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February 2013



agriculture SoilDoc

Focus on

FERTILIZAR in Argentina


An innovative soil test kit for fertilizer recommendations

Biostimulants are now on the world map



We’re not running out of fertilizer Against ‘Peak Everything’. There is simply no evidence to support the outlandish claim, made by financier Jeremy Grantham in the science journal Nature, that fertilizer use “must be drastically reduced in the next 20–40 years or we will begin to starve.” Vaclav Smil, 11 December 2012 Jeremy Grantham, a well-known presence in the financial world, recently published a World View column in the journal Nature in which he concludes that, “simply, we are running out’’ of almost all commodities whose consumption sustains modern civilization. There is nothing new about such claims, and since the emergence of a vocal global peak oil movement during the late 1990s, many other minerals have been added to the endangered list. Indeed, there is now a book called Peak Everything. What makes Grantham’s column – published under the alarmist headline “Be Persuasive. Be Brave. Be Arrested (If Necessary)” – worth noticing, and deconstructing, is that he puts his claims in terms more suitable for tabloids than for one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious scientific weekly magazines. His direst example is “the impending shortage of two fertilizers: phosphorus (phosphate) and potassium (potash). These two elements cannot be made, cannot be substituted, are necessary to grow all life forms, and are mined and depleted. It’s a scary set of statements…. What happens when these fertilizers run out is a question I can’t get satisfactorily answered and, believe me, I have tried.’’ Well, he could have tried just a bit harder: an Internet search

© C. Aholou-IFA

by Vaclav Smil

would have led him, in mere seconds, to “World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources,” a study published in 2010 by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. This detailed assessment of the world’s phosphate reserves (that are the part of a wider category of resources that is recoverable with existing techniques and at acceptable cost) concluded that they are adequate to produce fertilizer

for the next 300 to 400 years. As with all mineral resource appraisals (be they of crude oil or rare earths), the study’s conclusions can be criticized and questioned, and the statement by the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative is perhaps the best document of that kind. But even the most conservative interpretation of IFDC’s assessment shows that phosphates have a reserve/production ratio well in excess of 100 years, higher than that of many other critical mineral resources. Grantham could have also checked the standard, and the most often quoted, sourcebooks on the world’s mineral resources, Mineral Commodity Summaries, published annually by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In the latest edition, he would have found that the USGS made significant revisions to its phosphate rock reserves data for Morocco, Russia, Algeria, Senegal and Syria, and that it now puts the global reserve/production ratio at about 370 years. cont’d on page 7

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Editorial by Charlotte Hebebrand Dear readers, Having started as IFA’s new Director General in January of this year, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in the fertilizer industry and its role in agricultural value chains and to invite feedback on any of the articles. I have been working on international food and agricultural policies and I see that by focusing my attention on the fertilizer industry, I will be even more closely involved in food security. IFA is active on many fronts, but there are two that stand out for me as priorities: first our efforts to promote greater fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa and second our efforts to continuously improve nutrient use efficiency around the globe. Both of these require that we work closely with partners also outside of the fertilizer industry. The industry as a whole, and IFA as its global representative, are understandably proud of the amazing advances we have seen in agricultural productivity over the last decades, in large part thanks to fertilizers. An important exception, of course, is Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where growth inproduction has largely occurred as a result of expansion of arable land rather than yield increases. A very important priority in the next few years, therefore, is to focus on raising agricultural productivity in Africa in order to bridge the substantial yield gap. These low yields, along with the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa still has a relatively large amount of arable land, also provide a great opportunity: the continent has an important contribution to make to global food security. We at IFA will be redoubling our efforts to promote improved fertilizer markets in SSA, so that

the target set at the 2006 Fertilizer Summit to help farmers increase fertilizer use in SSA from the current 7 kg/ha to at least 50 kg/ha can be achieved. This objective can only be met if a whole range of supply and demand constraints are addressed in a concerted fashion by government as well as industry and civil society actors. Whereas under-application of fertilizers is a pressing issue for Sub-Saharan Africa, we must also acknowledge that fertilizers are over-applied in some other parts of the world. Dr. Norman Borlaug, who famously referred to fertilizers as “the fuel that has powered [the Green Revolution’s] forward thrust,” in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1970, in later years called for the development of “new products that will deliver just the nutrients that the growing plants require and to diminish environmental externalities,” and for “advanced fertilizer research,” coordinated with “advanced plant genetic research so that we can achieve synergy between more efficient use of available nutrients by plants and more efficient delivery of nutrients by fertilizer products.” Tremendous advances have been made in nutrient use efficiency, particularly in developed countries, but there is more to be done. Innovative fertilizer products, i.e. slow- and controlled-release fertilizers, play an important role here, as do best fertilizer management practices that incorporate the “4Rs,” emphasizing the need to provide the right nutrient sources, at the right rate, time and place. In this issue of Fertilizers & Agriculture, we showcase examples of such from Latin America and Africa. In my new role, I am keen to join IFA members, researchers, farmers’ organizations and other stakeholders in their important efforts to promote nutrient use efficiency and stewardship on a global basis.

