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 we analyse

Understanding and managing soil phosphorus levels (Olsen P) to maintain soil fertility for agricultural production, avoids unnecessary phosphorus use. This helps farm profitability and reduces environmental impacts.

Fertiliser application is one of the largest single operating expenses for most farms. It doesn't make sense to apply fertiliser when it's not required to maintain soil fertility. Soil with excessively high Olsen P levels-especially in 'critical source areas' has the potential to contribute more significantly to phosphorus levels in waterways. This can create adverse environmental effects.

Yearly soil tests

The member companies of the Fertiliser Association (Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-nutrients) use almost 100,000 soil tests each year to support good management practice and appropriate fertiliser recommendations.

Decline in phosphorus use

Phosphorus use has declined since a peak between 2003 to 2005. This reflects the impact of a significant price rise in 2008/09, decreased proportions of land being developed for more intensive agriculture, and economic pressures-particularly for sheep and beef farmers receiving lower returns. The moderate usage also reflects the increasing focus on nutrient budgets. This involves using fertiliser more strategically than ever before, as farmers learn how to maintain productivity while using less.

For total phosphorus use in New Zealand since 1990, see here.

Understanding soil phosphorus fertility across New Zealand

To better understand how soil phosphorus fertility is reflected across New Zealand's production land, the Association analysed routine soil Olsen P test results. This study examined data from approximately 800,000 records from across New Zealand, covering a range of farm systems and soil types collected during the period from 2012 to 2019.

The review helps us to understand the phosphorus status of New Zealand's productive soils.

The target ranges for Olsen P for relevant land-use activities are presented as the coloured band on the figures in this report. More background and detail can be found in our booklet series here.

Map of distribution of sampling


Density of Olsen P measurements across New Zealand using rural and rural-adjacent postcodes.

Table of samples by soil type

Summary of Olsen P records by soil type and region, included in the final data set.


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

25 January 2022

Final-year Lincoln University PhD candidate Kirstin Deuss is the 2021 recipient of the NZ Society of Soil Science/Fertiliser Association of NZ Postgraduate Bursary Award.

The award recognises the efforts and present (or likely) contribution to New Zealand soil science arising from a doctorate study. It carries a $5,000 one-year stipend.

Kirstin holds a BSC in Biomedical Science from Victoria University of Wellington and an MSC in Horticultural Science from the Technical University of Munich, Free University of Bozen (Italy) and the University of Bologna.

Her postgraduate research has seen her lead a long-term field study on soil and catchment hydrology in Southland. The findings will help understand the role mole and tile drains play in Southland’s unique landscape.

“I’m thrilled to have been selected as the recipient of the NZSSS Fertiliser Association Postgraduate Bursary, it is an honour that I will cherish for the rest of my career,” says Kirstin. “I love working with soils and my career objective is to apply my field, research and management skills towards supporting the sustainable management of New Zealand’s soil resources.”

“My PhD has been challenging but also so rewarding, and this award is a real confidence boost as I prepare to start my new career at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research in February. I wouldn't be where I am without the support of my many great mentors, friends and colleagues, who have given me so much of their time and energy to help turn ideas into reality and put it all into the written word!

 “It's truly been the best experience of my life and I am really looking forward to where it is going to take me.”

 Kirstin was nominated by Peter Almond, Associate Professor, Department of Soil and Physical Sciences at Lincoln University. He described her to the judging panel as a “highly adept scientist capable of complex quantitative analysis of soil-hydrological systems”.

“I think she is a deserving recipient.  The prestige of the award would further her goal of securing a position working professionally in soil science in New Zealand so that she can contribute to environmental sustainability of our primary industries.”

Fertiliser Association chief executive Vera Power described Kirstin’s research as “hugely important”.

“The more we can understand what’s happening in our soils and catchments, the better placed our primary sector will be to improve farm management, all while protecting the environment.”  

24 November 2021

FANZ has made a submission to the Ministry for the Environment on Te hau mārohi ki anamata - Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future

The primary sector has a key role to play in helping achieve global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining food security. This requires low-emission production systems, with increased efficiencies and the use of new mitigation technologies. 

Investment in the development and adoption of new technologies requires a clear regulatory pathway to market. We will need to work internationally with trading nations and also locally with existing qualified networks within the agricultural community for the extension and adoption of new mitigations.  

You can read our submission in full here.


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