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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Analysing cadmium uptake from root to shoot

Nilusha Ubeynarayana is undertaking research that could prove a game-changer for managing cadmium concentration in New Zealand soils.

The Sri Lankan PhD student, who began her research through Massey University in October 2017, says she is excited about the experiments she will be doing. She will use a range of advanced techniques, aimed at discovering how plants uptake cadmium from root to shoot.

Nilusha’s research builds on a recent PhD study by Aaron Stafford, which analysed the cadmium concentration of 12 forage species. This research showed that two popular supplementary feeds, chicory and plantain, accumulated significantly more cadmium than other forage species. These two plants are an important part of animal feed as they are a drought-tolerant, high nutrient food crop.

“The big question I’m seeking to answer is why chicory and plantain accumulate more cadmium,” says Nilusha.

Nilusha will commence her three-year project by analysing chemistry of the rhizosphere, the few millimetres of soil surrounding the plant roots that is influenced by the activity of soil microorganisms and plant roots. She will conduct experiments to study rhizosphere soil solution and root interaction. This will help her understand how this influences cadmium uptake of various forages when phosphate fertiliser has been applied on a long-term basis.

Nilusha plans to use advanced analytical techniques such as High-performance Liquid Chromatography and Cd Nuclear Magnetic Spectroscopy. This will provide valuable information on xylem sap ligands, which are involved in transporting cadmium in forage plants.

“An important part of my work will be developing a cadmium ion measuring electrode, because plant sap contains very low levels of cadmium concentration. This electrode will be able to measure very low levels of cadmium in plant saps.”

New Zealand soil is low in phosphorus, which is essential for plant growth. As a result, phosphorus fertiliser containing traces of cadmium is widely used on New Zealand farms.

“In New Zealand agricultural soils the cadmium concentration is more than double that of non-agricultural soil,” says Nilusha.

There are no indications for concern to human or animal health from the levels of contaminants currently in New Zealand soil. Nonetheless, phosphate fertiliser use must be actively managed and soils monitored to ensure that the risks from soil contaminants remain low over the long term.

“I’m really happy to be doing this work. If I can discover exactly how plants accumulate cadmium we will be able to develop remedies to stop high accumulation from happening.”

Nilusha’s research is funded by the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand and the Foundation of Arable Research. Her supervisors are Dr Paramsothy Jeyakumar (Jeya), Professor Chris Anderson, Dr Roberto Calvelo Pereira and Dr Peter Bishop.


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.

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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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