Opportunities for the fertilizer industry in Mexico by Maurizio Covarrubias Piffer atin American countries experienced enormous agricultural development during the colonial period. In the 20th century, restructuring of Mexico’s agricultural land tenure system culminated in policies leading to increased consolidation of farming into larger and more efficient units. Agriculture today should consume about 7 to 8 million metric tonnes (Mt) of fertilizer per year, but consumption in the last two decades has never been more than 3.5 million Mt. While Mexico is becoming an important exporter of fruits and vegetables to the United States, Canada and some European countries, it is also one of the world’s largest grain importers. In 2013, its grain



imports (mainly maize, sorghum and wheat) are expected to be around 12 million Mt. This means Mexico will spend US$ 7 billion on grain imports. Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who assumed office in December

2012, has promised the greatest support ever for the country’s agriculture sector. Mexico is a “sleeping giant”. It has good agricultural land, a large labour force and a large market for agricultural products. The only thing missing is government policy to take advantage of its huge potential. If this exists, there will be spectacular growth in fertilizer requirements.

Contact Maurizio Covarrubias Piffer Grupo Fertinal, S.A. de C.V Mexico

February 2013

focus on

FERTILIZAR ertilizar is a non-profit association, founded in 2004, which is made up of 27 partners including Argentinian and international fertilizer producers, marketers and distributors. Fertilizar promotes nutrient replenishment, responsible use of fertilizers, and stewardship of high-productivity environments. Fertilizar is committed to protect the soil resource, promote the use of fertilizers to compensate for excessive extraction of soil nutrients due to intensified land use, and encourage the responsible use of fertilizers. This can be done through: • promoting research and technical training adapted to local conditions; • providing updates on the fertilizer market; • promoting the agronomic and economic advantages of proper nutrient balance, and its positive impact on the productivity of crops and pastureland and on soil fertility; • informing society about the importance of caring for the soil, one of the country’s fundamental resources; and • contributing to sustainable agriculture. Fertilizar carries out a number of outreach and research activities. These include scholarship funding, technological development agreements with educational institutions, coordination of outreach activities, scientific and technical research, publication of scientific and technical information, and reviews of the fertilizer market. In 2012, Fertilizar created a map of nutrient availability to provide information on key soil health indicators in the Pampas. This initiative is the starting point for the development and adoption of sustainable soil management and cultivation practices, including fertilization and liming. This year Fertilizar (with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, IPNI) is organizing the Soil Fertility Symposium 2013, to be held on 22-23 May at the Metropolitano centre in the city of Rosario, Santa Fe province, with the theme “Crop Nutrition for Sustainable Production Intensification”. This meeting, held every

two years, is aimed at producers and people with technical expertise. It brings together around a thousand national and international experts in soil fertilization and crop nutrition. Field Trip in Santa Fe

Fertilizer consumption Fertilizer consumption in Argentina has steeply increased in the last two decades from 0.3 million tonnes in 1990 to 3.6 million tonnes in 2011. The decrease in 2008/09 was due to climatic and microeconomic factors which influenced significantly the use of fertilizers. While there has been growth in both domestic and imported fertilizer consumption, there has also been a substantial increase in domestic fertilizer production – and therefore in the share of domestic fertilizers in total consumption. In 1992, it was 15 per cent, compared with 40 per cent in 2011 (see figure below). Total fertilizer consumption during the 2011/2012 campaign was 3.7 million tonnes of commercial products, compared with 3.4 million tonnes during the 2010/2011 campaign. The market share for nitrogen fertilizers represents 47 per cent, phosphates 44 per cent and the remaining 10 per cent are essentially potassium and sulphur. The main micronutrients are zinc and boron.

Based on a survey of 600 producers conducted by Fertilizar, projections were made of fertilizer use during the 2012/2013 campaign. The survey indicates that total fertilizer consumption will shrink by about 10 per cent compared with the previous year, to approximately 3.3 million tonnes of products. The decrease in consumption is influenced by a number of factors. The main one is reduced consumption of fertilizers for maize and wheat because of the smaller area planted in these crops. The area planted in soybeans is increasing, but not sufficiently to offset the decline in fertilizer consumption for maize and wheat.

