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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Research measuring the impact of soil fluorine

Massey University PhD student, Gere Thangavelautham, completes his PhD research investigating the 'Impact of phosphate fertiliser derived fluorine on soil microbiology and white clover'

"We are proud to announce Gere Thangavelautham's successful completion of his PhD qualifications at Massey University, Palmerston North, " said Greg Sneath, Executive Director of the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand.

"The Fertiliser Association has been actively supporting new young scientists and the development of research skills and capability in the arena of nutrient management for primary production. Studies like these and the continued investment into developing our collective knowledge, skills and capability in agricultural science are essential, not just for New Zealand, but for the world's future security in food and fibre production."

Why is this PhD research important?

Rye grass clover pasture is still the mainstay of New Zealand pastoral 'grass fed' livestock industries. Phosphate fertiliser are applied to replenish the essential nutrient phosphorus, which is taken up from the soil and permanently removed by the sale of food and fibre. If not replenished, pasture production is reduced to at least half, and some cropping systems might fail completely. Fluorine (F) is the thirteenth most common element in the Earth's crust, and is found in the rock from which phosphate fertiliser is made. Fluorine is therefore found in phosphate fertiliser products applied to production land all over the world, and this study has examined the biological impacts of this additional fluorine applied to agricultural production land.

What was studied?

The most sensitive component of the Rye grass clover pasture system is considered to be the 'nitrogen fixing' bacteria, Rhizobium. These bacteria help to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen which the plants can use. To assess the potential impact of soil fluorine on rhizobium, Gere investigated soil fluorine extraction methods for laboratory analysis of soil fluorine. Methods for assessing the (near) total amount of extractable soil fluorine were evaluated, and then also the amount that is considered to be freely 'available' to interact with soil microflora. Following the development of soil fluorine measurement techniques, respiration and inhibition assays were conducted to investigate the effect of soil fluorine on Rhizobium and the white clover.

What was found?

Results showed that microbial biomass and soil enzyme activities, and white clover growth and its interaction with Rhizobium, were not influenced by added fluorine - up to the highest concentration used in this study. The soil fluorine levels at which Rhizobium showed any sign of adverse effects occurred at levels much greater than occurs in New Zealand pastoral soils, reassuringly indicating there is no risk of adverse effects on soil Rhizobium and it activity in soil and plants.

This study also looked at the effects of managing soil acidity (pH) and also adding compost to reduce the bioavailability of soil fluorine. This showed that pH has a significant impact on 'adsorption' and 'desorption' of fluorine on the soil particles. Maximum adsorption occurred at pH of 5.5 - 6.8, meaning that adding lime to keep soil acidity within this range minimises the amount of soil fluorine available to interact with plants and soil microflora. The addition of compost also reduced bio-availability of soil fluorine. This is to be expected as it is now that fluorine is retained predominantly in the top-soil where it binds with organic matter and iron and aluminium oxides. However, the effects of added compost were not significant where soil pH was above 6.0.

Find out more

Read more about Gere's research here.

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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