Research and development
The Ballance and Ravensdown fertiliser companies jointly fund and manage the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand.
The Fertiliser Association funds research into the agricultural and environmental effects of fertiliser use. It promotes sustainable land use and environmental protection, in conjunction with the government, regulatory bodies, industry members, research organisations and farmer representative groups. It has created the Code of Practice for Nutrient Management – with emphasis on fertiliser use. This aims to ensure that when fertiliser is used properly, it will not harm the rural environment, food or animals.
Fertiliser companies also individually fund research that will yield business or environmental benefits for customers. The recent development of nitrification inhibitors for treating grazed pastures to reduce nitrate leaching from urine spots (Ravensdown, Ballance) and urease inhibitors applied on urea to decrease ammonia volatilisation (Summit Quinphos) are recent examples of this.
Use with care
Fertiliser is described as a ‘contaminant’ under the Resource Management Act 1991. In 2008 fertiliser use is a permitted activity, but in future farmers may need resource consent from their regional council each time they wish to use fertiliser.
To protect farmers, the Fertiliser Act 1980 stipulated the amount of certain ingredients in fertilisers. However, the act was repealed in the early 1990s. In 1992 the Fertmark programme was set up to independently assess fertiliser quality, so that farmers could be assured of the nutrient content of fertilisers they used.
Similarly, the independently audited Spreadmark scheme certifies those operators who apply fertiliser according to specific standards.
Both schemes are administered by the New Zealand Fertiliser Quality Council, incorporated in 2001. The council consists of representatives from Federated Farmers, FertResearch, member companies (with registered products), the research community, the New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management, and the Ground and Aerial Fertiliser Spreading Associations.