Last month members of the CSBP team attended the Fertilizer Australia Conference, which was held from 7 to 9 June at the Darwin Convention Centre.

It wasn’t just the warm temperatures that lured many industry experts to this important hybrid conference (face-to-face and online presentations). A diverse range of topics filled the agenda to get everyone interested and engaged over the two days.

Among the guest speakers were Fiona Simpson (National Farmers Federation), Professor Michael McLaughlin (Adelaide University), Dr Jana Phan (Director of Stewardship and Sustainability Policy, CropLife), Andrea Valentini (Argus Media), Yvonne Harz-Pitre (International Fertilizer Association), and Dr. Cameron Gourley (SWAN Consulting).

The conference topics covered included market outlooks and opportunities (such as nutrient deposits in Australia for the phosphate and potassium market and green urea production), as well as industry stewardship (including soil and plant testing, nutrient standards, increasing pasture legumes in Queensland pastures for beef production and a new Recognised Soil Practitioner accreditation).

We also heard about logistical issues in the fertiliser supply chain and quarantine, and some potential solutions. The industry has met high biosecurity standards and in looking to improve sustainability, is now also looking to collect and recycle plastic agricultural input bags. New soil and plant nutrition products were also presented, eliciting significant scientific interest.

New products under the microscope

One debated topic was nano-fertilisers, products with a very small (nanometer) particle size. Professor Michael McLaughlin presented data showing poorer plant growth using nano-fertilisers compared to conventional fertiliser products. Professor McLaughlin presented similar results for a slow-release fertiliser with nutrients embedded into a different chemical structure, which also gave less favourable results compared to standard products.

In contrast, graphene-structured fertilisers (which also have small particles but enable better control of nutrient release) showed equally good agronomic results when compared with conventional fertiliser products. However, the current high costs of graphene mean that manufacturing these products isn’t cost competitive. In the future, Professor McLaughlin’s team plan to investigate many more products, with this scientific expertise and thorough independent testing continuing to be of great importance to the fertiliser industry. Rigorous product assessment will always be important as some companies outside the Fertilizer Australia banner advertise fertiliser products claiming enhanced agronomic efficiency, minimal environmental impact, and reduced susceptibility to drought, frost and pest damage — but without necessarily backing up the claims with credible evidence.

The concentration of nutrients or substances in organic and biological products (including humic acids, fulvic acids and bio-stimulants) can vary significantly from what the labels say and also need independent testing. This ever-growing branch of fertiliser products warranted a large discussion at the conference this year.

And the winner is…

One highlight of the conference dinner and awards night was CSBP being awarded the 2022 Fertilizer Industry Platypus Environmental Award for our contributions to the uPtake project. This project, in collaboration with DPIRD and DWER, was designed to improve phosphorus (P) fertiliser use efficiency on grazing farms in the South West of Western Australia. The outcomes from this project have been integrated into our fertiliser recommendation models and are helping our growers increase production and reduce P loss into waterways and estuaries.

Other awards from the night included the Fertilizer Industry Kookaburra and Snapper awards. Dr David Weaver (DPIRD, Albany) and Dr Cameron Gourley (SWAN Consulting, Victoria) received the Snapper award for their outstanding contribution to the development of national standards for soil sampling guidelines ‘A guide for fit for purpose soil sampling’.

The Kookaburra award was presented to Queensland company LiquaForce for their dedication to improving the efficiencies of fertiliser use in sugar cane.

With their critical role in global food security, fertilisers are and will remain a key input for our farming systems. With the forecasted increased crop production in Australia, it will be important to use fertiliser wisely to maintain our soil nutrient reserves. Fertilizer Australia conferences will have a significant role to play to guide and inform the industry on relevant topics in the future.

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Image: CSBP Fertilisers representatives with Fertilizer Australia representatives holding the Fertilizer Industry Platypus Environmental Award.
L-R: The Honourable Penelope Wensley AC (National Soils Advocate), Mark Scatena (CSBP Fertilisers General Manager), Garan Peirce (Senior Account Manager, Bunbury) and Stephan Titze (Deputy Chairperson, Fertilizer Australia).

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Image: The CSBP Fertilisers team members at the Fertilizer Australia Conference Awards Night holding the Fertilizer Industry Platypus Environmental Award.
Back row L-R: Brad Smith (Senior Product Development Chemist), Sue Briggs (CSBP Laboratory Agronomist/Service Specialist), Richie Basset (Country Works Logistics Superintendent), Nicholas Pattrick (Operations Production Superintendent), Grey Johnston (Advice, Insight & Marketing Manager), Garan Peirce (Senior Account Manager, Bunbury), Craig Burton (Fertiliser State Sales Manager, South), Andreas Neuhaus (Agtech Services Agronomist) and Genevieve Mannin (ESG & CSBP Laboratory Manager).
Front row L-R: Mark Scatena (CSBP Fertilisers General Manager) and Tim Day (CSBP Fertilisers Agronomy Manager).

 

 

Andreas Neuhaus
By Andreas Neuhaus
- Agronomist (Data Analysis & Modelling)

Andreas joined CSBP in 2008 and brings 30 years’ experience in technical and scientific agricultural research and development to the role. Working closely with the research and agronomy teams his data analysis and modelling expertise has been an integral part of the development of NuLogic.

Andreas is actively involved in national and regional agronomy research projects, CSBP innovation projects and represents CSBP as a subject matter expert at industry conferences as well as writing technical articles for scientific publications.

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