amounts to: stop being so cheap.

The core of the RiskMetrics argument appears to be: Why hasn't Terra management and its board sought to negotiate with CF at all, since, in RiskMetrics' opinion, the CF offer is a serious one, and yet open-ended enough to accept a counteroffer? Terra's shareholders, then, ought to push for some change come next Friday, RiskMetrics indicated.

Scene shift: Just a day earlier, on Thursday, the Agrium-CF battle also took a turn when Agrium said, in effect, "This is our final offer. Take it or leave it." Agrium sent a letter to CF shareholders urging them to accept the approximately $5 billion offer by tendering their shares by Nov. 18. In doing so, CF's holders would "send a clear message to the CF board that you want to receive a premium, not pay one." Agrium is offering $45 in cash plus one Agrium share for every CF share tendered.

Agrium also indicated that its passion for CF's business remained high enough that it will consider any and all options. Those include going to court and -- just as CF has done to Terra - nominating a dissident slate for election to the CF board.

OK. With all that out of the way, here are the poll results. Survey takers, it turns out, have a pretty clear view of this three-way situation: Take it somewhere else. Of the five fertilizer producers on our list, readers believe, by a large margin, that the two companies on the sidelines will offer the best shareholder value over the near term.

Running away with the vote, then, was the Canadian giant Potash, which garnered 41% of your clicks. Finishing in a strong second was Mosaic, of Plymouth, Minn, with more than 25% of the votes.

And then we have our triumvirate of would-be dealmakers. Of the three, pollsters like Agrium and Terra the best. They virtually tied, with just a few votes separating them. Rounding down in the case of Agrium and up for Terra, both companies received 12% of the clicks. Poor CF, then, came in last, with about 9%.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.