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Charcoal forms basis for slow-release fertilizer

Summary

The risk of contamination in surface and ground water quality as a result of the widespread use of fertilizers in modern agriculture is well known. Numerous efforts have been made to develop more efficient fertilizers which release their nutrients more slowly, thus allowing for a better uptake of nutrients by the plant. In a project funded by the Korean Research Foundations, scientists at Kyungpook National University have undertaken experiments with fertilizers impregnated with charcoal. The results have been most encouraging, as described below.

Abstract

It is well known that if fertilizers are mismanaged, they can lead to lost profits for farmers and potential damage to the environment. The nutrient leaching in soils that follows low nutrient retention capacity causes low crop yields and can contaminate the ground water. The risk of soil salinisation and damage to seedlings with poor quality must also be taken into account. Slow-release fertilizers have low solubility and can provide a more gradual source of nutrients for a long period of time, which improves the nutrient efficiency of fertilizers and reduces leaching losses.

Various forms of slow- and controlled-release fertilizers are available commercially. A common method of delaying the premature release of nutrients is to coat the fertilizer granule: as the coating material degrades, the nutrients are progressively released. One such coating material is charcoal. A major advantage of charcoal is that the fertilizer granule does not require any microbial activity or specific temperature for the nutrients to be released, as the fertilizer is impregnated into the cell through the cell pit aperture.

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PPI prepares for a bigger canvas

Summary

Having celebrated two milestones in 2005, the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI) embarks on a new year ready to face even greater challenges and the prospect of an enhanced role in the global agronomic community. Fertilizer International visited PPI's headquarters in Norcross, Georgia, USA to find out more.

Abstract

Last year, 2005, marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the organisation that is today known as the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI). Its goal was clear from the outset – progress through science – and PPI can point to many achievements around the world by following that maxim. A second milestone was marked at the very end of 2005, when Dr. David Dibb concluded a highly fruitful 30-year career with the Institute, retiring as PPI President – a post which he had held for 17 years, by far the longest tenure in PPI’s illustrious history. David’s retirement was marked by many accolades from throughout the fertilizer community. Dr. Terry Roberts has picked up the baton as the new PPI President, and has embarked with fresh vigour in his quest to sustain and build on PPI’s achievements.

The origins of PPI can be traced back to July 1935, when a consortium representing the entire North American potash industry teamed with their European counterparts to establish the American Potash Institute. They elected Dr. J. W. Turrentine as their first President, who declared: “Potash use depends on the recognition of its function as a plant food, which is agronomic, and the ability of the farmer to buy his requirement, which is economic. In fact, the agricultural use of potash must be increased only on the basis that is agronomically sound and profitable to the farmer.”

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A niche is filled in Brussels

Summary

The second British Sulphur Phosphates Conference and Exhibition will take place between 23-25 April 2006 at the Hilton Hotel, Brussels, Belgium. It will provide a fresh opportunity to discuss the future direction of phosphate markets and the key issues and developments that will affect them. Some of these issues are outlined below.

Abstract

British Sulphur Events’ pioneering Phosphates conference in Paris last year was warmly received, as it filled a major niche in the industry calendar. The meeting generated interest that was strong enough to warrant a follow-up meeting at an early date, and hence Phosphates 2006 will be convened at the Hilton Hotel, Brussels, Belgium, between 23-25 April 2006. This event is unique as the most comprehensive of its kind, as it covers the entire spectrum of the global phosphate industry and will bring together senior representatives from the sectors that include mining and beneficiation, phosphoric acid, fertilizers, animal feeds, detergents, and other industrial uses. Phos­phates 2006 will also provide a forum for those involved in the trading, shipping, inspection and technological research sectors.