Contact María Fernanda González Sanjuan Executive Manager, FERTILIZAR AC Buenos Aires, Argentina Tel: +54 11 4382 2413

Fertilizer consumption in Argentina Imported



Thousand tonnes products



by María Fernanda González Sanjuan

3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0




2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011


4 fertilizers & agriculture

Fertilizer consumption and efficiency in Brazil


razil’s total land area encompasses 851 million hectares, 388 million of which are estimated to be suitable for production of food, feed, fibre and biofuel. Unlike most regions of the world, Brazil has high agroforestry potential but the great majority of Brazil’s soils has very low fertility, with severely limited availability of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and several other nutrients. Adding plant nutrients is thus of fundamental importance for high and economical yields. The country’s main crops are maize, sugarcane and soybean, but many other crops are also cultivated. Fertilizer consumption has increased in recent years (by 161 per cent between 1995 and 2011) and Brazil now ranks fourth in world fertilizer use. In 2011, it consumed 28.3 million tonnes of fertilizer, including 3.4, 3.9 and 4.4 million tonnes of N, P2O5 and K2O, respectively. Of the three most important plant nutrients, N has seen the greatest increase in consumption. This is seen as positive in a country that has mostly tropical soils with very low organic matter content, and where N consumption has been recognized as low. The increase in fertilizer consumption in Brazil is proportionally much higher than the average increase in the rest of the world (see figure below). Between 1988 and 2010 there was a 24 per cent increase in cropped area for the 18 crops of greatest economic importance, while production of these crops increased by 124 per cent. This is attributable to a high yield and efficiency gains



Typical response to the addition of phosphorus to Brazilian soils. Crop = soybean; A = control, no P added; B = 120 kg ha-1 of P2O5. in Brazilian agriculture. The increased production translates into an increase in the N, P2O5 and K2O exported by crops of 158, 147 and 146 per cent, respectively. It is clear that it would not be possible to farm sustainably without the increase in fertilizer use described above. Parallel with the growth in fertilizer consumption, institutions have been working to ensure that these products are used as efficiently as possible. A recent International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) nutrient budget study1 showed that Brazil has generally been successful in this effort. The study reports that over five years (2006-10) an average of 69, 53 and 81 per cent of the N, P2O5 and K2O consumed was taken up by crops. These percentages are good compared to those in other regions, where recovery is sometimes too low or too high, indicating, respectively, high nutrient losses or soil exhaustion in terms of nutrient availability. In addition to calculating a general nutrient budget for the whole

Relative increase (1995 = 100)

Fertilizer consumption in Brazil and the world 60

country, the IPNI study focused on budgets by crops and states. The data obtained indicate which crops and regions should be considered priority areas for promoting improved fertilizer use efficiency. Research on establishing adequate cropping systems in Brazil’s different agroclimatic regions is under way as a means of achieving greater success in agroforestry activities and better nutrient use efficiency. For example, by changing soil and crop management practices and adjusting the cropping system, the amounts of NPK needed to produce 1 tonne of yield on a farm in the State of Mato Grosso (in the Cerrado region) decreased, even with higher amounts of NPK utilized per hectare. This was possible due to higher yields with more efficient use of fertilizer. The principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship are behind the successful results on this farm. IPNI and other institutions continue to work intensively to implement such principles in Brazil, so as to benefit farmers and help achieve food security for our planet. Cunha, J.F.; Casarin, V.; Prochnow, L.I. Balanço de nutrientes na agricultura brasileira no período de 1988 a 2010. Informações Agronômicas # 135, September 2011. IPNI Brasil. p. 1-7. 1





20 30



Luís Ignácio Prochnow IPNI Brazil Program Director /

0 1995









Source: ANDA/IFA

© Luís Prochnow

by Luís Ignácio Prochnow

Improved agricultural inputs and training increases smallholders’ yields

© All photos: One Acre Fund

February 2013

by Alison Bream


armers make up 75 per cent of the world’s poor. Their profession is to grow food, but they often grow barely enough to feed their families – let alone the rest of the world. One Acre Fund is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that seeks to improve farmers’ yields by helping them access farming technologies and techniques. First, it provides a “market bundle” of services designed to address all barriers to farmers growing more food.

A farmer demonstrates One Acre Fund’s fertilizer microdosing technique, in which only a small, optimal amount of fertilizer is applied.

One Acre Fund groups farmers together, then distributes improved seed and fertilizer – on loan – within 2 kilometres of the farmers’ homes. Many of these inputs were previously inaccessible to farmers due to distance or lack of capital. One Acre Fund then employs local field officers to train the farmers in simple but effective agricultural methods. Training includes planting techniques, such as how to use a planting string to plant in straight, evenly spaced rows. Farmers

