Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Nitrogen dollars dissolving in thin air

31 March 2015

Nitrogen dollars dissolving in thin air

Millions of dollars’ worth of nitrogen is vanishing into thin air, causing losses to farmers and to New Zealand in wasted import dollars.

That’s the conclusion reached in field trials funded by Ballance Agri-Nutrients [corrected 2/4/15] to measure ammonia losses from standard urea and urea treated with a nitrogen stabiliser. These losses occur when the nitrogen in the urea volatilises into ammonia.

While farmers try to avoid the loss by applying urea when wet weather is forecast, research by Landcare Research and Ballance has shown a good 5 to 10 mm of rain is needed within eight hours of application to reduce ammonia loss – a finding consistent with research in New Zealand in the 1980s.

Ballance Science Manager, Aaron Stafford, says nitrogen loss through volatilisation is well-known, but the economic cost is not.

“Around 500,000 tonnes of urea is sold in New Zealand each year and if you use the rule of thumb that 10 percent of available nitrogen will be lost from volatilisation, that’s the equivalent of 23,000 tonnes of nitrogen which is not doing its job in the soil and generating a return for farmers. Urea fertiliser contains 46 percent nitrogen, so at $600 a tonne for urea, this means $30 million of nitrogen is lost on average each year as ammonia.”

He says the losses are not only financial, but also environmental, with volatilised nitrogen re-deposited from the atmosphere – and not necessarily on the farm where the nitrogen losses occurred.

“Farmers have no ability to control where this volatilised nitrogen is re-deposited. It could end up in rivers, lakes or forests, which is less than ideal environmentally.”

Field trials in the Waikato, Manawatu, Canterbury and Otago were carried out over two successive springs. They showed that ammonia losses from urea ranged between 11 and 23 percent, with an average of 15 percent - again consistent with previous independent work. Treating urea withAGROTAIN® nitrogen stabiliser (SustaiN) reduced these losses by an average of 68 percent. Mr Stafford says the results are consistent with previous research which gave an average 45 percent reduction in ammonia losses with SustaiN urea over standard urea.

“The data also shows that volatilisation is not a summer-only phenomenon. It can happen at all temperatures.”

He says a product like SustaiN is sold at a premium over standard urea, but that premium is recovered in reduced nitrogen loss, better pasture response and reduced reliance on immediate rain to minimise volatilisation.

“Farmers will be weighing up cost over performance, both financially and in terms of environmental impacts from nitrogen losses. With a lot of work in hand now to restore pasture after such a dry summer, the option to use SustaiN makes financial and environmental sense.”

Further recent trial work by Ballance has meant that the co-operative is now able to offer SustaiN in place of urea in a wider range of mixes and blends, extending the benefits to applications which include other nutrients. Ballance field consultants can offer advice on the best blends for maximum benefits for individual farming situations.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Paymark: Lockdown Equals Slowdown For Some

The three days of lockdown for Auckland earlier this month made a clear impression on our retail spending figures. While only Auckland moved into Level 3 lockdown, the impact was felt across the country, albeit at different levels. Looking at the ... More>>

Infrastructure Commission: Te Waihanga Releases Report On Water Infrastructure

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga’s latest discussion document highlights the importance of current reforms in the water sector. Its State of Play discussion document about water infrastructure is one of a series looking at the ... More>>

Sci-Tech: Perseverance Rover Lands On Mars – Expert Reaction

NASA has landed a car-sized rover on the red planet to search for signs of past life. The vehicle has more instruments than the four rovers preceding it, and it’s also carrying gear that could help pave the way for human exploration of Mars. The ... More>>


ASB: Quarterly Economic Forecast Predicts OCR Hike As Early As August 2022

Predictions of interest rate rises have been brought forward 12 months in ASB’s latest Quarterly Economic Forecast. Chief Economist Nick Tuffley now expects the RBNZ to begin raising the OCR from its current level of 0.25% as early as August ... More>>

ACT: Matariki Almost A Half Billion Dollar Tax On Business

“Official advice to the Government says an extra public holiday at Matariki could cost almost $450 million,” ACT Leader David Seymour can reveal. “This is a perfect example of the Prime Minister doing what’s popular versus what’s responsible. ... More>>

Genesis: Assessing 6,000 GWh Of Renewable Generation Options For Development By 2025

Genesis is assessing 6,000 GWh of renewable generation options for development after starting a closed RFP process with 11 partners. Those invited to participate offer a range of technologies as Genesis continues to execute its Future-gen strategy to ... More>>

OECD: Unemployment Rate Stable At 6.9% In December 2020, 1.7 Percentage Points Higher Than In February 2020

The OECD area unemployment rate was stable at 6.9% in December 2020, remaining 1.7 percentage points above the level observed in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the labour market. [1] In December, the unemployment rate was also stable ... More>>

Stats NZ: Unemployment Drops To 4.9 Percent As Employment Picks Up

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent in the December 2020 quarter, from 5.3 percent in the September 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today. Last quarter’s unemployment rate of 5.3 percent followed the largest increase observed ... More>>