SCRSF New AG International e-book JUNE 2022
<b>SCRSFs – Next Generation fertilizers and global challenges
New AG International e-book series
Sponsored by: <a href="https://www.basf.com/">BASF</a> <a href="https://icl-sf.com/uk-en/">ICL</a> <a href="https://www.soilgenic.com/">Soilgenic Technologies</a>
the latest addition to the New AG International e-book series, and the second of our
e-books on SCRSFs.
The first on SCRSFs was one of our most viewed e-books highlighting the interest in the topic. We are pleased to present our second title SCRSFs – Next Generation fertilizers and global challenges.
In this edition, we look at how SCRSF technology can provide solutions for some of the pressing global challenges, such as increasing nutrient use efficiency while maintaining yields for a growing population, all while trying to reduce emissions.
Some of these challenges are more immediate, such as food and fertilizer price inflation. SCRSFs can help growers maximise their returns from inputs.
We have an in-depth interview with Jeff Ivan of Soilgenic Technologies, LLC, a company focused on climate smart technologies for agriculture. Soilgenic has developed a suite of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer (EEF) Technologies for all nitrogen fertilizers as well as a technology to improve phosphate fertilizer availability.
BASF provide detailed reasons why stabilised fertilizers can help to reach the EU’s environmental targets on emissions reduction. We hear from Gregor Pasda, Global Technical Marketing - Nitrogen Management, on how farmers also benefit in terms of crop yields.
Underpinning the success of the SCRSF segment are field trials. ICL presents results from various trials on their coated fertilizers, showing that yields can be maintained using lower application rates. Ronald Clemens, ICL Global Marketing & Portfolio Manager CRF argues farmers need to reach for innovative solutions to maintain yield with less fertilizer use, another EU target.
We also hear from SynTech and some trials they are performing on CFRs in two locations.
Innovation will be the lifeblood of SCRSFs, and in a Q&A with the IFDC, we hear the latest on the Next Gen Fertilizer Challenge competition that has entered its greenhouse trial stage.
We hope you enjoy this e-book, and if you would like to participate in one of our publications, please get in contact.
New AG International
<b>New AG Int'l Poland - A SUMMARY
Highlights from NAI Annual SCRSF programme Warsaw Poland 2022
At the New AG Annual conference and exhibition in Warsaw, Poland, in May 2022, the subject of SCRSFs returned with its own programme.
Many of the presentations made references to current global challenges – whether to do with the current high cost of fertilizer or longer-term problems such as the need to increase NUE or reduce emissions.
Presentations covered the various product types - stabilized nitrogen for above and below ground protection, and coated granules for controlled-release fertilizers. There were the latest field trial results, whether for measuring the reduction in N losses through various pathways, comparison with untreated fertilizers, measuring ROI or improved nutrient use efficiency (NUE).
The programme showed the development of sector, such as combined products providing multiple protection and enhanced nutrient uptake at same time. Another highlighted the incompatibility between nitrification inhibitors and phosphates. There was also a glimpse into the future with a slow-release fertilizer from recycled raw materials.
Stabilised fertilizers (SF)
One of the speakers was Gregor Pasda – Global Technical Marketing – BASF. He had the question - How could existing and upcoming policies of EU drive adoption of SF?
He began by reminding the audience that there are three ways for nitrogen losses - through ammonia volatilisation, nitrate leaching and nitrous oxide emissions. The cumulative effect of all losses – whether to the atmosphere, or deeper soil layers, or into groundwater, or even nitrogen fixation in soil – means that on average only 50% of the applied nitrogen is taken up by the crops.
“And these losses have consequences for the environment, he said. “Ammonia acidifies soils and reduces biodiversity.”
One solution to reduce nitrogen losses are nitrogen inhibitors or stabilizers – a urease inhibitor can reduce ammonia emissions reduce by 70%, according to Pasda. N2O emissions can on average be reduced with a nitrification inhibitor by 38% and reduce nitrate leaching by 18%.
“Only 50% of the applied nitrogen is taken up by the crop,” said Pasda referring to untreated urea. The loss refers not only to the nutrient – but also to the loss of yield. Pasda gave an estimate to the cost to the farmer for both losses as 6 euro/kg N.
Pasda gave a summary of the objectives of the F2F and Biodiversity strategy – nutrient losses down by 50%, and usage of fertilizers reduced by 20%.
He provided an example of how policy could drive adoption. This could be through finance, for example, for farmers who buy nutrient spreaders with GPS technology that enables variable rate application. “If a farmer goes for a model without GPS, perhaps that farmer might not get the loan,” he speculated.
Pasda then explained that there are digital tools for optimum N demand, and these can be used with urease and nitrification inhibitors to reduce
He left the audience with a figure quoted from Fertilisers Efficiency Enhancers Sector Group October 2021. Using urease and nitrate inhibitors with urea and ammonium containing fertilisers in Europe could lead to carbon abatement of 32 million tonnes of CO2.
The report said: “Taking into account the effect of saving nitrogen losses of about 619 kT nitrogen and average CO2eq emissions of 3.5 t per ton of fertilisers nitrogen produced in Europe the overall potential impact of inhibitor technology on emissions from nitrogen fertilisers sums up to about 32 million tons of CO2 equivalents or about 33% reduction of the carbon footprint of current nitrogen fertiliser use.”
In the Q&A following the presentation, Pasda was asked about the barriers to adoption by farmers. He replied that farmers wanted data that reflected their local conditions. From the perspective of New AG International, it would therefore seem the uptake of precision agriculture could pull along the uptake of stabilised nitrogen.
For in-depth interview
with BASF, go HERE.
Ronald Clemens – Global Product manager CFR, ICL Specialty Fertilizers presented his company’s latest field trial results with coated controlled release fertilizers.
His starting point was the target of the European Commission to reduce fertilizer use by at least 20% by 2030, and boost EU organic farming area with aim to achieve 25% of total farmland under organic farming by 2030.
Clemens noted that in European countries farmers already have a limit for nitrogen application rates – “They cannot just apply the volumes that they want,” he said.
He also made reference to a Wageningen report that claimed reducing rates by 20% would lead to yield declines. Clemens said: “If that is the end result, more land is used to produce the same amount of food.” Efficiency of fertilizer is therefore key and the answer to use EEF, concludes Clemens.
One of Clemen’s slides asked the question: “What should Enhanced Efficiency bring?” He answered it by saying the reduction of nitrogen losses, less quantity to be applied, fewer applications, while being able to maintain yields.
He presented some results conducted from last year, 2021, on potato fields in Europe. Using ICL’s product Agromaster, the table shows the increase in nutrient use efficiency (NUE) (calculation given in slides).
