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.

Read more

Application methods

Interactions between the form of fertiliser and the type of application equipment can have serious effects on the evenness and accuracy of application. Terrain and the task to be done often dictate the type of application system used – e.g. aerial spreading on steep hill country.

Weather conditions can significantly affect both the containment of fertiliser on the application site and the evenness of application within this site. The importance of weather conditions depends on the form of fertiliser, the application method and equipment used.

Recommendations and nutrient management plans from fertiliser and agricultural consultants assume the fertiliser material will be spread evenly and accurately over the target area at the target application rate. Poor spreading can negate the best management plans and result in significant production losses and pollution of waterways.

Ground based application

Ground based application includes a wide range of application methods to apply a vast array of fertiliser products, requiring careful matching of equipment and technique to the fertiliser and production system.

Spreading operators must understand the spreading characteristics of all products they spread, and how their equipment and equipment settings affect spreading performance. For example, products may be solid (free flowing particles or mass material) or fluid (solutions, suspensions, slurries). Particle sizes in free flowing solid fertilisers typically range from less than 1mm to over 5mm in diameter. When ejected laterally from spreading equipment, particles of different sizes have different ballistic trajectories and therefore variable spreading patterns. Particle shape also varies but is usually near spherical in manufactured products. Particle shape, density and surface roughness all affect the flowability of the product.

There are two broad types of ground based spreading equipment:

  • ground based equipment that spreads fertiliser beyond the width of the machine – e.g. bulk spinners
  • ground based equipment where the swath width is equal to or less than the width of the machine – e.g. boom sprayers, combine drills, pneumatic top dressers

Factors that may affect ground based fertiliser spreading performance:

  • Calibration – application equipment must be calibrated for the fertiliser product to be applied. Different products have different bulk densities and even different lines or batches of the same product can vary in bulk density.
  • Slope – the performance of all ground based application equipment is likely to be affected by sloping ground. It is generally preferable to operate up and down rather than across slopes. Unless the spreader is computer controlled, variations in surface roughness may lead to uneven spread as vehicle speed varies.
  • Weather, atmospheric conditions – some fertiliser materials are hygroscopic, i.e. they absorb water from the atmosphere. Changing temperatures and humidity during the day can affect their flow rate through machinery.
  • Soil conditions – slippery ground conditions can interfere with accurate fertiliser placement. Avoid operating machinery on soft soils where there is a risk of compaction. On slopes, slippery conditions can create a safety issue for the operator.
  • Speed of spreader.
  • Broadcast (spinners, reciprocating spouts, muck spreaders) – because the material is thrown beyond the width of the machine there is a risk that driver error and wind will make it difficult to keep the fertiliser within the target area and achieve a low CV%.
  • Other equipment (e.g. drills, pneumatic booms, boom sprayers) – these are capable of achieving lower CV% results, especially where tramlining and bout markers are used, but only if they are accurately calibrated.
  • Irrigators and sprinklers – the volumes applied must be controlled so that nutrients are not washed off the surface or subject to deep percolation through the soil. Application evenness and distribution pattern should be calibrated as for other application equipment.

The application of fertiliser from ground based machinery should comply with the Code of Practice for the Placement of Fertiliser in New Zealand (Spreadmark).

Aerial application

In many situations, aerial application is the only practical means of applying fertiliser. Where fertiliser is applied by air, the minimum acceptable standards for evenness of spreading should be the same as for other application methods used on similar classes of land. Where the risk of environmental contamination is low, higher CV values for evenness of distribution may be acceptable.

Keys to quality aerial topdressing include:

  • good communication and direction from land manager
  • the calibration efficiency of the equipment being used
  • the accuracy of spread
  • the skill level of the pilot
  • high environmental standards
  • use of GPS to achieve higher accuracy of fertiliser placement

The aerial application of fertiliser should comply with the Code of Practice for the Placement of Fertiliser in New Zealand (Spreadmark), Part The Aerial Spreadmark Code.

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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