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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What is fertiliser

Fertiliser provides the nutrients to grow and nourish pastures and crops.

Plants require 17 essential nutrients to thrive. Fertiliser supports plant growth and replenishes nutrients after each harvest.

Nitrogen, phosphate, potassium and sulphur are the four most important nutrients for crop yields and sustainable food production:

Nitrogen (N) makes up about 78 percent of the air we breathe. It is inert and insoluble in this form.

To manufacture nitrogen fertiliser, it must be removed from the air and combined with hydrogen to make ammonia, which is then converted to urea. This is applied directly to crops as a nitrogen fertiliser or used as a building block to make other nitrogen fertiliser products.

Phosphorus (P) is present in all living cells and is essential to all forms of life. Found throughout our bodies, it is concentrated in our teeth and bones. The source of phosphorus in fertiliser is phosphate rock, which is typically mined from the earth’s crust then reacted with acid to produce different phosphate products.

Potassium (K) is also found throughout nature and is found in our bodies in muscles, skin and the digestive tract. Good health requires sufficient intake of potassium. Plants use potassium for functions like photosynthesis and protein formation. Potassium, or potash, is mined from naturally occurring ore bodies that were formed as seawater evaporated. The deposits are a mixture of crystals of potassium chloride and sodium chloride. Sodium chloride is also known as table salt. After it is mined, the potassium chloride is purified into a granular fertiliser.

Sulphur (S) is essential to produce amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins found in all living things. Sulphur also helps give crops like onion, mustard and radish their characteristic flavour. While it can be found naturally in the soil, it is not always in a form plants can use.

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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