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Faster fertilizers at the port

Summary

The Italian specialist in bulk handling technology, Bedeschi SpA, has gained many years of experience in designing and supplying machines for handling materials. The company's latest project involves an installation for the continuous loading fertilizers into ocean vessels of up to Capesize in deepwater anchorages. As well as offering speedy and efficient discharges, the new system minimises dust emissions and complies with the highest environmental and safety standards.

Abstract

In many forms of transport, logistics remain one area in the supply chain where it is still possible to achieve substantial savings, while optimising the production process. Today, especially in the import or export of many materials and bulk products, logistics are becoming a fundamental part of the industrial process. This is increasingly the case in the fertilizer industry, where suppliers are keen to optimise plant flows and further cut costs.

As with all other bulk commodities, a simple economic rule applies to fertilizers: the bigger the vessel, the lower the freight costs. This has encouraged shipowners to build ever larger vessels, and in recent years, the average size has increased for the Pana­max and Capesize ships most commonly used in the international trade of fertilizers. However, modern Panamax and Cape­size vessels are much larger in size than the vessels ports were geared to receive in the past.

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Essential for health and profits

Summary

The concept of balanced nutrition is not confined to the nutrients N, P and K, but must also embrace secondary nutrients and the full range of micronutrients if high productivity of crops and cropping systems is to be sustained. All nutrients can be considered of equal importance in promoting a plant's growth and metabolism, even though they may occur at different concentrations in the plant tissue.

Abstract

The intensification of plant production throughout the world, driven by a growing population with growing food demands and limited land resources for agricultural use, has prompted agricultural scientists and growers alike to recognise the importance of balanced nutrition. While much attention has been focused on advocating the balanced application of the nutrients N, P and K, in most conditions, high productivity of crops and cropping systems can only be sustained by the adequate provision of the full range of macronutrients (N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S) and micronutrients. The absence of any one of these nutrients can become a severely limiting factor, impairing crop growth, restricting yields, reducing the quality of produce, and enhancing susceptibility to disease.

In common with the macronutrients N, P and K, Ca, Mg and S and all the micro­nutrients are directly involved in plants’ metabolism. All nutrients are equally important, even though they occur in different concentrations in the plant tissue. (“So-called secondary nutrients and micronutrients – really secondary in South East Asia?” Rolf Härdter, International Potash Insti­tute. Paper presented at IFA Regional Con­ference for Asia and the Pacific, December 2001.) Micronutrients are needed in small amounts, usually less than 0.01 kg of fresh produce, and excess supply can be as potentially harmful as deficiency. Micronutrients essential for plants are also vital for humans and animals. (Agriculture, Fertilizers and the Environment, Lægreid, Bockman & Kaar­stad, CABI Publishing [1999].) Table 1 shows the average concentrations of mineral nutrients in plant shoot dry matter that are sufficient for adequate growth.

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Leili's good fortune

Summary

Fertilizers derived from seaweed extracts contain a comprehensive range of nutrients and other organic compounds, making them suitable for almost all kinds of plants and crops grown. Seaweed extract ­products can improve plant growth, are easy to apply and are relatively cheap. A leading supplier of ­seaweed-derived fertilizers is Leili Agrochemistry of China. The company is enjoying considerable ­success, meeting the needs of organic farmers around the world with its range of biological products.

Abstract

Leili Agrochemistry Co. is a relatively new company, but it enjoys an impressive pedigree. The company was established in 1993 and is supported by China’s agricultural R&D institutes, with financial backing from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science. Leili Agro­chemistry is mainly engaged in the development, manufacture and marketing of agrochemical and biological products, based on natural seaweed. The company is in the forefront of the development and marketing of algal bioactive substances (ABS) and other environmentally-friendly agricultural inputs, not only in China, but elsewhere in the world. All materials come from natural seaweed that is selected very carefully, and the company employs a unique process to extract the ABS. Today, Leili Agrochemistry is Asia’s major producer of marine biological fertilizers, with a production capacity of 1,000 t/a of seaweed extract powder, 3,000 t/a of liquid seaweed fertilizer, and 20,000 t/a of organic granular seaweed fertilizer, using modern technology.

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Valagro's passion to innovate

Summary

In the field of speciality plant nutrition for high-value agricultural and horticultural products, Valagro SpA has carved out a distinct market role that builds a bridge between plant nutrition and plant protection. The connection between these two areas is a range of biostimulants, which has been designed to reinforce the benefits of fertilisation in the form of primary and secondary nutrients, while providing the growing plant extra protection against stress and resistance to disease.

Abstract

Since it was founded in 1980, Valagro SpA has enjoyed continuous growth, fuelled by the company’s dedication to innovation. This is reflected in Valagro’s financial strategy of focusing on inward investment into research and technological advances. The company’s range of products today comprises powder, liquid, granular, microgranular and chelated micronutrients and trace elements. Valagro has also invested heavily in the best in production technology, and all plants – notably the chelated trace element synthesis unit – are fully automated and conform to the highest environmental safety standards (ISO 14001). In 2000, the company was awarded the ISO 9001 quality assurance certification.

