Agri Scientists Provide Global Perspective
Tuesday March 12,2002
Agricultural scientists from the world’s largest producer of fertiliser warn of the increasing pressures on farmers globally to intensify production whilst reducing environmental impacts, following a visit to New Zealand recently.
Three scientists from Hydro Agri, a division of Norsk Hydro which owns 20% of New Zealand based Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd, toured manufacturing plants at Kapuni in Taranaki, Invercargill and Mount Maunganui to observe its fertiliser operations and review global fertiliser trends.
Hydro Agri’s Manager of Plant Nutrition Research, Dr Hans-Werner Olfs, advised that with predictions of a global population explosion from six billion to nine or even 10 billion people by 2025 - combined with a lack of available productive land world wide – farmers would have to become more creative in their efforts to intensify food production.
“However, this increase in production needs to take place with minimal environmental impact, particularly as global environmental legislation comes into force,” he says.
Dr Olfs pointed to the pending Kyoto Protocol on climate change which will restrict the emissions of greenhouse gases. Methane gas produced by farm animals, is one such gas that will be restricted. New Zealand’s dairy industry is a source of methane gas emissions.
“As a spin-off from this we can also expect to see in the future farmers and growers being required to provide their produce with a ‘sustainability rating,’ ensuring it meets strict environmental guidelines regarding where and how it was grown. This could include greenhouse gas emission levels and pesticide and fertiliser use,” he says.
Dr Olfs says Hydro Agri and Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd have been actively working to ensure they provide their customers with ‘precision’ agricultural advice to help minimise impacts from fertiliser use.
In Europe for instance, Hydro Agri has developed the Hydro N-Tester, a small handheld electronic device which enables the farmer to determine the actual Nitrogen requirements for each field (which in Europe can be as large as 50 hectares) . Two of these devices have been obtained for evaluation in New Zealand.
The technology has since been extended in Europe to a remote sensor fitted to a farmer’s tractor which then automatically adjusts the nitrogen levels applied according to the specific crop N requirements of individual parts in a field. This has led to lower residual Nitrogen levels in the soil after harvest and to higher Nitrogen use efficiencies.
“ We have provided farmers with many benefits as a result - little or no environmental impact, lowered fertiliser costs and accessible and highly visual information relating to their Nitrogen use,” says Dr Olfs.
This is the fourth visit to New Zealand by scientists from Norsk Hydro and Dr Olfs says this demonstrates the company’s commitment to sharing its resources and ideas with its business partner Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd.
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About Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd, New Zealand’s leading manufacturer and marketer of fertiliser, brings together the identities of four iconic regional fertiliser businesses – Northland Fertiliser, BOP Fertiliser, Petrochem and SouthFert – to create a national business renowned for the quality of its products and the knowledge of its people.
With more than 450 employees, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd produces and sells nearly 1.4 million tonnes of product annually, creating a turnover of around $400 million. Its leading products include superten, pasturemag, pasturezeal and New Zealand’s premium urea product, n-rich urea.
Through its links with Norsk Hydro, the world’s largest fertiliser producer, which owns 20 per cent of its business, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Ltd also has access to the products and knowledge generated by Hydro Agri´s Research and Development projects.
Ballance has three phosphate manufacturing plants located at Mount Maunganui, Invercargill and Whangarei and it also operates New Zealand's only ammonia urea plant at Kapuni, in Taranaki. Its head office is situated in Mt Maunganui.