Feeding the world’s growing population

New Zealand’s reputation as a quality food producer is growing.

Optimising food production

Over the next 50 years farmers around the world will need to produce more food than has been grown over the past 10,000 years.

Best use from a limited resource

Fertiliser helps farmers produce food efficiently by replenishing the soil. But fertiliser needs to be used responsibly.

Responsible and sustainable nutrient management

The Fertiliser Association invests in research and tools to ensure farm profitability while minimising nutrient losses to the environment.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand promotes and encourages responsible and scientifically-based nutrient management.

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Nutrient management

Growing grass or crops takes nutrients from the soil. That’s where fertiliser comes in.

Fertilisers support the replenishment of nutrients, making them available for productive plant growth and maintaining soil fertility. This must be managed carefully, to ensure good yields while minimising any environmental impacts. Good farming practice includes creating and maintaining a nutrient budget and testing the soil regularly.

Nutrient budgets

A nutrient budget tells you about the balance between nutrient inputs and outputs.

It compares inputs such as:

  • fertiliser
  • purchased feed
  • nitrogen fixed by clover
  • effluent
  • soil mineralisation

with outputs such as:

  • farm products
  • transfer to non-productive areas
  • leaching and runoff losses
  • gaseous losses to the air.

A nutrient budget helps to determine what is required to maintain soil fertility and use nutrients efficiently. It enables you to generate a nutrient plan to optimise production while minimising losses to the environment.

Soil testing

Soil testing gives information on the nutrient status and the chemical/physical status of soil. It can be used to inform farm management decisions. By testing soil, farmers know which nutrients – and how much – to apply. If too little is added, crops will not produce as expected. If too much is applied or is applied incorrectly, for example, at the wrong time or in the wrong manner, excess nutrients may run off the fields and pollute streams and groundwater. So, while fertilisers serve an important purpose, farmers must be careful to use the right product and the right amount, at the right rate and right time (the 4R approach).

Well managed nutrient applications can achieve increased production and increased farmer profitability, while maintaining environmental protection and improved sustainability.


This means following the 4R Nutrient approach:
  • matching fertiliser type to crop and pasture needs (right product)
  • matching amount of fertiliser to crop and pasture needs (right rate)
  • making nutrients available when crops and pasture can utilise them (right time)
  • keeping nutrients where crops and pasture can use them, away from waterways or other sensitive areas (right place)

See our resources section for information on nutrient management tools and quality assurance.

View resources


The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and Dairy NZ funded development of the Nutrient Management Adviser Certification Programme (NMACP). This industry-wide certification aims to ensure that advisers have the learning, experience and capability to give sound nutrient advice.

Find out more

8 October 2018

New Zealand's agricultural industry is increasingly considering the challenges and opportunities of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


5 September 2018

From having an internationally acclaimed research method named after him to running a highly successful research centre, Professor Mike Hedley can look back on his 40-year academic career with a huge sense of achievement.

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