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What's what and who's who

Summary

Micronutrient suppliers continue to invest heavily in R & D to devise new formulations, giving growers a wide choice of products to provide balanced nutrition for healthy crops. Some of the leading suppliers are profiled here.

Abstract

When micronutrient deficiencies in crops were first diagnosed, few remedies were available on the market. What was on offer mainly comprised simple organic salts, often in the sulphate form. While better than no treatment at all, they tended to be inefficient in plant uptake, difficult to apply and were often incompatible with other spray chemicals. The introduction of chelated micronutrients in the 1970s marked the first major advance in providing suitable products. These were initially in powder form, and liquid formulations followed later. Their main benefits were ease of use and agrochemical compatibility, but they tended to be costly and were less effective in areas of serious micronutrient deficiency. The early 1980s saw the development of inorganic liquids and dry flowables, which now predominate. Over the past decade, inorganic liquids have undergone a transformation in formulation technology, making current formulations much more cost effective. Some of the major products on the market are described here.

What are the criteria for effective formulations? Tony Peers, Managing Director of the UK micronutrient producer Micro­mix International Ltd., says that when recommending a particular product or making comparisons between products, assessments of how they fulfil the following factors should be made:

  • Long-term storage stability
  • Mixing, miscibility or dissolution in spray water
  • Compatibility with other products in the sprayer
  • Ability to cover the leaf surface
  • Adhesion and rainfastness
  • Cuticle penetration and leaf uptake
  • Mobility and translocation within the plant.

 

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The best of both worlds

Summary

Eriez's HydroFloat separator combines features of density separators and conventional froth flotation, and it outperforms existing scavenger cells in the recovery of potash values from coarse tailings.

Abstract

It is, perhaps, fortunate that the value of potash as a plant nutrient was not widely appreciated until the great underground evaporite deposits began to be discovered – the first of them not quite 150 years ago. Until then the world’s known resources of potassium compounds were meagre and they were difficult and expensive to exploit, but ever since (except in times of war) the supply has been abundant, and in spite of the small number of known sources, there is enough for several hundred years at present rates of consumption.

Underground potash ore deposits were laid down at various times as a result of the evaporation of brines – either in land-locked salt lakes and inland seas or in lagoons formed when a body of sea water became permanently cut off from the open sea by up­heaval of the ocean floor or by growing sand or shingle bars. They always form part of an evaporite series comprising other minerals which crystallised in order of solubility before and after the potash minerals. They vary in their physical nature and chemical composition according to the conditions under which they were formed and the composition of the brine from which they crystallised, and they never consist of pure potassium salts. Ore characteristics even vary according to location within a single, continuous deposit. For example, the grain size depends on the rate at which the native brine evaporated and crystallised when the deposit was formed. The slower the rate of crystallisation, the larger the grain size.

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Consolidation in Europe

Summary

Following the termination of production in France in 2002, just two groups of companies account for Western European potash production. Despite the consolidation in the region during the past decade, involving mergers and the closure of much capacity, the Western European potash industry is able to play to some considerable competitive strengths.

Abstract

Western Europe remains a significant force in global potash markets, and the region accounted for 14 % of world capacity in 2003. (Fig. 1) However, since 1990 there have been marked changes in the structure of the regional industry, as some producers were obliged to retreat, while others have made impressive advances. The most significant developments since 1990 are summarised below:

  • Italian production of potash ceased in 1993.
  • The Kali Bergbau mines of the former German Democratic Republic were closed or merged with the adjacent Kali und Salz (K+S) operations.
  • Supplies from the Former Soviet Union were restricted by anti-dumping measures.
  • Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) acquired the Spanish and UK potash industries, in 1998 and 2001 respectively.
  • The French potash reserves in Alsace were ultimately exhausted, and closure of the final mine occurred one year earlier than expected in 2002. Production had fallen to 150,000 t/a K2O by 2001.

 

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Rejuvenation at Werra

Summary

Kali und Salz (K+S) operates the Werra Group of potash plants. These process mixed salts, which provide potash, magnesium and sulphate components that allow the production of speciality fertilizers, including potassium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and other by-products containing a combination of the above (PatentKali, Korn-Kali, etc). The Werra Group of mines and processing units is one of the oldest potash production facilities still operating, having first commenced production over a century ago, in 1897. The current configuration of the Werra Group is the result of many consolidations and investment programmes over the past century, the most recent of which involved the merging of operations on either side of the old zonal border. However, K+S had to face new challenges to keep the Werra Group competitive as it entered the 21st century. How it has met those challenges is described here.

Abstract

As a result of the age, depth and the configuration of the dep­osits, production costs at the Werra mines are relatively high. To counter this, K+S has focused on rationalisation measures, which permit integrated and optimised operations at the three mines comprising the group, and at producing a range of high quality, high value products containing combinations of potash, magnesium and sulphates.

Another problem facing this long-­established mining area is the depletion of reserves. This review focuses on the develop­­ment of new, highly concentrated syl­vinite reserves that will extend the life of the mining operations by 20-25 years and which also permit the rationalisation of min­ing and processing within the Werra group.

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