Field staff in Rwanda weigh a farmer's bean harvest also learn about fertilizer micro- to verify One Acre Fund's impact. dosing and application, which results in their using two to three the micro-dosing method that One Acre times less fertilizer. Finally, One Acre Fund recommends is incredibly efficient. Fund provides farmers with assistance In fact, intensifying production through in getting their product to market and micro-dosing of fertilizer minimizes ensuring they get a fair price. pressure to convert new land, in either One Acre Fund currently serves 135,000 tropical forest or savannah, into farms. smallholder farmers in Burundi, Kenya One Acre Fund has ambitious plans to and Rwanda. expand to serve more than 500,000 farm One Acre Fund carries out rigorous monifamilies in the next three years, and toring and evaluation of its programme. more than 1.5 million households by There are more than 100 full-time moni2020. Despite this rapid scale-up, there toring and evaluation staff. In 2011 the is a nearly limitless need for One Acre organization surveyed 2,500 clients – Fund’s services. The organization purhalf had completed a harvest with One sues an aggressive expansion strategy, Acre Fund, and the other half were newwhile striving to achieve full financial ly enrolled farmers who had not planted sustainability in two of its countries of with the organization. When comparing operation in the next three years. test to control farmers “One Acre Fund One Acre Fund has demonstrated that, verified an average doubling of income by arming rural smallholders with apon every planted acre”. propriate technologies and training, Although One Acre Fund is committhey can grow their own way out of ted to increasing the amount of food poverty. farmers grow, it is conscious of the environmental impact of the agriculture Contact sector. To improve food production, Stephanie Hanson smallholders can either convert new Director of Policy and Outreach land for cultivation or make their exOne Acre Fund isting farmland more productive. One Acre Fund provides farmers with inputs that significantly increase yields. While fertilizer production is energy-intensive,

The Last Hunger Season The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change chronicles a year in the lives of four One Acre Fund farmers in Kenya. Using these farmers’ stories as a backdrop, author Roger Thurow provides insights into broader agriculture and food aid policy. www.thelasthungerseason. com/book.html


6 fertilizers & agriculture


An innovative soil test kit that provides real-time fertilizer recommendations by Pedro Sanchez, Ray Weil, Alison Rose oil nutrient replenishment in subSaharan Africa is widely recognized as a critical biophysical entry point for agricultural transformation. However, actual application of soil science is minimal, mainly due to delays in obtaining necessary information from soils that are sampled from farmers’ fields and sent to conventional laboratories – an inefficient process subject to many errors and delays. In Africa poor infrastructure and the budget limitations of national institutions make this a largely useless exercise.

What is SoilDoc? Soil test kits have been around for a long time, but none of these kits is accurate enough to be really useful in making on-site fertilizer recommendations. SoilDoc combines an up-to-date set of wet chemistry tests (well correlated with large laboratories) and the ability to calculate, send data, and receive fertilizer recommendations in real time. SoilDoc uses state-of-the-art batterypowered miniaturized sensors. The parameters analyzed include soil pH, biologically active soil organic matter, electrical conductivity (indicative of general fertility levels as well as salinity issues), and 0.01 M calcium chloride extractable nitrate-N, sulphate-S, phosphate-P, and potassium-K. The kit also has the capability to test certain

nutrients in the sap of growing crops to obtain a snapshot of the crop nutrient status with regard to nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and potassium. Moreover, it includes tools to measure soil physical properties such as surface sealing strength, compaction, and volumetric soil water content. It essentially measures what a conventional wet chemistry laboratory does, and at a similar level of accuracy. The SoilDoc kit, which combines new hardware with new software, represents a quantum leap forward towards providing important soil information to farmers in near time. Such a breakthrough can empower extension services to be the effective agents of change needed throughout Africa. SoilDoc will allow extension workers to diagnose soil constraints in the field, transmit the information electronically, and receive quality recommendations back from specialists or algorithms in near realtime.

Who is developing this soil kit? SoilDoc is being developed by Ray Weil and Pedro Sanchez. Ray Weil is Professor of Environmental Science and Technology at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland in the United States. He is also an Adjunct Senior Research Scientist with the Agriculture and Food Security Center (the AgCenter) at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York. Pedro Sanchez is the Director of the AgCenter, a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University, and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.

What are the plans for development? The AgCenter has received funding to develField training in Liberia on using SoilDoc components to measure soil pH.

op the kit and accompanying information communications technology (ICT) support system, focusing on activities in Ethiopia and Tanzania. Work has already started to field test the SoilDoc and develop software programmes. © All photos: SoilDoc


A farmer in Senegal is measuring the pH of the irrigation water from his hand dug well. The water turned out to be extremely acidic and was the cause of many local fields becoming infertile that they had to be abandoned.

What savings will result from having such a soil kit? If the alternative is a well-functioning soil testing system with agriculture consultants taking samples and sending them by courier to good labs with qualified experts, and a three- to four-day turnaround from field to lab to field, the monetary savings will be small. But in most of Africa, and in remote regions of countries in other parts of the world, that alternative does not exist. The real question does not so much concern savings with the SoilDoc kit, but rather the monetary benefits of using the SoilDoc system versus no system at all (i.e. blanket recommendations covering an entire country are now in general use across Africa). Obviously, in the few cases where a blanket recommendation is ideal, there will be no savings, but this is seldom the case. In most cases a blanket recommendation will miss some cont’d on page 7

© C. Aholou-IFA

February 2013

cont’d from page 6

nutrients or provide nutrients that are not needed. Thus, if SoilDoc shows P to be sufficient, the cost of normal application of DAP can be saved (about US$100 per hectare). Or if, for example, SoilDoc shows  that sulphur  is needed and US$ 20 worth of gypsum gives 1000 kg extra maize worth US$ 500 where only urea and DAP are applied, the benefit may be about US$ 480 per hectare. The cost of running a suite of analyses on a soil sample with the SoilDoc kit is likely to be about US $1-2  including kit  amortization  costs, but not farmer or extension worker labour costs.  Use of Soil Doc would enhance, not detract from, the extension worker's educational/outreach mission and interaction with farmers.

