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Contrasting fortunes

Summary

The future of the Bulgarian fertilizer industry hangs in the balance. Poor market conditions at home, weak prices in intemational markets, an upsurge in the price paid for natural gas, and a domestic financial crisis have combined to drive the Bulgarian fertilizer producers into losses and indebtedness, threatening their very survival. Efforts by the state privatisation agency to secure private sector investment have drawn only a lukewarm response from the west, but Russian interest is rumoured to be strong. What are the prospects? FI investigates...

Abstract

Even more so than its erstwhile Comecon partners in Central Europe, Bulgaria has had to undergo a painful transition to a more market-oriented economy since the demise ofthe Soviet Union, and the country's tribulations have been reflected in its fertilizer sector.

Bulgaria is a fertile country which has favoured the development ofa major agricultural sector, and the country is a leading wheat producer, capable of harvesting over 4 million t/a. Bulgaria offers excellent conditions for growing and marketing high-qualiry products in the home market, as well as having access to international markets via its Black Sea ports and the River Danube. The soil is diversified, and the climate allows the cultivation of many different crops.

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Boom time in the Baltic

Summary

The Baltic ports of Eastern Europe continue to enjoy an upsurge in traffic as investments in enhanced facilities come on stream. Fertilizer business has been particularly buoyant, as large volumes of FSU urea, MAPIDAP and potash are routed via the ports ofVentspils, Tallinn, Liepaja and others. However, the Russian port authorities are keen to regain a share of this business, as described in this review.

Abstract

These are boom times for the leading Baltic ports, and fertilizers are playing a major part in generating new volumes ofbusiness in the region, justif)ring the recent investment in new handling and storage facilities. Major developments are under way, as the ports in the independent Baltic republics vie with the Russian ports to win an enhanced share of the nitrogen, MAP/DAP and potash fertilizer exports from Russia and Belarus that are continuing at record levels.

The rivalry is certainly intense. In the Latvian port of Ventspils, the specialised potash terminal set up byJSCKalijaParks handled 4.35 million tonnes of Russian and Belorussian potash last year - trade which the Russians are keen to retain for themselves. The desire to regain a larger share of the fertilizer export traffic is one of the factors behind the Ust-Luga project, construction of which commenced in February 1997. This new sea port is located in the south western area of the Gulf of Finland, 110 km from St. Petersburg, and the project's promoters are developing 10 Ian of berths, comprising dedicated terminals for handling various bulk products, including coal, chemicals, timber, grain, sugar, as well as fertilizers. Vessels of up to 150,000 dwt will be accommodated, and an annual throughput of around 35 million tla is envisaged.

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A safer alternative

Summary

APGs (alkyl polyglycosides) have been widely used in the detergent sector, as stabilisers and solubilisers. Interest now focuses on their potential use as biodegradable surfactants in the fertilizer sector, as described here by Bill Lavers, Editor of Oils & Fats.

Abstract

The "green" movement in agriculture is gaining pace, judging by the evidence from trends in methods of application for both fertilizers and pesticides. Modern concepts of precision agriculture involve closely targeted application of nutrients, while at the same time, the use of "hard" insecticides (that not only bring concerns about residues in food, but also lead to longterm resistance in many cases) give way to "softer" pest control measures, including integrated pest management systems (IPMs) involving the more selective use ofpesticides in regimes that do not destroy beneficial insect species, too.

The latest development in this trend is that even the type ofsurfactant used in agricultural solutions - for carrying fertilizers, pesticides and/or herbicides - can today be based on all natural raw materials, without forsaking any of the required high performance at the same time. Alkyl polyglycosides (APGs) are new, biodegradable and environmentallybenign surfactants that - according to a major producer, Henkel - have special performance properties for use in the formulation of agricultural solutions. APGs are said to combine excellent wetting and emulsifying characteristics with high salt tolerance and adjuvancy (auxiliary surfactant properties), to provide good handling and application, even in solutions where pesticides and herbicides are used in combinations with fertilizers. They help to maximise crop yields while minimising environmental impact. Alkyl polyglycosides are made from starch or sugar (derived from maize, sugar beet, potatoes etc.) and fatty alcohols (derived from vegetable oils or animal fats) and have become useful as auxiliaries in detergent and surfactant formulations because of their properties as stabilisers and solubilisers. Producers include Kao Corporation, Japan; Henkel, Germany and the United States; Akzo-Nobel, Sweden; and Seppic, France. In the United States, Procter & Gamble has developed a similar type ofproduct - alkyl polyglucamides (AGAs), made from glucose and fatty acids, which are reported to have similar properties.

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Time to take centre stage

Summary

Sulphur is increasingly recognised as a nutrient of critical importance, as the evidence of its growing deficiency accumulates throughout many agro-ecoregions of the world. This review, by Dr. Rolf Hardter,W. Maibaum and M. Ross of Kali und Salz, examines the effects of sulphur deficiency, and looks at ways of treating it.

Abstract

The optimal exploitation and efficiency of agricultural inputs are the most important challenges facing modern, economically- and ecologically- sound agriculture. One of the crucial factors for achieving high yields combined with best qualities is an optimal fertilisation strategy. Researchers and consultants have, up until now, mainly concentrated on optimising the fertilisation strategy for the three primary nutrients of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, on the basis ofcrops and site specific conditions.

Although sulphur has always been recognised as one of the six macronutrients, its deliberate implementation in fertilisation practice was not seen as necessary in industrial countries until the 1980s, because the S02 emissions from industry automatically provided sufficient sulphur to soils and cultivated crops. Sulphur balances in most cropping systems in the industrial regions were thus generally positive. Surveys carried out in Germany indicated an annual sulphur deposition of about 45 kg S/ha in the 1970s, well above the sulphur uptake of highly S-demanding crops such as oilseed rape (Fig. 1).

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