German table potato N 180 saw + 24%, UK seed potato N 150 +82%, and Poland starch potato N 115 + 33%
When summarising his slide, Clemens elaborated on the possibilities available using CRFs. He said it was possible with the same N application, to have higher yields. “In principle the farmer needs less land to get the same amount of yield, or he has possibility to reduce his nitrogen application and maintain the yields or reduced N application and maintain yields.”
Clemens also gave a glimpse on the direction of ICL regarding NUE products that were
either available or in the pipeline:
- CRF + embedding biostimulants
- CRF + polysulphate
- CRF + stabilised urea
- CRF coating of P and K sources
- CRF based on biodegradable coatings
Multiple protection products
Luciano Lucero – President sales, Innovar Ag introduced the idea of multiple nitrogen protection and combination products.
His presentation asked if it was feasible to combine a multiple nitrogen protection (above and below ground) and enhanced nutrient uptake all-in-one product.
He began by looking at what the farmer wants? “Our observations from 30 countries. I also have a farm operation interesting to be on the other side of the fence, and to be a buyer.
The number one thing is easiest way possible. Sustainability – the farmer wants his business to pass to future generations. Needs the soil and health of system needs to be there. Every time we have new technology, the first and continuous barrier of adoption is how much return the farmer will have on that. if not sustainable with higher yields or higher income compared to the investment that it’s in place, these new products or technology won’t survive. The farm is a business so needs a positive return at the end of the day.”
Lucero introduced Innovar’s NEON product, which is a liquid combination additive of NYIELD Urease Inhibitor and NBOUND Nitrification inhibitor in one jug.
From an Innovar contribution to New AG International, March 2019, the company said:
“The benefits of adding 2 inhibitors to urea or UAN nitrogen at one time include providing above ground and below ground loss protection reducing volatilization, denitrification and leaching losses. Treating just one time saves dealer blend time cost and bin storage space, resulting in ultimate lower costs passed to growers.
“In the past, there was never a way to combine the nitrification inhibitor DCD onto urea until PenXcel technology, a proprietary and patented solvent package, was invented. Before this, the DCD portion had to be added inside the urea plant, adding extra cost and logistic issues. Not to mention that a higher rate of DCD had to be added to make up for the portions of it made unavailable because of the high urea stream temperatures.”
Lucero then went on to talk about the problems of Phosphorus and Potash availability in soils.
InnoSolve PKMe is an additive that has a long chain polymer, which is biodegradeable, which is synthesised with a cation exchange capacity (CEC) of “750 meq/ 100g which provides a sweet spot where this will hold the P and K cations in soil but not too strong the plant can’t take them,” explained Lucero.
Innovar then injected all three products N-yield/Nbound as Neon and Innosolve PKMe with N 45-0-0 nitrogen source with benefits for P and K availability in soil.
Comparing treated urea with AN
Zbigniew Potrzuski, Marketing Product Development manager, Phoenix Sp. Zoo Sp.k outlined the results of an investigation comparing urea with NBPT urease inhibitor and untreated ammonium nitrate (AN), the dominant nitrogen fertilizer in Poland.
“In 2010 we approached the problem of urea fertilizers – their unreliability due to unpredictability of ammonia volatilisation, which is a big problem for farmers.”
He described the experiment set-up. The method was referred to as micrometerological integrated horizontal flux method using passive sampler for determination of NH3 emission from land surfaces.
The vertical ammonia stream density was measured in four different height ranges from the surface of the emission source, and collected over 5 days, which according to Potrzuski the key period for when ammonia will volatise from the soil after application.
The experimental set was outlined in a paper cited with the Digital object identifier DOI: 10.7862/rb.2015.112. It can be downloaded in Polish, with a summary in English.
Results of experiment
Performed in 2011/12 in the Pomerania region of Poland, the cumulative losses of nitrogen after N fertilization were about 16%, while those with treated urea with NBPT were 4.3% to the initial amount of N after 4-5 days of measurement.
The results from the experiment showed that overall NBPT inhibitor stabilizing can reduce ammonia emission by 73%. Then results for UAN carried out on winter wheat fertilized with 60 kg N/ha with NBPT decreased ammonia losses
Potrzuski pointed out that this was not always the case, UAN with NBPT on oilseed rape – only 54% decrease in ammonia losses. He noted that UAN less predictable when stabilised than urea.
Then he presented the results from urea treated with NBPT compared with AN when used on two cultivars, wheat and maize.
Potrzuski said it was recommended in Poland that spring nitrogen (AN or UAN) application rates are usually 50-70% of total rate. Urea top dressing in so high N rate creates risk of plant seedlings being damaged by ammonia, which can decrease yields.
“If one wants to apply in early spring urea in substantial quantities must find ways of slowing down its hydrolysis,” he explained.
At the experimental station Baborowko an experiment with two cultivars (winter wheat and maize) was conducted with hypothesis that stabilised urea (with trade name moNolith46) is a full value alternative to AN. Carried out in Wielkopolsa voivodship 2012 done on wheat.
The rates were:
Monolith46 applied in one go in 80kg/ha, 120 and 160
AN applied in one go at 80 kg/ha, then two applications 80+40 and then three 80+40+40
The results slide was showing that level of difference in yield was not statistically significant, said Potrzuski. AN yields were slightly better at lower to rates, and the results based on this experiment had monolith46 slightly higher at the 160kg/ha rate.
From this he concluded 3 applications of AN, same as 1 app of U with NBPT.
During last few years, we have noticed farmers discover this phenomenon and now using stabilised urea in one dose 160kg/ha or even 180 kg/ha – savings in fuel and labour, he said.
Farmers told us what about other areas, Podlaskie voivodship in 2013, so we made experiments in different regions. Concluded from results that could offer stabilised N to all areas in Poland and similar protein levels to other results in published literature.
Talking with New AG International after the presentation, Potrzuski said that take up of NBPT was still low in Poland and that farmers still use their traditional AN. Potrzuski noted that the second application of AN is largely to replace any losses to leaching, while the 3rd application is for grain protein.
Inhibitors and Brazilian corn crop
Professor Douglas Guelfi, from Federal University of Lavras, Brazil spoke on Urease inhibitors formulations as strategy to improve nitrogen use efficiency in corn crop.
He started his presentation with highlights of inhibitor developments.
As can be seen from the screenshot, fertilization efficiency is a critical factor for food security and inhibitors can play a role in this challenge.
Guelfi discussed the incompatibility of NBPT and phosphate fertilizers. The professor showed a slide with different amounts of urea treated with NBPT with MAP. The red line in the image shows more MAP (70%) and 30% treated urea. The presence of the MAP reduced the NBPT concentration. With TSP, there was also a fast degradation of NBPT. “Free acidity in the phosphate granule helps to degrade NBPT,” explained Guelfi.
Recycled raw material
Dr Yariv Cohen – head of research and development, EasyMining introduced a recovered sustainable slow-release fertiliser.
