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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The Value of Nitrogen Fertiliser to the New Zealand Economy

Nitrogen fertiliser is an important input into the New Zealand primary sector. For the horticultural, vegetable and arable sectors, it is a crucial input in ensuring high yielding and good quality crops. In the pastoral sector it is primarily used as a substitute for supplementary feed, especially as nitrogen-boosted pasture is around half the cost of other supplements.

"While removal of nitrogen as a farm input would reduce farming impacts on water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, there would also be a significant economic cost," says Vera Power, Chief Executive of the Fertiliser Association.

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand commissioned this study to explore the costs to the primary sector both at the farm gate and to the wider New Zealand economy, associated with removing nitrogen fertiliser or using a substitute. For pastoral farms this includes use of supplementary feed.

The assessment has been done on a 'with' versus 'without' basis across five sectors:

  • Pastoral agriculture - dairy
  • Pastoral agriculture - sheep and beef
  • Permanent horticulture - tree and vine crops
  • Vegetables
  • Arable

The implications for the primary sector without nitrogen fertiliser are as follows.

Overall costs at the farm gate are estimated at:

  • $1.7 billion if N fertiliser is removed and no substitution is used; or
  • $2.1 billion if substitution with other supplementary feeds and legume cover crops are utilised.

And at the national level, these impacts would flow through as:

  • a drop in gross output by $19.8 billion
  • a drop in Value Add (GDP) of $6.7 billion or over 2% of national GDP
  • a reduction in employment by 73,760.

It should be acknowledged that the report looks at the economic consequence of not using nitrogen fertiliser in farming production systems, it does not cover the environmental costs or the potential costs of any clean-up of waterways. A key finding was that leaching of nitrogen is not eliminated by removal of nitrogen fertilisers.

The graphic below provides a summary of the key findings from the report.

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

23 September 2020

New Phosphorus Use Guidance Note that clearly explains why we need to manage phosphorus losses and why we need to build on the international principles of the '4 Rs' for good management of nutrients.

9 September 2020

Through a comprehensive research programme -- Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL) -- OverseerFM has been updated to include the diuretic response in animals as a result of consuming plantain.

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