New nitrogen fertilizer technologies promise to reduce environmental nutrient impact and GHG emissions, increase crop yield, and cost up to half of current costs.
There’s fertilizer, and then there’s Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer.
We’re in a world nowadays where being able to produce a fertilizer that can help farmers grow larger crops with better yield is not enough. Now you have to also make sure that it reduces its own impact to the environment.
Don Flaten, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Soil Science, University of Manitoba offered his opinion on the state of Canada’s fertilizers: “We’re now using more nitrogen fertilizer than we used to here in Manitoba, and that’s because we need more nitrogen to grow higher yields of wheat and other crops. We then need to replace the nitrogen that’s removed when those higher-yielding crops are harvested.”
He said that since 1970, the province’s wheat yields have more than doubled, which is also a reason why fertilizer usage increased over that time period. Increases in our crops’ yield potential means that more fertilizer is required to reach that yield potential.
Mario Tenuta, Ph.D., P.Ag., NSERC/WGRF/Fertilizer Canada Industrial Research Chair in 4R Nutrient Stewardship, and Professor of Soil Ecology, Department of Soil Science, University of Manitoba concurs regarding modern fertilizers.
“I can tell you farmers are doing better in terms of productivity per amount of nitrogen as fertilizer added to a field,” noted Tenuta. “I have looked at crop insurance data for Manitoba for grain corn, red spring wheat, canola, barley and processing irrigated potato from 1993 to 2018 before fertilizer data ceased being tracked by MASC.
“For all crops, farmers are getting more yield from a unit of nitrogen fertilizer applied. For example, in 1993 it took one pound of nitrogen fertilizer to obtain 0.32 bu of canola grain. In 2018 that same one pound provided 0.40 bu of grain. That is an improvement of 25 percent in agronomic efficiency in fertilizer use—impressive gains,” explained Tenuta.
Added Flaten: “Good placement—for example subsurface banding along with good placement of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium fertilizers—is the most efficient way to use apply these fertilizers, helping to maximize nutrient efficiency and minimize nutrient loss which, in turn, provides agronomy, economic and environmental benefits.”
Even with all that, for those of you who have clients who are looking for an alternative nutritional formulation, Soilgenic Technologies, LLC is an option.
Not a fertilizer manufacturer, but rather a producer of additives to improve fertilizer performance, Soilgenic is a Calgary-headquartered company with international recognition and renown.
Jeff Ivan, Chief Executive Officer for Soilgenic discussed his company’s “Climate Smart Technologies”—next-generation enhanced fertilizer innovations that make nutrients more efficient while reducing the fertilizer’s impact upon the environment.
“Synthetic fertilizers and the Haber-Bosch process (an artificial nitrogen fixation process to produce ammonia) is one of the most significant inventions in mankind,” he said. “It’s helped our population grow from 1.6 to 7.6 billion people, and without it we would not be able to support a vast majority of the population that populate the earth today.”
But, he pointed out, in humankind’s efforts to feed the world—which we have done reasonably effectively—we have managed to put more nitrogen into our environment.
Because Soilgenic’s mission is to help the world grow sustainably, Ivan wondered just “How do we feed the 10 billion people who will be around on Earth by 2050? And,” he asked, “how can you make fertilizer more effective to reduce nutrient loss and at the same time more effective and efficient for farmers?”
The United Nations have called for, among many things, a carbon-zero environment by the mid-century as part of its "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all".
Countries around the world—including Canada—have announced a commitment to significantly cut GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, each promising to reach “net zero" in the coming years.
Although the ag industry in Canada has been pretty good about implementing new technologies and improving land stewardship, nutrient loss and GHG emissions can be improved.
Nutrients meant for plant use can be lost to the environment, which has contributed to climate change and other environmental issues. For example, pointed out Ivan, the United States Geological Survey has reported that nitrogen fertilizers contribute up to 41 percent of nitrogen emissions to the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition, nitrogen can off-gas Nitrous oxide (N2O) and is a major contributor to climate change—not to mention it is 300x more potent than CO2 (Carbon dioxide) as a GHG.
Run off and leaching of conventional nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer loss contribute to aquatic dead zones. In some regions, non-stabilized nitrogen-based fertilizers can move through the soil and into groundwater turning it into a health hazard.
While fertilizers are very effective at increasing crop yields, the data is showing that fertilizers need to be more efficient to reduce environmental loss and to increase fertilizer use-efficiency.
“With phosphate fertilizer, up to 90 percent of phosphate is actually unused during the year of its application. Phosphate runoff with soil erosion contributes to environmental nutrient loss, but farmers are also looking at improving fertilizer utilization and return on investment,” explained Ivan.
Canada’s Climate Action Plan is calling for a 30 percent reduction of emissions below 2020 levels from fertilizers and is calling for action to improve synthetic fertilizers through better products and practices. The UN’s Colombo Declaration is requesting that countries reduce nitrogen waste in half by 2030.
For farmers and fertilizer producers, this is a real challenge.
Skyrocketing nitrogen costs caused by a stressed global supply chain and inflated natural gas prices, are impacting the farmer who is also concerned about other crop inputs affected by a global shortage of raw materials.
If the farmer can't offset these costs, it would be passed along to the consumer with increased prices.
But, creating a cost-effective environmentally-sound solution that still helps farmers grow bigger and better crops, is where Soilgenic Technologies enters the equation.