For those in the audience for whom EasyMining was a new name, Cohen gave a brief overview. Founded in 2007, EasyMining is the innovation company of Ragn-Sells, a Swedish family-owned company specialising in recycling waste management with revenues of 7 billion SEK (usd 700 million) and 2,700 employees. EasyMining has around 40 employees in 3 locations - two in Sweden and one in Germany.
Ragn-Sells handles 5 million tonnes of waste per year except nuclear.
“We are now working on new products from waste and our focus is on nutrients, to recover nutrients from waste,” said Cohen. EasyMining is working on four technologies: Ash2Phos, the main subject of the presentation, and refers to recovery of phosphorus from fly ash of incinerated
Other technologies include Ash2salt, a salt extraction method from fly ash and that could extract around 3,500 t/y of potassium chloride, 7,000 t of sodium chloride and 32,000 t of calcium chloride; CleanMAP Energy efficient production of ammonium phosphate; and Project Nitrogen that involves the recovery of nitrogen in form of the ammonium sulphate from liquid waste streams.
Cohen said that EasyMining is currently building a plant to recovery salts from fly ash. The plant will be able to handle around 130,000 tonnes of fly ash per year, he said. This represents half of the fly ash produced in Sweden, said Cohen.
In terms of the development of Ash2Phos and the recovery of phosphorus, the first plant is planned through a JV with Gelsenwasser Germany, aimed for 2024 start-up. Gelsenwasser AG is a German utilities company that supplies natural gas and fresh water to residents in Germany.
Increased levels of sludge incineration
Cohen gave a comparison of sludge incineration in Europe and observed that more sludge is being incinerated. Cohen offered three reasons for this – the first is logistics. If the distance is too large to transport to agriculture. If contains too much water not worth transporting. Big cities too much sludge in one place that you can’t transport to agriculture. Second, in Denmark and Holland you have large amounts of animal manure, surplus of phosphorus and therefore no room for phosphorus from sewage sludge. Thirdly, in Switzerland and Germany fear of heavy metals, plastics, and disease there is a ban on using sewage sludge. And for these reasons more sludge is incinerated.
Cohen said that the incineration ‘opens’ the way to recycle the phosphorus. Three function – the first is detoxification. When you burn sludge 850C for two seconds you destroy organics, pollutions, drug residues, pathogens. “Another bonus is you have an up concentration of phosphorus from 0.8% in sewage sludge you go up to 9%.”
If you include anion and cation of phosphate around 50% of weight of ash is concentrated raw material. The only problem is the high concentration of heavy metals, iron and aluminium.
“When incinerate you reduce weight and volume by 90% which makes it easier to transport,”
“We have developed a way to process the ash, separate the metals, and recover the phosphorus in clean form. It’s a wet chemical process, in the same way you digest rock phosphate with an acid, we digest the ash with an acid. The main chemicals that we use are acid and lime.
We separate the heavy metal in future it will be possible to recycle the copper, nickel and zinc.
We recycle the iron and aluminium as coagulants used in wastewater treatment. You add iron and aluminium in wastewater plant to capture phosphorus and they end up in ash, and if you extract them from ash, you can use them again.
We recover phosphorus in clean form. And we get silicate residue that can be used in concrete application.
Schkopau plant – “We’re working with Gelsenwasser, which owns 65 waste plants. We’re working to build the first ash2phos plant in Schkopau.”
Gelsenwasser jv with EasyMining
By way of background, EasyMining and Gelsenwasser announced 15 December 2021 the signing of their agreement for the creation of a joint company named Phosphorgewinnung Schkopau GmbH (PGS). “The objective of the joint venture is to build the world’s first phosphorus recovery plant based on the Ash2Phos technology”, the statement read.
"Cooperation across the value chain is key to circular transformation. So by creating this joint venture we can take advantage of our complementary knowledge, and use a resource efficient technology to recover a scarce substance such as phosphorus”, says Jan Svärd, CEO of EasyMining.
In 2018, EasyMining and Gelsenwasser had signed a Letter of Intent, and in September 2020 the company’s agreed to expand their cooperation with the primary goal to construct a major new facility for extracting phosphorus from incinerated sewage sludge.
“Overall, an expansion of capacities in Germany to 300,000 tons is planned within the next ten years, and that is approximately half of the future sewage sludge ash volume in Germany,” the statement read.
Work in practice
Cohen described how the plant will operate: ash will be brought to the plant by truck. Blown into the plant. We have industrial supply to the building. Located near wastewater. The main benefit of the incineration is the detoxification with more than 96% of heavy metals reduced. Cohen says it is the cleanest on the market today. Clean compared to rock phosphate. The phosphorus is precipitated as calcium phosphate (PCP) with phosphorus content of 16.9%. Equals 40% P2O5. Fluorine contact very low. It is feed quality PCP. Works well but legislation don’t allow feed that has origin in feed.
“This product is fully soluble in citric acid. But it is not water soluble,” said Cohen. And this gives it the slow-release potential.
“We have made some agronomic assessment of this product. Since it is soluble in citric acid, we believe it is a good slow-release fertilizer, once the root finds its way to the product it can dissolves this product with the citric acid that the root exudes.”
EasyMining has worked with a fertilizer company and looked at the dry matter yield of ryegrass. Compared with triple super phosphate (TSP), which is water soluble, the yield of the EasyMining PCP was 80% that achieved with TSP. “We believe it can be a slow-release fertilizer when granulated, or mixed with other slow-release fertilizer. It is not acidic, so good for neutral soils.
Cohen ended by outlining the possible pathways going forward – to provide a raw material to make fertilizer, and replace rock phosphate, but he said they believe it can find application as a final product that is recycled with slow-release properties. ●
These presentations were available on playback on the New AG International event app, where remote delegates could watch them ‘live’ and submit questions.
<b>SCRSFs – finding the next generation of fertilizers
A joint EPA-USDA competition launched in the U.S. in 2020 for enhanced efficiency fertilizers signalled the beginning of a search to find the next generation of fertilizers. Part of the competition has now entered its second stage and greenhouse trials are being conducted at the IFDC’s facility in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. New AG International has caught up with IFDC to find out more about the trials but first a quick recap on the competition itself
A competition to find the next generation of enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) for use in corn production was launched through an EPA-USDA partnership in 2020,
in collaboration with other industry bodies.
The supporting agencies are The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
The aim of the two competitions is to stimulate the development and uptake of affordable EEFs to reduce the environmental impacts of corn production.
The first competition is for EEFs currently on the market or near to market launch. Companies, or “solvers”, as the entrants are called, had to submit their product to the judging panel, providing evidence how the product reaches the environmental and agronomic requirements.
The environmental requirements include reduction in ammonia volatilization, N2O emissions, run- off and leaching of nitrogen and/or phosphorus.