Although 2005/06 is expected to be a year of marking time after the strong growth in phosphate use recorded in the previous two years, the market fundamentals remain strong. IFA forecasts that global demand for phosphate fertilizers will slip back in 2005/06, to an estimated 36.5 million tonnes P2O5, compared with 37.3 million tonnes P2O5 in 2004/05 – a fall of 2.3 %. In 2004/05, global consumption of phosphate fertilizers rose by 6.2 %. The forecast decline in 2005/06 is attributed to the long-term easing back in the demand for phosphate fertilizers in North America and West­ern Europe, which was exacerbated by the unexpected downturn in consumption in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America. Factors which are expected to impact on the global demand for phosphate fertilizers in 2005/06 include lower grain prices, combined with ever rising prices for fertilizers as producers seek to recoup escalating energy costs.

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A fulcrum role

Summary

The leading North African phosphate producers of Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria have embarked on major investment programmes and forged a growing number of marketing alliances with their leading customers. These investments appear to have been well timed.

Abstract

World output of phosphate rock in 2005 is estimated to have totalled around 163 million tonnes, on a par with the 2004 total. Four North African countries – Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia – accounted for around 33 million tonnes, or one quarter of this total (Fig. 1).

Morocco is the predominant North African supplier, with an output of around 27 million tonnes in 2005. (Table 1) Indeed, Morocco ranks second only to the United States in global output terms (35 million tonnes in 2004), although China is not far behind. Morocco is also the world’s largest ex­porter of phosphate rock, with a 42 % share of global exports. In 2005, IFA estimates that Morocco achieved rock exports of around 13.5 million tonnes, representing a significant increase of 14 % over 2004 and contributing 60 % of the world’s increase in phosphate rock trade in 2005.

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A brighter future for Nauru

Summary

Phosphate mining on the Pacific island of Nauru is undergoing a revival, having fallen into disrepair in recent years. A lack of investment and an apparent depletion of reserves have led output to fall to just 22,000 tonnes in 2004 from more than 2 million t/a in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, the New Zealand engineering joint venture Astro Pacific Group and Australian fertilizer producer Incitec Pivot have teamed up to work with the Nauru government to refurbish the island's phosphate operation. Lynda Davies describes their progress to date.

Abstract

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the tiny Pacific island of Nauru was producing more than 2 million t/a of high-grade phosphate rock, and even in the 1980s annual production was averaging 1.3-1.5 million t/a. All of the rock produced was exported and provided more than 90 % of the island’s export revenues, giving its 13,000 people one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. However, over the years, economic mismanagement coupled with the apparent depletion of the phosphate ore has driven Nauru to the brink of financial collapse. Furthermore, the mining of the ore has left much of the 21 km2 island resembling a surreal moonscape. By 2004, exports had fallen to just 27,300 tonnes, providing only a fraction of the export earnings secured in earlier years.

Things are set to change, however. New Zealand’s Astro Pacific Group, a joint venture of two of the country’s engineering, design and management companies with long-standing experience in the fertilizer sector, and Australia’s Incitec Pivot have joined forces to work with the Nauru government to bring the island’s phosphate rock production back on line. Recent studies suggest that 2 million tonnes of rock were readily available.

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IRRI promotes site-specific nutrient management

Summary

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international NGO based at Los Baņos, Philippines and has offices in ten countries. Its main goal is to find sustainable ways of improving the well-being of rice farmers and consumers, as well as the environment. IRRI remains best known for its contribution to the Green Revolution in Asia during the 1960s and 1970s. Its focus now has shifted increasingly to optimising the supply of nutrients to the crops, as described by David Hayes.

Abstract

Rice production has grown rapidly throughout Asia during the past 2-3 decades due to the development of new high yield rice varieties and major improvements in rice farming practices that have helped many farmers to plant a second or even third rice crop each year. The International Rice Research Insti­tute (IRRI), based in Los Baños near Manila in the Philippines, has been at the forefront of developments in rice farming during this important period. IRRI continues to provide support to governments, extension agencies and farmers to achieve optimum harvest yields throughout the rice-growing world.

Since the mid-1990s, ensuring the provision of optimum soil nutrient supply through the Site Specific Nutrient Manage­ment (SSNM) initiative has formed a major part of IRRI’s overall research and extension programme. The results of earlier pioneering R&D work into SSNM for high yield rice production currently are being used to expand the initiative to benefit about 27 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while research into other related areas including pest control and irrigation conservation water also continues.

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