How will the kit help smallholder agriculture? Many farmers either lack information about soil constraints in their fields or are following government blanket recommendations. Africa is beginning to emerge from a static smallholder agriculture where cereal yields have remained at the same level of around 1 tonne per hectare (or the equivalent in other crops and livestock products) for the past 50 years. Government programmes have employed incentives or credit for fertilizers and high-yielding seeds, doubling or tripling crop yields at local or national scale in several parts of Africa. SoilDoc allows a more targeted approach that uses resources more effectively to move yields of 2-3 tonnes per hectare of maize and eventually to 5-7 tonnes per hectare. This includes tailored fertilizer recommendations appropriate to particular soil and farming/cropping systems. Such tailored recommendations, developed by SoilDoc or by central laboratories, would support farmers in increasing their agricultural productivity in a way that is more efficient than currently possible.

Contact Greg Fienhold Earth Institute, Columbia University, USA

cont’d from page 1

We’re not running out of fertilizer Or he could have consulted the materials put out by the International Fertilizer Industry Association, whose members include many of the world’s most prominent fertilizer producers, traders, and shippers. The association (emphasis in the original) “does not believe that peak phosphorus is a pressing issue, or that phosphate rock depletion is imminent. Nevertheless, it believes that efforts to minimize phosphorus losses to the environment and optimize phosphorus use should be encouraged.’’ And that is precisely as it should be, because wasteful use of all kinds of fertilizers is common and optimizing the applications brings substantial monetary and environmental rewards (phosphates are a major cause of aquatic eutrophication, their worst effects are persistent dead zones in many coastal areas around the world). Larger gains in reducing phosphate applications could be made by moderating typical per capita meat consumption, and a great amount of the element can be recovered from waste. In all Western countries, most fertilizers are now applied to feed not food crops, and hence moderating the current high rates of meat consumption (commonly in excess of 100 kg per capita) would reduce the amount of needed fertilizer. Such cuts would also have environmental and health benefits. An even more important option – especially given the facts that much of modern meat, milk, and egg production is done in a concentrated manner, and that half of the world’s population lives in cities – is now available thanks to advances in phosphorus reuse from manures and municipal wastes. Grantham could have talked to many experts in this flourishing field, or could have simply consulted the SCOPE Newsletter, which reports,

several times every year, the latest scientific and commercial achievements regarding phosphorus recovery. In the latest issue of this newsletter he would have also learned that the world has, at the current rate of consumption, about 600 years of minable potassium reserves. Grantham cannot dismiss all of this as just usual propaganda put out by the fertilizer industry. That a financier and asset manager – whose expertise does not include resource geology, soil science, plant science, or agronomy – comes to “only one conclusion,’’ namely that the use of fertilizers “must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve,” is as wrong as it is understandable. Clearly, he was after sensational headlines and, indeed, in his column he implores scientists to engage in “overstatement’’ and to be arrested (if necessary) in order to call attention to the imminent perils he describes. That the world’s leading scientific journal prints such tabloid talk is harder to comprehend. Do we not have science precisely in order to provide us with the best available evidence so we can understand the real challenges and make well-informed decisions to pursue the most responsible and the most effective solutions? Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. This essay was originally published at The American (www.american. com/archive/2012/december/jeremygrantham-starving-for-facts). Smil is the author of “The Manufacturing of Decline” in Breakthrough Journal Issue 1 (


8 fertilizers & agriculture

Biostimulants are now on the world map by Jean-Pierre Leymonie


gronomists used to consider crop nutrition and crop protection separately. Today we know the reality is much more complex. From a scientific perspective the “grey line” separating them will probably always exist. However, it is important to draw a clear distinction with respect to product regulation. Elicitors, phytostimulants, biostimulants, phytoprotectants, biofertilizers, bioactivators, soil enhancers and so on: What exactly are these products? Are they all the same? What do they do and what do they not do? It is important to understand the differences between each category and, more importantly, why biostimulants work (with sometimes impressive results). Some of these products will definitely make their way into high tech agriculture in the future. They are probably only the start of something bigger that will occur once molecular biology and agronomy become efficient partners in advancing research. Biostimulants have become increasingly popular. Their mechanisms are not fully understood, which may partly explain why applying them to crops does not always have outstanding results. With proper use, some of them enhance crop stress tolerance, yield and/or quality while others do not. But which ones will and which ones will not, and why? To answer these questions, New Ag International organized the first World

Seaweeds are collected on the seashore

substances as well as free amino acids. Several major categories of compounds and agents are not covered in the study despite the term “biostimulant” having been used to describe them. In particular, microorganisms (e.g. in composts and waste-derived products) are occasionally referred to as biostimulants. They are also sometimes called “biofertilizers”, as they are generally applied to soils rather than plants although they impact root systems.