The purpose of the EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge is to identify the EEFs that meet or exceed these requirements. There is no age restriction on the products already on the market, and in both competitions the solvers maintain all IP rights. The judging panel consists of members from industry, academia and relevant agencies.
The agronomic benefits must be specifically for corn, and the product compatible with current machinery and practices.
Those that were short-listed were recognized as Stage 1 winners, and were invited to participate in a greenhouse trial (Stage 2) in 2021, and following those results there is advancement to field trials (Stage 3). There is no cash price for this competition.
The second competition has been given the title of Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge. As explained in the webinar, this competition is looking to identify technology not currently on the market and can be more conceptual in nature. The EPA website states these entries may include “technology concepts that are not traditional EEFs and not in commercial use as a fertilizer.”
Solvers need to present an idea for an innovative EEF that could improve on the same environmental requirements mentioned above, and deliver agronomic benefits such as not increasing net farm costs. IP rights are retained by the entrants. The solutions must also be compatible with current equipment for corn production.
The closing date for entries was 30 November 2020, with the winners announced in 2021. Entrants were required to register with this competition, but not with the other challenge.
With the Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge, there is a US$65,000 cash pool, which can be allocated to different entries, with a minimum award of $10,000.
Multiple entries are possible, and companies from outside the U.S. were eligible to enter,
but that cash prizes were reserved for U.S. entrants only.
The approved term for what constitutes an EEF is based on the definition from the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO). In 2013, AAPFCO defined EEFs as “fertilizer products with characteristics that allow increased plant uptake and reduce the potential of nutrient losses to the environment (e.g., gaseous losses, leaching or run-off) when compared to an appropriate reference product.”
It was clarified in a webinar 24 September 2020 that the definition also includes fertilizer products containing stabilizing products, such as urease inhibitors.
New AG International caught up with the Job Fugice, Research Scientist - Manager at IFDC in Muscle Shoals to learn more about Stage 2 of the next generation of enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs),
which is currently in progress.
IFDC has a long tradition in fertilizer innovation. How did IFDC become involved in the Next Gen Competition along with the other partners?
That is correct.
IFDC inherited a lot of research on fertilizer development from TVA and the NFDC and since IFDC was created, we have been working closely with the industry looking mainly in the nutrient efficiency fertilizer specially in nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers. IFDC scientists have a deep history on slow and control release fertilizer since the beginnings with sulphur-0coated urea, some of the initial trials with inhibitors, control release fertilizer using a more biodegradable coatings, and more recently working with bio products to evaluate the enhance efficiency benefits.
Therefore, due to this historically work with the enhanced efficiency fertilizer and previous collaborations with the other partners, IFDC was chosen to conduct these trials as a neutral site to evaluate and compared these products efficiency for the us growers
Products selected from the first component of the competition are now undergoing greenhouse trials (Stage 2) - can you tell us more about these trials - the location, the set-up, and where we are timewise in the trials? When do you anticipate some announcement on the results?
The current EPA Challenge trials has been done at IFDC HQ in Muscle Shoals, US where we have full laboratories to conduct nutrient analysis as well greenhouse units to evaluate and test fertilizer products.
Regarding to the testing, IFDC is conducting volatilization, leaching, incubation, sorghum greenhouse trials, accelerated release test, and N2O emissions.
At the moment, most of the experimental data is being analysed and we expect to submit a final report late 2022 to our partners and the review committee for comments and validation.
Following the greenhouse trials, the next phase
is field trials (Stage 3). Will all products go forward to field-trials? How will they be selected? Where will the field trials be held and what will they broadly involve? (Again, an indication of the timescale would be appreciated.) Would it be correct to assume the field trials will only be
The initial idea was to evaluate all these products in field trials, but due to limited resources the Challenge organizers decided to pursue the greenhouse trials first. The idea is to use the greenhouse trials to learn about the performance of these products in order to inform the decision on which subset to advance to field trials. Whether field trials occur will have to do with agency priorities competing for limited resources, and will be decided at a later date by EPA and USDA after the greenhouse trials are completed.
And finally, this is a unique competition. Although it's still mid-way through the competition, are they are early observations so far regarding the technology that is out there for EEF?
Unfortunately, it is a little too early to give any observations regarding the perform of the technologies. Hopefully by the end of 2022 we will be able to better answer this question. ●
<b>BASF and inhibitor technology
New AG International's
Editor-in-Chief, Luke Hutson,
speaks to Gregor Pasda,
BASF's Global Technical Marketing - Nitrogen Management
BASF provides some of the essential information on nitrogen losses, and how they can be mitigated to the benefit of farmers in terms of the crop yields and the environment.
Why is nitrogen essential for crops?
Nitrogen is essential for plant growth and critical for maximizing yields. Nitrogen is required in large quantities and throughout the growing season. However, nitrogen can be lost in three ways: as ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere, as nitrate leaching out of the root horizon, and later into the ground water.
What impact do nitrogen losses have
On average, only 50% of total applied nitrogen is taken up by the plant; the rest is either fixed in the soil or lost. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on average 1% of applied nitrogen can be lost due to N2O emissions, and on average, 12% due to nitrate leaching. Especially from urea-containing fertilizers, nitrogen losses in the form of ammonia (on average 15% of applied nitrogen for pure urea) can occur. Under certain conditions, ammonia losses from urea can be severe and reach as high as 80% of applied nitrogen.1
The extent of losses depends on environmental conditions, especially on weather and soil conditions, and farm management factors.
The impact these nitrogen losses include:
• Less nitrogen available for plant development which may result in lower yields
• Financial penalties for the farmer when yield potential is lost
• Within particulate matter, ammonia
• Severe negative ecological impacts such as global warming ( climate change), acidfication of soils, reduced biodiversity and/or eutrophication of water ( algae bloom fish kill)
• Negative impact on human health due to smog and climate change
Did governing agencies recognize such nitrogen losses and establish regulations to reduce them?
Yes, one of the first actions in the EU more than 30 years ago was the EU Nitrate Directive to reduce nitrate leaching and later the NEC Directive to reduce ammonia emissions. These EU regulations were then transformed in each EU member state into national regulations.2
With the new EU commission, one of its main topics is the European Green Deal. Presented in December 2019, the overarching objective of the EU Green Deal is for the EU to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, resulting in a cleaner environment, more affordable energy, smarter transport, new jobs and an overall better quality of life. So the EU Green Deal will not cover only the agricultural sector but many more sectors e.g. industry, transport and finance.3
What are the terms by the European Commission in the European Green Deal that relate directly to agriculture and nitrogen loss?
Concerning nitrogen loss, the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy aim to reduce nutrient losses at least by 50%, while ensuring no deterioration of soil fertility. The EU commission expects that this will result in a reduction in fertilizer use of at least 20%.4,5
What additional environmental programs are targeted at nitrogen fertilization?
