Elders partner to develop new class of fertilisers and inhibitors for Australian farmers
Elders has partnered with multidisciplinary Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Smart Fertilisers at the University of Melbourne to develop a new class of fertilisers and inhibitors for Australian farmers.
Established within the School of Agriculture and Food at the University’s Parkville campus, the Hub aims to develop a new class of more sustainable ‘smart fertilisers’ to improve nitrogen efficiency, while minimising the environmental impact of productive agriculture.
Fertilisers are essential to modern agriculture to feed a growing world population but it is estimated more than 50 per cent of nitrogen fertiliser can be lost to the environment worldwide, particularly through volatilisation and denitrification. This can represent a substantial cost burden to farmers and contributes to a range of environmental issues.
To improve fertiliser efficiency, Hub researchers will apply plant and soil science, chemistry and chemical engineering to develop new biochemical inhibitors and ‘smart fertilisers’ that respond to rhizosphere signals to minimise nitrogen losses. These innovations aim to increase the efficiency of nitrogen use by up to 20 per cent, making a significant contribution to agriculture and the environment.
The Hub’s mission also includes developing evidence-based estimates of environmental and health costs of nitrogen losses and the social benefits of new fertilisers to inform government policy, industry and the community.
Elders is involved with the Hub through the Thomas Elder Institute, Elders’ research, development and extension arm, and will focus on the adoption of these new fertiliser technologies and their economic and environmental benefits to farmers.
Elders CEO and Managing Director Mark Allison says: “Elders has a strong focus on sustainability, implementing strategies throughout our own business, and supporting our clients to adopt practices within their own enterprises.
“The implementation of new technologies such as controlled-release and nitrification inhibitors takes nutrition management to the next level. Understanding how the plant utilises these nutrients and interacts with soil microbiology will also let us understand how to maximise the efficiency of our systems.”
The Hub will be based in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and includes researchers from the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology and La Trobe University. Other partners include fertiliser manufacturer Incitec Pivot Fertilisers (IPF).
Header image courtesy of Incitec Pivot Fertilisers (IPF).