An expanding market

Humic acids, fully soluble for fertigation Congress on the Use of Biostimulants in Agriculture on 26-29 November 2012 in Strasbourg, France. More than 700 delegates from 60 countries attended.

Eight main categories A recent study from the European Commission analyzes what biostimulants are (based on the scientific literature) and proposes a scientifically sound definition1. It classifies them in eight main categories: humic substances, complex organic minerals, beneficial chemical elements, inorganic minerals (including phosphates), seaweeds, chitin and chitosan, antitranspirants, and free amino acids. The author, Professor Patrick du Jardin, points out that these categories are not mutually exclusive and should not be strictly opposed to one another. For example, complex organic materials may contain humic

The lack of a regulatory framework makes it difficult to collect reliable statistics. Definitions of biostimulant products currently vary from one country to another – and this product category is not officially recognized in all countries. Thus, there is a classic chicken-and-egg situation. At this stage the data are qualitative rather than statistical. Nevertheless, the market for biostimulants is growing rapidly, driven by economic and socio-political factors. An informal survey has indicated that more than 5.5 million hectares per year are treated with biostimulants in the European Economic Area. However, the companies concerned account for only a portion of the entire market and the total area treated is likely to be much greater. It should be noted that in this survey, multiple applications on the same land were counted separately. Statistics are too patchy and definitions too variable for the value or volume of the European biostimulants market to be estimated accurately. Estimates, however, range from EUR 200 to 400 million. This market is growing steadily at 10 per cent or more per year, with future growth at the same levels predicted for the foreseeable future. In Latin America, where avoiding competition between food crops and energy crops is an important driver, the rate of growth may be somewhat higher. (The key countries are Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.) The Asian market is at least as strong, if not stronger, than that in cont’d on page 9

February 2013

IFA news

cont’d from page 8

©All photos: New AgInternational


Seaweed cream being prepared Europe, although this depends on the country. The North American market is relatively mature, but growth rates are still quite good.

Towards specific legislation in Europe and beyond Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth2 sets out three mutually reinforcing priorities: (1) smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation; (2) sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy; and (3) inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion. The biostimulants sector can contribute to all three of these policy objectives. Today, depending on the country, biostimulants are considered to be either fertilizers or plant protection products or even plant growth regulators. This is a source of market confusion. The European Biostimulants Industry Consortium (EBIC) advocates for the regulatory line to be drawn between abiotic and biotic stress. Specific legislation prepared by the European Commission (DG Enterprise) could be approved in 2015. It will be based on a definition of biostimulants that has now been agreed by all

FARMING FIRST new infographic stakeholders: “Plant biostimulant means a material which contains substance(s) and/or microorganisms whose function when applied to plants or the rhizosphere is to stimulate natural processes to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient use efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress, and/or crop quality, independently of its nutrient content.” Legislation will be developed within the framework of a likely extension of the scope of the EC Fertilizer Regulation, but will necessitate amending the definition of plant protection products in Article 2.1(b) of Regulation 1107/20093 to avoid overlap. DG Enterprise’s proposal for this amendment is as follows: “active substances… influencing the life processes of plants, such as substances influencing their growth other than as nutrients or stimulating natural processes to benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress and/or crop quality.” There is little doubt that if the legislation is enacted, which seems very likely, it will inspire other legislation around the world.

Patrick du Jardin, The Science of Plant Biostimulants – A bibliographic analysis, March 2012. ( final_report_bio_2012_en.pdf) 2 Communication from the European Commission, March 2010 (http://eur-lex. =COM:2010:2020:FIN:EN:PDF). 3 Regulation (EC) No  1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market ( R1107:en:NOT). 1

The story of agriculture and climate change - the road we have travelled.

Short-Term Fertilizer Outlook 2012-2013

P. Heffer and M. Prud’homme. 38th IFA Enlarged Council Meeting, Rome, Italy, 28-29 November 2012. 7 pp. FERTILIZERS-THE-INDUSTRY/Marketoutlooks.html

Fertirrigación. Una herramienta para una eficiente fertilización y manejo del agua

Contact Jean-Pierre Leymonie Managing Director New AgInternational Strasbourg, France