There are several, but a few examples include: Nutrients – action plan for better management 6
Zero pollution action plan 7
Soil strategy 8
Fit for 55% Package and 2030 Climate Target Plan 9
European Climate Law (EU 2021/1119) 10
How will the regulations impact farmers and nitrogen fertilization?
This question concerning the impact on farmers was already evaluated by USDA, EU Commission JRC, University of Kiel as well as Wageningen University & Research. We expect the existing and upcoming EU regulations under the EU Green Deal to have a big impact on agriculture (farmers) and especially nitrogen fertilization. We also foresee there will be impacts on the upstream (fertilizer producers, distributers, and dealers) and downstream industries.
Can the targets of the EU Green Deal concerning nitrogen fertilization be reached without a significant negative impact on farmers and industry economics and provide safe supply of food and feed?
Profitable farms are key to a sustainable food supply. The profitability mainly depends on the yield achieved and the input and running cost of a farm. It depends on measures how the target of the Green Deal are implemented. A general reduction of the fertilizer application rate will lead to lower yields and lower profitability of the farmers, threatening the food security. With the use of new technologies, like nitrogen stabilizers, state of the art farm equipment and digital tools, the nitrogen losses can be minimized and the nitrogen use efficiency optimized.
How can farmers increase nitrogen use efficiency?
The first action is to apply the optimal nitrogen amount to crops. The tools for this challenging target are soil and crop analysis just before or during fertilizer application with sensors on the applicator, on drones, and/or on satellites; and historic data from soil and yield maps, as well as
historic and actual weather data. All this data is digitalized and then evaluated by such means as artificial intelligence. The result is a crop and site-specific steering of the application of nutrient amounts (variable rate application). The nutrients must then be applied with fertilizers which reduce nutrient losses.
Concerning nitrogen, these are nitrogen fertilizers which contain nitrogen inhibitors/stabilizers.
What are nitrogen inhibitors and how do
There are two technologies:
Urease inhibitors (UI) for all urea-containing fertilizers:
UI on pure urea (46% N) reduce on average 70% of the ammonia losses by inhibition of urease enzymes in the soil for a certain period of time.
Nitrification inhibitors (NI) for all ammonium and urea-containing fertilizers:
NI reduce on average 38% of nitrous oxide emissions and 18% of nitrate leaching by inhibition only of specific soil bacteria (responsible for the first step of the nitrification) for a certain period of time.
Reduction of the climate change which is caused by increased emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide is a main global topic. Can nitrogen inhibitors help to reach this goal?
Yes, of course. Model calculations show that 32 million tons of CO2 equivalents can be saved each year in the EU if all mineral fertilizers consumed in the EU are treated with urease or nitrification inhibitors.
This amount is equivalent to removing 8.9 million passenger cars from the streets. So therefore, fertilizers treated with urease and/or nitrification inhibitors are the key to reaching our goals of reducing our fertilizer footprint. 11
You mention two technologies: What are the main benefits to industry, growers, and society when using nitrogen inhibitors?
When using nitrogen inhibitors, the farmer has a return on investment of 2-5:1 and can simplify farm management. Also, the industry can offer innovation and differentiation among competitors. Furthermore, farmers and the industry are prepared for future regulatory requirements. Society benefits from better water and air quality, reduced climate impact, and improved biodiversity. A triple win situation.
What are the BASF solutions to address nitrogen loss issues?
BASF offers the following products the urease inhibitor Limus® for pure urea and liquid urea solutions (e.g. UAN); the nitrification inhibitor DMPP in the form of Vibelsol® for solid mineral fertilizers; and Vizura® for liquid organic fertilizers as liquid manure and biogas digestate. ●
1 IPCC 2019: 2019 Refinement to the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories - Volume 4: Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use - Chapter 11: N2O Emissions from Managed Soils, and CO2 Emissions from Lime and Urea Application https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-nitrates/index_en.html
11 FEE 2021: Annex to: “Urease and Nitrification Inhibitor technologies contribute to the European Green Deal” https://specialty- chemicals.eu/fertilisers-efficiency-enhancers/
Nitrogen inhibitors can simplify farm management, says BASF.
Photo: Diane Jones
The optimal amount of nitrogen
must be applied to crops.
<b>CRF TECHNOLOGY FROM ICL
Nutrient Use Efficiency with CRF
The farming industry changes more rapidly than ever. With the EU’s Green Deal objectives at our doorstep, farmers are looking for innovative, sustainable solutions to reduce fertilizer input and nutrient losses while remaining yield and income.
“With the right solution, both the economic and environmental aspects can be sustained”, says Ronald Clemens, ICL Global Marketing & Portfolio Manager CRF. One of the solutions that ICL offers to comply with the Green Deal objectives is the use of enhanced efficiency fertilizers, such as controlled release fertilizers (CRF). “CRF has proven that it can maintain or even increase yields with a lower fertilizer input, while also decreasing nutrient losses to the environment.”
The Green Deal’s impact on yield
The European Union’s Green Deal, that includes the Farm2Fork strategy, aims to minimize the environmental footprint in agriculture. Important pillars of the strategy are to reduce fertilizer losses by at least 50%, and reduce overall fertilizer use with at least 20% by 2030. The impact that the implementation of this strategy will have, has recently been investigated. Several studies proved that reducing fertilizer rate by 20%, can result in an overall yield decline in several crops. One of these studies was done by Wageningen University & Research. In the study, conducted on 25 farms across Europe, researchers looked at several scenarios in both annual and perennial crops. Though some crops were affected more than others, the study shows that the implementation of the F2F strategy has a negative impact on overall crop yield and agricultural production with an average production decline of 10-20%. To maintain production levels, extra farmland outside of the EU is to be considered, but will increase costs and severely influence the market. The study focused on the economic impact of the Green Deal rather than the environmental benefits. Clemens: “If farmers want to meet the new regulations, their yield and income will most likely decrease. It also means we can produce less food in general, and we would require more land to maintain the same levels of production. If we look at the environmental aspect, this is obviously not a sustainable solution.”
Enhanced efficiency fertilizers
The reduction of yield due to the Green Deal objectives can become problematic, making the search for sustainable, yield-improving solutions more and more essential. Enhanced efficiency fertilizers, such as CRF, have proven to increase nutrient use efficiency, and could be a sustainable solution to reduce N losses as well as to maintain (or increase) yields in all types of crops. Clemens: “New fertilizer technologies make precision farming more and more efficient. Enhanced efficiency fertilizers aim to release the nutrients to match the needs of the crop, and are therefore an essential part of precision farming. But it is not just about the fertilizer. It requires understanding of the soil, the climate, and the crop. For instance, if you use a CRF with a longevity of 5 months in a 4-month cultivation, you are still not very efficient. Your crops will be in the supermarket while the fertilizer is still releasing nutrients in the field. The 4 Rs (Right source, Right rate, Right place, Right time) are crucial for nutrient use efficiency and precision farming.”
