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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Best management practices for phosphorus (P) fertiliser use


Best management practices

Choice of fertiliser

  • Soluble phosphate fertiliser is used where:
    • rapid plant response is required
    • soil P levels are required to be increased rapidly
    • plants are actively growing
    • there is a low risk of runoff
  • Slow release phosphate fertiliser is used when:
    • there is a high risk of runoff and/or
    • a rapid plant response is not required and/or
    • soil P levels are adequate and/or
    • soil pH is less than 6.0 and annual rainfall is greater than 800mm

Rate of fertiliser application

  • Nutrient application rates are determined using some or all of the following factors:
    • soil and plant tissue analysis
    • nutrient budgets (including any effluent and/or feed imported to the block)
    • crop type, yield/quality/stocking rate targets
    • the need for capital or maintenance applications
    • previous crop and fertiliser history
    • soil moisture conditions and expected future weather patterns
    • local knowledge
  • The amount of phosphate applied per application is limited:
    • when high rainfall is anticipated or irrigation is planned
    • on very sandy soils, particularly for soluble phosphate fertilisers
    • when slope is greater than 25º, and/or pasture is less than 25mm high (approx. 1000 kg DM/ha)
    • during winter
  • Soluble phosphate fertiliser must be applied in split dressings if the single application rate would exceed 100 kg P/ha.
    Phosphate is applied in proportion to other nutrients, according to plant requirements. (Adding excessive P when other elements limit crop or pasture growth is inefficient and could lead to P losses.)

Application technique

  • Application equipment used is suitable for the conditions and fertiliser type.
    Only Spreadmark accredited spreading companies (experienced operators and calibrated equipment) should be used
  • GPS and GIS technology is used for precise application and for a digital record of fertiliser application locations.
  • Non-target application of fertiliser is avoided by:
    • using fertiliser with larger particle sizes and few or no fine particles (aerial application)
    • application techniques that direct or specifically place the fertiliser appropriately
    • application in bands when sowing crops or pasture seed
    • applying fertiliser only when any wind is blowing away from sensitive areas
    • apply fertiliser only under agreed conditions (e.g. wind speed of less than 15 km/h)

Frequency of application

  • Nutrient availability is matched to plant demand, particularly for soluble P products and liquids.
  • Split applications are used where the single application rate would exceed 100 kg P/ha for soluble P or liquid fertiliser.

Timing of application

  • Pasture is at least 25mm high (approx. 1000 kg DM/ha) before P is applied.
  • Phosphate fertiliser is not applied after a dry (drought) period until sufficient regrowth has occurred after rain.
  • P fertiliser is not applied when the soil is saturated

Fertiliser use and management measures

  • P fertiliser is not applied to severely compacted soils. Soil aeration techniques are used on such soils before fertiliser application.
  • To avoid fluoride toxicity to stock, pastures top-dressed with P fertiliser are not grazed for 21 days or until 25mm of rain has fallen.
  • Only phosphate fertilisers which comply with the industry limit of 280mg of cadmium per kg of P are used.
  • Vegetated riparian buffer strips of sufficient width (10m - adjust for slope) to filter any run-off are maintained adjacent to all waterways.

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

6 July 2022

The British Society of Soil Science has published a research article in the Soil Use and Management Journal detailing the latest analysed data from the long-running Winchmore Fertiliser Trial in Canterbury.

The paper was written by Driss Touhami of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lincoln University. Touhami is also a member of the AgrioBioSciences Program, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Ben Guerir, Morocco.

The paper, titled "Effects of long-term phosphorus fertilizer inputs and seasonal conditions on organic soil phosphorus cycling under grazed pasture", was co-authored by Leo Condron Richard McDowell and Ray Moss.  The report can be viewed here.

Read more about the long-running Winchmore trial on the FANZ website here.

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.”  

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