U. Kafkafi and J. Tarchitzky. IFA, IPI, 1st edition, Paris, France, Horgen, Switzerland, November 2012. 151 pp.


10 fertilizers & agriculture

IFA members are making significant progress on safety, health and environment


om de Marco, one of the greatest business analysts of our time, once remarked that “you can’t control what you can’t measure.” It is in this spirit that the fertilizer industry’s leadership assigned the IFA Technical Committee the specific task of developing and tracking global Safety, Health, and Environment (SHE) performance measurements roughly a decade ago. IFA’s surveys are designed to regularly assess and monitor members’ progress in targeted SHE performance areas, in order to allow participating companies to compare plant performance, identify areas for improvement, and establish action plans. In 2012, for the first time, all three global benchmarks were conducted in the same year. They cover the following areas: 1) energy efficiency, 2) environmental performance, and 3) employee safety. The energy efficiency survey monitors global energy efficiency in ammonia production as well as carbon dioxide emissions. Its results showed an overall improvement in the global energy consumption average, with the benchmark reaching 36 gigajoules (GJ) per tonne of ammonia. It also confirmed the “best in class” range of 28 to 32 GJ established by previous editions. This metric is critical, as it is indicative of what is realistically achievable for ammonia plants globally. With respect to greenhouse gas emissions from ammonia production, roughly two metric tonnes of CO2 are produced per tonne of ammonia, which represents a 10 per cent decrease in CO2 emissions since IFA began measuring these emissions roughly a decade ago. With the survey on environmental performance, IFA monitors 30 emission areas across the main product lines. The consolidated results provide interesting insights. First, emission values improved for most of the 30 emission areas studied, an indication of increasing conformance with best available techniques (BAT) levels in general. The survey results showed a remarkable decrease in average emissions data for nitrous oxide (a


by Volker Andresen major greenhouse gas). Again, this is an encouraging outcome. It showcases that the adoption of efficient industrial practices does have a significant impact on the emission profile of the industry as a whole. Last but not least, the global employee safety survey represents a platform where members can share safety statistics on a yearly basis. Since the beginning of the IFA safety benchmarks, the Technical Committee has tracked the Lost-Time Injuries Rate (LTIR), which is considered a basic “lagging” indicator of safety performance, counting the number of accidents per million hours worked. The Committee decided last year to expand this measurement to include Total Recordable Injuries (TRI), which gathers more data on types and degrees of injuries, such as fatalities and cases requiring medical treatment. The consolidated results from the 2012 report indicate that the LTIR for full-time employees was 2.35, compared to an average of 3.85 over the last nine years. That confirms a general positive downward trend for this performance metric. Concerning the TRI rate, the first edition of the survey generated an average of 7.75, which will be used in comparing the results of surveys in the coming years. Volker Andresen, Director of IFA’s Technical Committee, concluded that “these various results suggest that our members are making measurable and significant progress in SHE in production across the board.” In 2013, IFA will take its benchmarking process one step further. Member companies will be able to assess employee safety perceptions at the production site. In other words, after many years of collecting lagging safety performance indicators IFA will now introduce a “leading” indicator to its SHE benchmark “mix”. For more information about this initiative, visit the technical section of or contact Sophie Palmie,

Fertilizing crops to improve human health: a scientific review T.W. Bruulsema, P. Heffer, M.R. Welch, I. Cakmak, K. Moran. First edition, IPNI, Norcross, GA, USA; IFA, Paris, France, October 2012. 290 pp. A large proportion of humanity depends for its sustenance on the food production increases brought about through the application of fertilizers to crops. Fertilizer contributes to both the quantity and quality of the food produced. Used in the right way— applying the right source at the right rate, time and place—and on the right crops, it contributes immensely to the health and well being of humanity. To order a copy:


February 2013

Regional outreach IFA Indonesia seminars With the objective of enhancing the linkage between IFA and its members, the IFA Secretariat organized the first IFA Indonesia Seminar in September 2012 in Jakarta for IFA’s Indonesian members. The seminar was co-organised with the Indonesian Fertilizer Producers’ Association (APPI) and P.T. Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company, under the leadership of Mr. Arifin Tasrif, IFA Vice-President for East Asia. About 100 executives from the Indonesian fertilizer industry attended. The Indonesian industry took this opportunity to encourage participation by government representatives from more than seven ministries. IFA’s Director General made a presentation on the Association and its activities, in order to encourage Indonesian members to further engage in IFA’s activities and fully benefit from IFA’s services. The Secretariat also made four presentations on world market outlooks for the main nutrients. Two guest speakers, Professor Zhang Fusuo (Dean, College of Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University) and Mr. Masato Oda (Senior Researcher, Crop, Livestock & Environment Division, Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences) presented enhanced nutrient management practices leading to increasing rice crop yield and quality in China and Japan, respectively.

The seminar highlighted the interest of the Indonesian fertilizer industry in learning from best practices and pragmatic approaches that are implemented in other countries to enhance crop yields while minimizing the economic and environmental impacts of farming and planting. The Indonesian industry signalled the evolution of fertilization practices with emerging trends regarding fertilizer product mix customized by crop and by farming area. Planned investments in NPK compound capacity in Indonesia will offer a wider range of fertilizer products to farmers and planters. Following the success of this first event, IFA and its Indonesian members will organize a second IFA Indonesia Seminar in September 2013 in Jakarta, with a specific focus on sharing nutrient best management practices, knowledge transfer and extension services. Several experts and industry practitioners from other countries will be invited to exchange with IFA Indonesian members. The IFA Secretariat would like to acknowledge its appreciation of the leadership of Mr. Arifin Tasrif, CEO of P.T. Pupuk Indonesia Holding Company and IFA regional Vice-President for East Asia, as welle as the support received from APPI.

