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  • Steve Booton

Fertilizer shortage – An opportunity for change

Updated: Apr 4

The current conflict and ban on exports will undoubtedly see increasing pressure on pricing and worse a global shortage in the supply of traditional fertilizer. Russia currently produces approximately 30% of world demand and 70% of input products for European production.

Agriculture and food finance institution Rabobank has suggested three scenarios for the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on the global agricultural product market including fertilizers, which are already far too high for most farmers.

Should the fertilizer export ban from Russia be prolonged, the price will no doubt continue to rise. As natural gas is the primary driver of fertilizer production pricing, manufacturers worldwide will have no choice but to raise input costs that will flow onto hurting wallets of the consumers.

Farmers, who are scaling back on fertilizer to reduce costs, would use conventional wisdom that this is the answer that could potentially trigger lower crop yields and push prices for food even higher around the world. Food costs are already the most expensive in a decade, according to the United Nations.

What is the impact of a fertilizer shortage?

A good one!

The decades of traditional agricultural control use are a key driver from an environmental standpoint on the decline of our planet, from poor soil quality, runoff, water pollution, dead zones the list goes on. From a supply-side perspective, its energy-intensive to manufacture and transport so think emissions… All this is in the name of plant growth.

Change is coming! What? There is an alternative?

That alternative is nature and now more than ever is an opportunity for it to do what it should however, it needs a little help. Firstly, farmers need to understand and accept the alternatives to synthetic controls that can and will do the same if not more without affecting yields as nature has an uncanny ability to provide everything a plant needs to grow.

Secondly, with the advancements in green chemistry or commonly biotechnology, there is a plethora of data and successful outcomes that can provide the necessary boost in nutrition that crops need.

The latter of these which, is the most important is soil. Get this right and the rest will take care of itself. A unique balance of chemical, physical, and biological components contributes to maintaining soil health. Healthy soils are essential for the integrity of terrestrial ecosystems to remain intact or to recover from disturbances, such as drought, climate change, pest infestation, pollution, and human exploitation.

As soil is part of the terrestrial environment and supports all terrestrial life forms, the protection of soil is therefore of high priority.

What does all this mean?

The farmer – Has the chance to turn what really should be known as toxic sites into flourishing, enriched pastures that provide the absolute best in nutritious products. Reduce and then remove the need for synthetic enhancers and develop a path of regeneration.

The consumer – Why does organic carry the tag of expensive, should this not be the reverse against chemical-controlled processes? The inputs used are less expensive and can produce an equivalent or better product.

As fertilizer shortages put even more pressure on prices, farmers that switch to a natural alternative could see significant savings beyond 200% per hectare.

Green Chemistry - also called sustainable chemistry, is an area of chemistry and chemical engineering focused on the design of products and processes that minimize or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. While environmental chemistry focuses on the effects of polluting chemicals on nature, green chemistry focuses on the environmental impact of chemistry, including reducing consumption of non-renewable resources and technological approaches for preventing pollution.

One such example is the use of enzymes as an alternative to synthetic fertilisers, as these formulations play a significant role across several industries including agriculture now and in future. There is a misconception that green tech is expensive and lacks the proof to be a consideration however, this is not the case. Enzymes have been around for millennia and are known as an integral part of life.

Synthetics the real issues

Even the very best quality fertiliser is inefficient and at best is no better than 60% effective, leaving 40% behind in the field, a missed opportunity for an already struggling industry.

1 - The Ecosystem - Fertilizers can cause changes in the soil that affect flora and fauna.

2 - Incorrect use may provide no benefit - In extremely high concentrations, it can cause die-off.

3 - Groundwater pollution - A large number of synthetic fertilizers in soils leads to groundwater contamination.

4 - Soil pollution - Large volumes of toxins build up in the soil.

5 - Soil is rendered less fertile - Minerals are significantly reduced in the soil as synthetic fertilizers only contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

6 - Short term gain with long-term pain - Long-term use season after season can pollute soils, making crop production no longer achievable.

7 - Can lead to harmful consumption - The amount of incorrect fertilizer applied can lead to toxic elements ending up in the food chain.

8 - Synthetic fertilizers are made from many non-renewable sources - A main ingredient being hydrocarbons.

9 - Chemical fertilizers trap or deplete several key minerals and elements - This causes crops to be nutrient deficient.

10 - Ph levels of soils are altered - The change in PH can cause and affect the soil's ecosystem.

Believe in the power of natural biology

Adopting biotechnology and regenerative practices will lead to beneficial outcomes across the value chain.

• Leverage plants and crops' natural ability to photosynthesise

• Increase crop resilience and nutrient density

• Alternative weed control

• A strong mycelial network

• Develop a structured water system

• CO2 sequestration

In summary

Achieving clean feedstock with enzymatic formulations is a novel approach to preventing or removing contaminants. A true circular organic food system should start at soil preparation through to the process phase eliminating the need for inorganic inputs to ensure feedstock is contaminant and disease-free.

The only pill you should ever need comes out of the ground! - Steve Booton, Custom Enzymes.

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