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Clear-cut advantages

Summary

The percentage of fertilizers delivered to the grower as bulk blends has been increasing steadily around the world during the past three decades. In the United States, where the technology was pioneered, the economics of fertilizer production and distribution especially favour bulk blending, and the country now musters over 5,000 blending plants. Blending offers many agronomic and economic advantages, as described by Charles Formisani, Project Engineer of the leading supplier of blending technology, A. J. Sackett & Sons Co.

Abstract

When the goal of a fertilisation programme is essentially to produce the best crop yield consistent with long-term agronomic planning at the most economical cost, bulk blending offers a very practical and cost-effective supply alternative. Pro­duction alternatives for the preparation of granular compound fertilizers containing two or more of the primary nutrients generally fall into two main categories:

  • Physically mixing various proportions of granular materials to obtain the desired nutrient ratio concentration. Such processes do not alter the physical and chemical characteristics of the granular materials.
  • Processes that require chemical reaction, liquid addition or melting of some or all of the ingredients to form a granular product.

 

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How to boost ­nitrogen use efficiency

Summary

Increasing nitrogen fertilizer use is absolutely necessary to provide enough nutritious food to the steadily growing world population and to preserve fragile eco-systems from cultivation. However, nitrogen losses to the environment associated with the use of fertilizers raise concerns. The current level of nitrogen fertilizer use efficiency is often less than 50 %, with values sometimes below 30 % in irrigated rice systems. As Luc Maene observes, several options are available to improve the use efficiency of fertilizer N applied to crops. Addressing this challenge in a pro-active manner is critical for the fertilizer industry and its partners in order to avoid costly and unpredictable regulatory responses.

Abstract

As an essential component of proteins, nitrogen (N) is a key nutrient for crop production. Com­pared with other plant nutrients, relatively large amounts of N are required by crops. As a consequence, crops respond quickly and dramatically to N applications. In the environment, N undergoes many transformations, which constitute the N cycle. In pristine ecosystems, N inputs are in equilibrium with N losses. In agricultural systems, the cycle is disturbed by the export of substantial amounts of N by the harvested produce.

The use of fertilizers is therefore essential to maintain or improve soil productivity. However, this practice has led to the steady increase of reactive N in the environment – an issue that is receiving increased attention.

Over the past 40 years, global food production has increased drastically thanks to higher N use in the first instance and improved N management over the past two decades. (Table 1)

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IPPC – intelligent planning prevents catastrophe

Summary

If you produce fertilizer in one of the European Union member states and you do not know about the impact of European Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control (IPPC) legislation, then it is probably time that you did. Because, in the UK for example, from 31 August of next year, fertilizer ­producers will face the very real prospect of their facilities being shut down if they fail to comply. Chris Hoggart, UK Environment Director of Hyder Consulting describes what is at stake.

Abstract

The first priority for fertilizer producers across the EU member states is to make sure that they know when they have to apply to their regulatory authority to obtain an IPPC permit. Otherwise they could find themselves operating outside the law. The same also applies if producers are operating a plant in one of the ten candidate states which were due to join the EU in May 2004, although producers in many of these countries may have a little more time to make their application.

With the wide interpretation of environmental impacts adopted in the IPPC legislation, the onus is on companies to ensure that all environmental emissions are effectively managed. An application for a permit needs to cover elements such as site conditions, management processes, raw materials, emissions to air and water, waste handling and recycling, energy usage and decommissioning.

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Building better partnerships with ­science

Summary

The need for co-operation between the fertilizer industry and the scientific community has never been stronger. The case was put most forcefully at the 2nd New Ag International Conference in Rome (17-19 March 2004) by Prof. Patrick H. Brown, Director of International Programs, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of California, Davis. "The need is for co-operation between the scientific community and industry to eliminate those ­practices that are based on poor science and shoddy sales practice," Prof. Brown declared. He urged both groups of interests to work together to provide quality products for a sustainable agriculture, as described here.

Abstract

Is there really a problem between the ­scientific community and the agricultural input industry? If so, does it matter? How can science help? In seeking answers to these questions, Prof. Brown also considered the issues arising from public science, and how these fit in with the role played by privately-funded science.

The evidence obtained by Prof. Brown is most revealing, and may challenge some of the more cherished beliefs held by some in the fertilizer industry. In asking the question, “Is There A Problem?”, Prof. Brown surveyed representatives of the agricultural input industry, growers and university clients. He asked each group two key questions:

  • Is the commercial fertilizer and speciality agriculture industry serving the grower well?
  • If not, why not, and what should be done?