Improving nutrient use efficiency
Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) is the yield per unit fertilizer input, or in terms of recovery of fertilizer applied. In principle, an improved NUE means that less fertilizer is used resulting in the same or an increased yield. Improving NUE is particularly essential: 1) in light soils with relatively high amounts of leaching, 2) in periods of high rainfall or flooded crops, 3) in crops with high nutrient losses by topdress or many applications, 4) in areas with environmental restrictions, and 5) in crops susceptible to delay in fertilization due to weather conditions, machinery, and labor.
How controlled release fertilizers improve NUE
ICL has been testing the NUE of controlled release fertilizers for decades, and even gathered all data from 2015 on into a meta-analysis. This includes an overall summary of research data from many locations combined in order to get a reliable dataset that is used for statistical analysis. The meta-analysis helps in providing trustworthy conclusions on how CRF can reduce fertilizer inputs, improve the nutrient use
efficiency, and which crops see the best improvements with CRF. The meta-analysis includes approximately 70-80 independent field trials, proving the agronomic performance and NUE of CRF in all types of crops. In these studies and field trials, backed up by WUR, NMI, and PISA, the data also shows a significant reduction of nitrogen losses, ammonia volatilization, N2O emission, and an overall reduction on the
Highlights from a few recent trials and experiments are as follows:
Field Trials in Potato
ICL recently published the results of two field trials in potato with controlled release fertilizers. The independent trials were set out in Germany and in the UK. In these trials, the CRF Agromaster was compared to conventional fertilizers and the nutrient use efficiency was measured. Both trials showed that Agromaster improved the nutrient use efficiency: when the same amount of N was applied, the yield increased. When less N was applied, the yield remained the same. Clemens: “ICL extensively tests and trials its products through field trials, experiments, and long-term studies. We need extensive datasets to be able to give reliable recommendations on lowering fertilizer rates, while being certain that yields are maintained and environmental standards accomplished. The more field data we have, the easier it is to draw the right conclusions. We have a strong Agronomy team in Europe to support this.”
Controlled release fertilizers versus conventional N
The German trial was conducted at IASP in Berge (close to Berlin) with the objective to compare the efficiency of a single application of Agromaster, as CRF, replacing standard fertilization with conventional N, as CAN, that is applied twice during the crop cycle. IASP is a research organization with specific knowledge in nutrition/ fertilization in the agricultural sector. The trial was executed in a ware potato variety on typical sandy soil, which is sensitive to Nitrogen leaching.
Results of German potato trial
Conclusion of the German potato trial
Using only one application of Agromaster versus two applications of CAN, as was the growers’ practice, increased the yield of tubers higher than 55 mm by 25%. The overall marketable yield (>35mm) increased by 6.6%. The use of Agromaster improved the nutrient use efficiency, and provided a positive return of investment (ROI) of an additional 146 euro/ha.
Controlled release fertilizers versus
The UK trial was conducted by Eurofins UK, and held the objective ‘to compare the efficiency of Agromaster, as controlled release nitrogen-based fertilizer, vs ammonium nitrate, in one application, in seed potato production’. The trial was executed in the East Riding of Yorkshire on a clay-loam soil with a high pH level. The trial was executed in a seed potato variety which showed a particular positive effect on the controlled release availability of nitrogen during the
Results of UK potato trial
Conclusion of the UK trial
As explained, the UK trial compared one application of Agromaster to one application of ammonium nitrate. The use of Agromaster resulted in a total yield increase of 10%, thus improving the nutrient use efficiency. Agromaster also provided a positive return on investment of an additional 736 pounds/ha.
Decreasing nutrient losses with CRF
Besides the economic aspect of maintaining or increasing yields, controlled release fertilizers also have an environmental benefit. In a recent independent study, executed by NMI, nutrient losses in controlled release fertilizers were measured. The study was a pot experiment with red beet (Beta vulgaris vulgaris) and aimed to measure leaching, NH3 volatilization, and N2O emissions after applying a CRF. A loamy sandy soil was used with a pH level above 7. Clemens: “We conducted many studies that focused on one type of nutrient loss. But this is the first time we combined measurements of leaching, volatilization and N2O emissions in one study. It is a complicated experiment, but NMI is specialized in these types of set ups. It is complicated in technical sense to capture and measure all N losses in a system where plants have to grow under practical circumstances.
The experiment included 4 treatments using
the following fertilizers:
• Zero N (control)
• Urea | 1 x N (46-0-0 | full N rate > as base fertilizer)
• Urea | 2 x N (46-0-0 | split N rate > 50% as base + 50% top dress)
• Agrocote Max (CRF) | 1 x N (44-0-0 | full N rate > as base fertilizer)
The leachate is collected in a plastic plate below the pot. To achieve this the pot was placed on 3 small cubes in plate to ensure free drainage.
Volatilization of NH3 was measured following an enclosure method (Yang et al., 2018) by placing an acid trap 10 cm above the soil surface.
Static flux chambers (12.2 cm radius and 23.8 cm height) were placed on top of the pots. The chambers had two openings which were connected with the gas analyzer creating in this way a closed loop.
The NMI experiment showed that using a CRF reduced leaching of N with 59% compared to conventional urea. While applied at the same time and same rate, CRF reduced the NH3 volatilization with 70% compared to conventional urea. The N2O losses were significantly higher for conventional urea in the first 30-40 days. Overall, CRF reduced the N2O emission with 15%. When using conventional urea, 40-50% of N applied is lost to the environment. CRF limits these losses to only 13-15% of the total N applied. The N uptake increased and in general the experiment showed a 60% increase of NUE. Clemens: “These results confirm our thoughts that with CRF we are able to improve nutrient use efficiency by reducing fertilizer rates, and at the same time lower nutrient losses, without farmers losing their yields.”
EU’s Green Deal objectives will most likely result in a decrease of yield and income for farmers based on existing fertilization systems. To maintain yield with less fertilizer use, farmers need to look for innovative solutions. One of those solutions is the use of enhanced efficiency fertilizers that will increase nutrient use efficiency, meaning that less fertilizer is used while yield remains the same or even increases. Decades of research and trials have proven that controlled release fertilizers (CRF) increase nutrient use efficiency, and are very suitable in a precision farming strategy. From the environmental point of view, the use of CRF has proven to reduce leaching, volatilization, and N2O emissions, compared to conventional fertilizers.
In short, these are the proven statistics of the use of CRF (usually 1 application) in comparison to conventional fertilizers (usually 2 applications):• CRF reduces N leaching by 56 – 63%• CRF reduces NH3 volatilization by 56 – 70%• CRF reduces N2O emissions by 15%• CRF increases yield by 26%• CRF increases nutrient use efficiency by 60% ●
ICL has recently published the results
from two field trials in potato with CRFs.