IFA events IFA Global Safety Summit and Technical Symposium 8 – 12 April 2013 Santiago, Chile The Technical Committee will combine its Safety Summit and Technical Symposium into one event. Senior executives, SHE managers and production directors will be exposed to thought leadership in SHE and production management - with a view to introducing subjects that assist IFA member companies to continually lower operating costs, improve safety performance and reduce the environmental footprint. Technical issues will be addressed in detail during the Technical Symposium aspect of the event.

81st IFA Annual Conference* 20 – 22 May 2013 Chicago, USA Held on the occasion of the IFA Annual General Meeting during which the Association’s officers convene, IFA’s main event attracts on average 1400 participants representing 400 members companies from 75 countries. It has become a major meeting platform for the global fertilizer industry and is on the agenda of its chief executives and senior management representatives. *

Restricted to IFA member companies

2013 IFA

Production & International Trade Conference

IFA Production and International Trade Conference*

7 – 9 October 2013 Kiev, Ukraine This event offers an excellent opportunity to interact with senior executives from major international fertilizer producers and trading companies. A special emphasis will be placed on supply-related issues. This conference is designed by the IFA Production and International Trade Committee for all IFA members. In cooperation:

IFA/New Ag International Conference on Slowand Controlled-Release and Stabilized Fertilizers 12 – 13 March 2013 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

IFA/IFDC Nitrogen Fertilizer Production Technology Workshop 24 – 28 June 2013 Sanya, China

More information on upcoming events: To access general and registration information about these events click on “Events” at: A pocket-size events brochure can also be downloaded.


12 fertilizers & agriculture

© Erlucho-iStockphoto


© Courtesy SQM

with the support of

Santiago, Chile, 8 -12 April 2013 SHIFTING THE GLOBAL INDUSTRIAL PARADIGM FOR SHE MANAGEMENT In today’s world, most businesses acknowledge that they must take into account a

broader scope of corporate social responsibilities when manufacturing their products. These responsibilities include, of course, producing top-quality products and providing the best services whenever and wherever possible. However, these responsiblities do not stop there - as modern and successful businesses are ones that care for their workers and contractors to ensure safe and healthy working environments. These actions cover not only worker safety and health but also caring for the environment and for the surrounding communities. Indeed, these actions have become core to running industrial operations in today’s complex business and regulatory environment. The IFA Technical Committee works closely with its member companies to facilitate and promote such a “stewardship mentality” in fertilizer operations globally. One of the Associations main means for sharing SHE best practices among its members is through the organization of a yearly technical event. In this light, participation in the 2013 Global Safety Summit and Technical Symposium will help your managers and executives share information in order to accelerate performance in SHE management, while renewing and reinvigorating long-standing business relationships.

The Safety Summit and Technical Symposium’s over riding theme is “Responsible fertilizer production: blending SHE management excellence and technical expertise”.

Major topics covered over the three days include: • The importance of leadership in safety • New angles and best practices for managing SHE in production • Lowering your environmental footprint • Methods to increase your stewardship activities • Best available production techniques for fertilizer production

VISIT TO THE SQM FACILITIES (Atacama Desert) The Atacama Salt Desert, located in Northern Chile, is one of the richest reserves of Lithium worldwide. 

© Courtesy SQM

Visit the biggest MOP production of South America, an astonishing scenario  between the Andes and the salt mountains.

Participation in the IFA Global Safety Summit & Technical Symposium is open to non-members.

• Online registration and payment

• E arly Bird registration

deadline: 4 March 2013!

• F ull detailed programme available

International Fertilizer Industry Association 28, rue Marbeuf, 75008 Paris, France Tel: +33 1 53 93 05 00 Fax: +33 1 53 93 05 45/47 Fertilizers & Agriculture is a quarterly newsletter published by IFA covering issues in relation to fertilizers and sustainable agriculture. Mailing list Subscription to Fertilizers & Agriculture is free of charge. To receive a hard copy, send full address details to be added to the mailing list. Additional copies may be supplied to organizations to circulate on behalf of IFA. To consult current and past issues of Fertilizers & Agriculture: LIBRARY/Our-selection2/Fertilizers-Agriculture Contributions We invite your contributions of letters, documents, articles, photographs, etc. Director General of IFA: Charlotte Hebebrand Editor-in-Chief: Morgane Danielou Managing Editor and layout: Claudine Aholou Material in F&A may be reproduced only after prior consent by IFA. Reference to individuals, publications, research, products, companies or organizations does not indicate endorsement by IFA. For information on IFA’s © International Fertilizer Industry Association 2013 Printed with vegetable-based ink by Point44 on paper from sustainably managed forests.

Fertilizers & Agriculture, February 2013