The survey was certainly thorough in soliciting opinions. It embraced 20 major growers, five grower groups, 45 private crop consultants, 70 university professors and extension personnel, five government regulators, 42 manufacturers, and industry representatives.

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IMPHOS extends the frontiers of ­knowledge

Summary

IMPHOS is a non-profit institute that was founded in 1973 by the leading US, African and Middle Eastern producers of phosphate rock. Its primary mandate is to collect and disseminate scientific data to support the rational use of phosphates, to increase and sustain agricultural production, and to meet the food requirements of mankind worldwide. IMPHOS has accumulated an unrivalled expertise, which it makes readily available, not only to member companies but also to research organisations, consumers and appropriate agencies. Its work is very well focused, as described in this review.

Abstract

IMPHOS (World Phosphate Institute) has brought together the leading phosphate producers of North and West Africa, plus Jordan, in a mission to promote the worldwide development of phosphate use to meet the mankind’s increasing food requirements. As the IMPHOS mission statement emphasises, the Institute seeks to promote phosphate use on a basis that is technically sound, economically advantageous and environmentally responsible.

IMPHOS has for long been committed to the promotion of phosphate fertilizer use and its management as part of balanced fertilisation schemes that are agronomically sound, environmentally acceptable and economically profitable to farmers. The Institute’s mandate is to enhance that growth by supporting research, organising and participating in meetings and publishing proceedings, reviews and relevant information.

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Yara International takes to the water

Summary

After many months of careful preparation, Yara International ASA was demerged from Norsk Hydro and floated as an independent company on the Oslo Stock Exchange on 25 March. The occasion was one for major celebration, as described here.

Abstract

A new name to recognise: Yara International ASA became an independent company listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange on 25 March 2004, following its demerger from Norsk Hydro. The stock market appeared to take a shine to the new arrival, as shares in Yara, which were floated at NKr 41 ($5.9), soared on the first day of trading to reach NKr 50-51 at the close of the day’s business. Yara shares continued to trade at a premium throughout the following month, closing at NKr 47.8 on 21 April as this was being written. Yara’s ordinary equity was valued at between NKr 11.5-13.1 billion, and Yara ranks as Norway’s eighth largest listed company.

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Holland Novochem keeps water systems clean

Summary

The Dutch company Holland Novochem BV has evolved into one of the leading suppliers of additives in the chemical processing business. These have been designed to fulfil specific roles, ­especially in treating process water and combating corrosion.

Abstract

The manager of a fertilizer plant must face a constant battle against pollution and corrosion, which are acute at almost every stage of the production process, but most particularly in boilers, cooling water, and product finishing stages. Wastewater treatment is another area that will command a high proportion of a plant manager’s time. The plant manager can fortunately draw on a range of chemical additives to ease his task in these respects.

One such company with a particular expertise in fertilizer production is Holland Novochem B.V., and it supplies a comprehensive range of process water treatment agents, including anti-foulants, biocides, inhibitors and flocculants. These products have proved their worth in countering pollution and corrosion in fertilizer plants, as well as in the clarification of wastewater. They tackle the following water treatment issues:

  • Protection of corrosion in cooling water systems
  • Dispersion of organic and inorganic pollution
  • Prevention of microbiological pollution
  • Prevention of oxygen corrosion
  • Keeping the boiler clean
  • Prevention of condensate corrosion.

 

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Improving African food security

Summary

Africa's struggle to enable food production to keep pace with population growth remains an intractable issue. In this paper which was first published by The Johns Hopkins University Press (SAIS Review 23: 1 [2003]), Dr. Henk Breman and Dr. Siegfried Kofi Debrah analyse some of the problems that have held back agricultural development in much of Africa, and outline some possible solutions.

Abstract

Food security is one of the most urgent issues facing Africa today. Food production is not keeping pace with population growth, leading to continued declines in the continent’s already low food production per capita. Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest land and labour productivity rates in the world, and the Green Revolution, which combined improved seeds, inorganic fertilizers and plant protection products, has largely bypassed Africa. Annual growth in cereal yields averages only 10 kg/ha/year – about 1 %. Annual per capita food production is now 50 kg below the estimated minimum per capita requirement of 200 kg/ha and is declining, seriously threatening African food security.

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