Driving smarter tech for smarter agriculture
Soilgenic Technologies, LLC is focused on Climate Smart Technologies for Agriculture. Soilgenic has developed a suite of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer (EEF) Technologies for all Nitrogen fertilizers as well as a technology to improve phosphate fertilizer availability. In April 2022, the company announced its patented enhanced DCD technology – NitroBlock Enhanced DCD – that the company says significantly improves below ground loss of nitrogen from leaching and denitrification. New AG International spoke with CEO Jeff Ivan to learn more
Let’s begin with the corporate side, before diving into the products – what’s the focus of Soilgenic as a company?
Soilgenic Technologies is a privately held company focused on Climate Smart Agriculture. In summary the ability to improve fertilizer use efficiency and to bring technologies forward that provide sustainable solutions for agriculture. A big part of what we are focused on is GHG mitigation and providing a low carbon solution for agriculture. We brought in a group who has developed over 40 patents in the EEF space and has developed several technologies that provide significant enhancements over what we call Gen 1 EEF Technologies. Not only are the Gen 2 technologies a vast improvement, but we have provided a much lower cost that will improve the user adoption in the marketplace.
Before asking what the plan is for you as CEO, could you give a brief summary of your career to date and how you became interested in sustainable agriculture?
I’ve been in Agriculture for 32 years now and pretty much all of those years focused on the fertilizer sector. I started my career in the retail sector in Western Canada and then moved over to Tiger-Sul products focusing on sulphur-based fertilizers and micronutrients. After moving into managing the Canadian market, I switched focus to managing the international business development for the group. I also worked with The Sulphur Institute (TSI) as the project lead for the promotion of sulphur-based fertilizer in the India market working closely with the Fertilizer Association of India. For the past 10 years I’ve worked with Ag Growth International (AGI) and continued to focus on international development projects including in developing regions, working closely with NGOs and governments on the development of fertilizer plants to increase
During this period, we saw the IPCC release the report on agriculture and the impact on climate change. Globally we have seen a push for sustainability in agriculture. Agriculture represents up to 24% off GHG emissions and is a major contributor to climate change. We have identified technologies that can make a dramatic impact to not only lower GHG emission but to improve nutrient use efficiency and crop yields.. This has brought me to Soilgenic and our focus on Climate Smart Technologies and how we can play a major role in providing new technologies for farmers transitioning to a low carbon farming system.
So, what’s the plan? What can you tell us about the EEF Technologies you are bringing
to the market?
Our Gen 2 EEF Technologies that we have developed is a wide portfolio of technologies that provides significant value to the market. First off, we have one of the widest ranges of EEF technologies that provides a solution for all Nitrogen and Phosphate fertilizers. All formulations are high concentration products that results in a lower application rate. Visio-N for Urea provides solutions for above ground, below ground or total protection at a price point that is half of the current industry Gen 1 technologies. We’ve also designed it for cold or hot humid climates. Diamond-N is our technology for UAN. We’ve designed a coating technology ensures the highest level of actives in the agricultural market which readily dissolve in UAN resulting iin a solution not a suspenstion. The ability of Diamond-N to dissolve into a solution allows for the addition at the retail level. The grower doesn’t have to worry about the settling out of actives that results from a suspension. Diamond-N provides a cost-effective, unique solution for protecting UAN solutions. Knifed-N is the only non-corrosive EEF formulation for anhydrous ammonia. This provides a significant benefit over other technologies in this space. In addition, we’ve lowered the cost by 50% with this technology and can also add in a soil enhancement technology to improve phosphate availability. Drive-N completes our portfolio for Nitrogen EEF technologies. Drive-N is designed for ammonia-based fertilizers such as ammonium sulphate and MAP and DAP Phosphate fertilizers. The technology allows for the coating of hard granules to penetrate and provide the protection from nitrogen loss.
Your EEF technologies provides a complete portfolio for all Nitrogen Fertilizers. What about upstream coating at Urea manufacturing facilities? Is this something Soilgenic
Upstream coating of Urea is an area we are focusing on. Our patent in this space is unique and allows for the easy integration of adding our EEF technologies to Urea without having to retool the facility putting the facility offline. Our Visio-N Upstream technology allows Urea manufacturers to provide a protected Urea for their customers at the lowest industry cost. We find that upstream coating of Urea towards the end of the granulation process is most cost effective in applying a coating and results in higher quality urea. Third party research has shown that Urea hardness improves up to 20% with the addition of our Visio-N Upstream Technology. It’s the perfect solution for Urea manufacturers to enhance their Urea and provide a sustainable Nitrogen solution.
Nitrogen fertilizers are under pressure due to the loss of Nitrogen to the environment. How can Soilgenic help to improve this issue?
The Nitrogen industry is under pressure to improve the fertilizer use efficiency and to reduce environmental nutrient loss. Nitrogen efficiency is poor with up to 46% of Nitrogen lost to the environment. The 4Rs (Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place) provide a good guideline to improve nutrient use efficiency, but a significant part of the solution is to improve our fertilizer technologies. Above ground loss is easily managed with NBPT which is shown to be up to 96% effective in reducing volatilization losses for above ground
applications. However, we also need to think about the below ground loss that can account for 70% of the Nitrogen loss. The corn image is a great visual of untreated nitrogen, above ground protection, below ground protection and a fully protected urea that have both above and below ground loss incorporated. The below ground loss contributes to a significant amount of N20 emissions that are 300X more potent than C02 emissions. Our NitroBlock™ Enhanced DCD significantly improves the below ground protection resulting in a 10X lower conversion to Nitrate nitrogen than commercial DCD. We are able to stabilize the Nitrogen in the Ammonium (NH4) form preventing the nitrogen from loss to leaching and denitrification.
Can you tell us about your phosphate EEF Technology? How does Phosgain work and what advantages does it bring to the market over other technologies?
Our Phosgain™ Technology is a major enhancement technology for phosphate fertilizers. We can incorporate the Phosgain upstream at the manufacturing facility or downstream at retail distribution facilities. Our patent for our EEF technology creates a specific molecular weight for the polymer technology that allows the polymer to move with the phosphate and create a protective shield from strong cations such as Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium and Iron. The result is the phosphate remains protected and available to the plant much longer and increases the phosphate fertilizer availability and performance. Three years of trials has shown an average 17% crop yield increase with a 7-10X ROI with the Phosgain technology. The Phosgain technology will also help to free phosphate from the soil and works on all pH zones allowing for a wide spectrum of use globally.
I understand you are also looking at the broader sustainability picture with other Climate Smart Technologies. How does this fit into the Soilgenic model? What other technologies are in your R&D pipeline?