Soilgenic is currently hard at work at trying to produce green nitrogen technologies but has developed an extensive portfolio of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer (EEF) technologies. Its experience in the creation and manufacturing of EEF technologies, said Ivan, has allowed for the formation of new products and EEF manufacturing technologies unique to the company.
“We are also in development of a non-PE bio coating that is patent-pending for a technology that we feel will have a significant opportunity to enhanced fertilizers,” Ivan revealed. “This technology is down in our pipeline but has had interest from fertilizer companies interested in a solution in this space.”
The core development within Soilgenic has been its innovative iNprove NBPT production process. “This is, quite frankly, the most significant enhanced efficiency development to the industry for producers and for farmers.
“We know NBPT is up to 96 percent effective at reducing above-ground volatilization loss. Our process will lower the cost by 50 percent, which will allow for the economical adoption of our iNprove NBPT. We will also allow our customers to take control of their supply chain with localized production.”
Ivan is aware of the concerns of agri-retailers. With 32 years as an expert within the global fertilizer industry, he also possesses extensive experience in fertilizer retail, manufacturing, and international business development.
The company’s EEF distribution strategy allows its customers to work within their own manufacturing and distribution network—focusing on an upstream granulation and downstream retail distribution.
Upstream: additions to fertilizer manufacturing will create new EEFs for mass and economical adoption and efficient distribution.
Downstream: a full suite of new improved EEF technologies will allow fertilizer coating at the retail level, specific for the fertilizer source and customer requirements.
So, with a potential to lose 40 percent nitrogen and up to 90 percent of phosphate unused in the year of application, Soilgenic’s Climate Smart Technologies are EEF formulation products that are added to alter the reactions that reduce nutrient losses to the environment—both above- and below-ground nutrient loss.
And, because of increased fertilizer use efficiency, more nutrients can be taken up by the crop to increase the crop yield.
Behind the Soilgenic technology are patented formulations that work to prevent nitrogen loss from occurring from volatilization, leaching and denitrification. Phosphate efficiency is improved through the patented Phosgain technology that creates a negatively-charged protective shield around the phosphate that acts as a barrier to prevent soil tie up with cations in the soil.
Soilgenic’s downstream retail solutions for enhanced nitrogen efficiency are unique formulations with the highest concentrations of active ingredients in the industry and are specific for each nitrogen source.
These trademarked products are:
- VisioN, Soilgenic’s newest EEF technology is a high analysis, cold weather enhanced formulation for UREA with superior protection for volatilization, leaching and denitrification including a formulation that provides complete nitrogen loss for above and below ground protection.
- Diamond-N, a fully soluble UAN formulation that does not settle out allowing for the addition of UAN at the retail facility. It offers a 30 percent lower cost.
- DRIVE-N, a noncorrosive formulation for Anhydrous ammonia EEF performance—available with phosphate soil enhancement and micronutrient additives.
- N-BOUND Ammonia Nitrogen Stabilizer, provides protection for ammonia-based fertilizers such as DAP and MAP phosphates and Ammonium sulphate.
The real money-saver, according to Ivan, is its patent-pending NBPT Production Technology, which is a disruptive and affordable solution to above-ground nitrogen loss. NBPT is Nitrogen butylthiophosphoric triamide, an enhanced efficiency fertilizer that limits the release of nitrogen-containing gases after fertilization.
“Yes, NBPT has been used in agriculture for 20 years as a safe and effective above-ground nitrogen loss protection,” explained Ivan. “But our iNprove NBPT technology has an improved production process that can lower above-ground loss protection by up to 50 percent.
Although these cost savings will be based upon the efficiencies of the manufacturing process, Ivan was adamant that “Once fully developed, Soilgenic’s NBPT production process will significantly improve the cost of protecting nitrogen from volatilization loss.”
He added: “This will be beneficial for agri-retailers because they will have a new enhanced efficiency tool to provide their customers. The reduced cost will allow for a mass adoption by the industry to assist in reducing environmental loss of nitrogen.”
The Soilgenic iNprove NBPT technology is in the development pipeline, noted Ivan, and is progressing as planned.
Ivan said that fertilizer producers will no longer have to worry about importing NBPT and the supply issues either, as localized production can be done on site to reduce freight costs and improve logistics. Soilgenic’s patent for the addition of enhanced efficiency technologies at the fertilizer manufacturing location will also assist in lowering the cost of the protected Urea, while allowing retail locations the time and opportunity to coat fertilizers on site with other technologies such as micronutrients without oversaturating the fertilizer.
“By including EEF technologies during the fertilizer production process, the fertilizer company can take control of the quality of the additions of the EEF fertilizers. For below-ground protection, our EEF granulation process creates a new patented molecule called Nitrifidine, trademarked as NitroBlock. The molecule is longer and heavier which improves the performance of below-ground protection and the loss due to leaching and denitrification.”
He added: “In order to protect nutrient loss and improve nutrient use efficiency, we need to have a complete portfolio of technologies for all nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. In addition, the ability to add EEF technologies upstream at the fertilizer granulation level or downstream at the retail level where the agri-retailer can provide a localized coating.
“The solutions must be flexible, and no one solution fits all, which is why we have the largest portfolio of solutions that we can formulate specifically for our customers according to their needs and requirements.”
Ivan summed up: “We understand the industry and where it’s at today—from the farmer to the agri-retailer to the fertilizer manufacturer, as well as the environmental demands approaching our industry. We need to feed people while attending to the environment—and Soilgenic has the means to do that effectively, and affordably.”
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