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Big potential in nitrification inhibitors

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Review finds big potential in nitrification inhibitors


Research trials show nitrification inhibitors have the potential to reduce nitrogen losses by up to 60-70 per cent according to a recent review commissioned by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC).

However, PGGRC Chairman Mark Leslie says while the results are both “positive and exciting” it is important to recognise that if nitrification inhibitors were used across New Zealand, reductions would vary according to soil type and climate and in some areas could reduce to 20-30 per cent.

“Sustained nationally this would still be an extremely positive result,” he says.

The review was undertaken for PGGRC by the University of Melbourne and will assist in developing a research programme to support the increased use of nitrification inhibitors across the sector.

PGGRC is funded by Meat & Wool New Zealand, Fonterra, Dairy InSight, PGG Wrightson, The New Zealand Fertiliser Manufacturers Research Association, DEEResearch Ltd, and AgResearch Ltd to investigate ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nitrification inhibitors help reduce the environmental impact of greenhouses gases.
They are used to moderate the nitrogen cycle and reduce the losses that occur in grazing farming systems through nitrous oxide emissions and nitrate leaching losses.

Mr Leslie says they are applied to the soil either directly or as a coating on a fertiliser and target soil micro organisms to alter the form of N in the soil and make it available for longer.

“The largest source of nitrogen in grazing farming systems comes from urine and dung generated by livestock, inhibitors help moderate this source.”

Currently there are three nitrification inhibitors on the market; Eco- N marketed by Ravensdown Co-op Ltd, DCn marketed by Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Entec marketed by Agri NutriSci. Mr Leslie says they have only had limited application to date.

Mr Leslie said nitrification inhibitors would be one of the tools farmers could use to achieve the potential reduction of farm nutrient inputs that the Prime Minister Helen Clark called for recently.

The president of the Federation Charlie Peterson has also set a challenge to his members calling for a 10% reduction in nutrient losses in the next ten years.

“Doing the research and getting a positive result is one thing, rolling this kind of science out onto the farm is another,” he said.

We have a big job do in educating farmers about the potential benefits of nitrogen inhibitors. The industry and Government would also need to talk about how the significant costs involved in moving this research from the lab to the farm can be borne equitably by all parties. Mr Leslie said.


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