The changing face of nutrient use

The world of fertiliser is more complex today than it was back in 1992. The driving force behind that has been to help farmers produce more with less. But how do farmers navigate the changing face of nutrient use to ensure the complex range on offer now is the real deal? 

Fertmark quality assurance

Fertmark, an independent quality verification program, is run by the Fertiliser Quality Council (FQC). This was established by farmers to ensure fertiliser nutrients were independently verified as true to label, performance claims were true and chemical contaminants were managed. And to close that loop, Spreadmark was created to ensure accurate nutrient placement. Peter Wood, Quality assurance specialist, runs the QCONZ auditing of Fertmark and Spreadmark and is a staunch advocate.

“You would be a fool not to use Fertmark certified products, or apply them with a Spreadmark certified contractor,” Wood said. “Because with the price of fertiliser the way it is now, it is essential that farmers can be sure they are getting what they are paying for.”

Nutrient product evolution

The evolution of nutrient products is driven by the need for more efficient and effective plant nourishment. To help farmers produce more with less. And while that mandate has not changed, the menu for fertiliser nutrients needs to be validated.

Where once the granule dominated the market place. Now liquids (slurries, and fluidised fertilisers), prills, precision blends and polymer coatings are becoming commonplace in the dairy, cropping and horticultural industries. Because they provide solutions to the environmental impact, animal and human health and productivity demands on the industry.

Making Fertmark fit-for-purpose

The challenge for the Fertiliser Quality Council, Chairman Anders Crofoot says, is to ensure farmers are not buying lemons. 

“Fertmark needs to extend its coverage to further protect farmers and growers from misrepresentation. It is essential to give farmers confidence in the products they are buying,” Crofoot said.

To make Fertmark fit for purpose the classes of products which can be covered will be expanded. FQC has a Fertiliser Agronomic Group that will review agronomic and scientific trials presented to support the claims for a product. They will use this to determine if a Fertmark “tick” should be awarded..

Fertmark provides significant confidence to the industry, evidenced by its use in agricultural quality assurance and reputational risk programmes. However, the range of products in the marketplace has evolved and so too must Fertmark. 

“Without Fertmark, farmers and growers are vulnerable to snake oil salesmen and unsubstantiated claims.” Crofoot said. “Helping farmers produce more with less, requires substantiation of product claims and industry standards to be upheld. Not just for the mainstream products but also for the new face of nutrients being produced.”

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