Yes, we have several technologies that we are developing that also will enhance the soil microbiome and work with the plant to increase nutrient use efficiency. We think of fertilization and the soil health as a combined approach. If you improve fertilizer efficiency and the health of the soil, you are bringing the two together to work efficiently for providing the best outcome. Our technologies to enhance the soil microbiome are in development but will have a significant impact providing a low cost but highly efficient solution for improving the health of the soil. One technology is a low molecular weight Carbon technology that will work with the microbiome in the soil. The second technology is a silica
Mesoporous Nanotechnology that is a unique patent that can encapsulate molecules and other ingredients that can be used in many ways. Uses would be seed coatings, fertilizer coatings, bio stimulants, CRF fertilizers, and pesticide molecule encapsulation to reduce pesticide use by up to 80%. We have also recently received a patent on a Biodegradable Polymer technology that will replace PE CRF technologies on the market. We are quite excited about this technology as it not only will degrade naturally to fertilizer in the soil, but is also a much lower cost
of CRF technology to that available on the market today. Our R&D group continues to work on this technology and its development. Another technology that we are quite excited about falls into our Nitrogen EEF technology pipeline. The NBPT technology is typically produced in China and has been in very limited supply over the past year as EEF technologies increase globally. Our patent pending technology will allow us to produce the NBPT active ingredient more efficiently at a much lower cost than what’s provided today. The production footprint is more environmentally friendly and has a lower carbon footprint as a result. By producing the active ingredient locally, we also lower shipping costs and distribution challenges. The lower cost production technology will significantly improve the adoption by the industry and the use by farmers globally making fertilizers more efficient with a cost-effective solution. With the global fertilizer shortage and looming food supply crisis, we feel that Soilgenic is in the perfect spot to help the fertilizer industry to prevent a global
crisis. With nitrogen fertilizer loss at 46% our EEF technologies can significantly reduce that loss and allow fertilizers to be more efficient and produce more food. While we look at today’s crisis, we also need to look at 2050 when the world will have 9.6 billion people and we need to increase food production by 50-70%. Soilgenic has the solutions and technologies to address this challenge. ●
Jeff Ivan, CEO,Soilgenic Technologies
SynTech Research - Controlled Release Fertilizer (CRF) Development Trials in Europe
New Ag International found out more about two of the company's projects.
There is an increased emphasis
on the development of CRFs on a variety
of crops from arable to horticulture, in part
driven by cost-efficacy and demands for
reduction of leaching. SynTech is conducting CRF trials in Europe in 2022.
Please give an overview of the trial/programme on controlled-release fertilizers – what are the main objectives? What is the expected timeline from start to finish?
As part of its range of field trials services, SynTech Spain conducts CRF trial programs for its clients, in agricultural and horticultural crops, to study the properties of candidate formulations, especially the time-course of release and the effects on development of the target crop. The trials can be conducted year-round, in the greenhouse or growing chambers.
Current trials on different species of potted ornamental plants, involve CRF formulations and doses in a range of substrates. These are monitored regularly for pH, water content, conductivity, and temperature, to understand how these affect release. As candidate CRF formulations are frequently coated; SynTech uses purpose-built techniques to recover the fertilizer from the substrate at intervals and analyse the degradation of the coat and the core of the granule.
For ornamentals we assess plant colour and size, phytotoxicity, quality, fresh weight, leaf cover, stem and flower numbers.
France (Broadacre Arable & Perennials):
The main objective is to make nutrients gradually available to plants without peaks of release or risks of phytotoxicity, even under high temperature conditions. Release of the fertilizer can go up to 16 months.
SynTech France is conducting CRF trials on rapeseed, corn, cereals and perennial crops. Assessment parameters include development of the root system, height of the plants, resistance to water stress, number of ears, flowers, fruits, number of seeds per ear or per pod, fruit diameter, weight and size of the seeds and fruits, protein content, and sugar content. Precision seeders are used for CRF trials and are equipped with micro-granulators or spreaders to spread or incorporate the granules or liquids. Liquid fertilizer solutions are delivered using precision metering pumps and may be coupled with
When designing the experiments, what were the key decisions you had to make in advance? – eg Why did you select particular crop/variety? Was soil type a consideration? Were other aspects of the trial site taken into consideration? What sort of reference product was used?
The target crops, soil types and reference products are chosen by the customer.
Experimental design is critical – horticulture trials such trials can last 7-8 months, so phytosanitary (weed/disease/pest control) products need to be selected, the optimum pot size to allow proper root development determined, and ensure homogeneity of the substrate and the fertilizer mix. Irrigation needs must also be determined. Soil type is very important: plots need to have very homogeneous soils with a high average organic content. Arable CRF trials need to be made on flat plots, to avoid the effects of leaching if heavy rains occur. Pre-trial mapping by drone imagery is used to study the fertility and homogeneity of the soil.
When analysing the results, how will you show statistical significance and identify possible errors (if relevant)?
Experimental variation is managed by using treatment replicates in the trials, and a high number of plants per plot. Statistical analysis software is used to analyse significance of the results at Least Significant Difference (LSD) 90% - since this type of product is affected by independent variables due to external factors. These may require that the data is analysed using mathematical models. Determination of dose response curves help to validate the study.
Do you have any general results that you can share? Eg did the CRF treatments improve on ”normal” fertilisers, and was this agriculturally significant. Were there any very obvious observations or anything unexpected that you’ve noticed in the trials ?
The ornamental trials are at their initial stages, no results until July  earliest. In the French trials we have observed temperature effects on the release of nutrients from CRFs. CRFs have brought a significant increase in yield and nutrient content. In arable crops, fewer passages of application equipment undoubtedly reduce energy usage and soil compaction There are therefore production and environmental benefits. The arable crop trials have also shown that CRFs are easy to use, that application costs are lower than traditional fertilizers and have less impact on the environment.
When the project is concluded, what general knowledge do you hope to have learned to help the optimisation of controlled-release fertilizers? Did you learn anything about experimental design, e.g. how best to investigate a particular technology in future?
For arable crops, large area trials, with a large number of repetitions (6 minimum) are best, to mitigate soil effects and obtain precise and reliable results.
SynTech Research already uses imaging devices, including satellites and smartphones for trials assessments and is developing AI-based applications to use the images for digital phenotyping. Imagery analysis will enhance the ability to use growth-room, glasshouse and field trials assessments and conclusions such as yield estimates, particularly useful for CRF trials.
Too early to give a view on experimental design resulting from the horticultural trials, apart from the experimental approaches described above.
Product-specific information will focus on the rate needed from one application i.e.to cover the crop cycle without needing to add additional fertilizer, but delivering crop quality and commercial requirements. We hope to show how the external parameters affect the time-course of release and in this case, the best combination of substrate and fertilizer. The client will determine how our results affect product design and further development. ●