Fertiliser choice helps reduce on-farm carbon emissions - Elders Rural Services

Fertiliser choice helps reduce on-farm carbon emissions

Australian farmers can help to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions simply by electing to use quality nitrate fertilisers that have a known carbon footprint.

Globally, it is estimated that agriculture accounts for 10.2 per cent of emissions, while changing land-use patterns account for another 9.2 per cent (pc).

The use of mineral fertilisers accounts for 1.3 pc of global emissions, while fertiliser production accounts for 1.1 pc of global emissions.

Yara Crop Nutrition Country Manager Australia, Tim Erbacher, said there is mounting pressure on all industry, including agriculture, to reduce emissions to stem climate warming.

“As one of the world’s leading nitrogen fertiliser manufacturers, Yara takes its obligations seriously,” Tim said.

“We have reduced our CO2 emissions by 45 per cent since 2005 and we intend to reduce this by another 30 per cent by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050.”

Yara has implemented numerous initiatives to reduce emissions associated with ammonia and nitric acid production and energy consumption throughout its manufacturing and distribution processes.

They include the development and adoption of abatement catalyst technology, which has reduced NO2 emissions from its fertiliser production plants by more than 90pc.

Yara has since shared this technology with other manufacturers.

Future reductions will stem from ‘green ammonia’ produced from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind or hydro, and carbon capture and storage processes.

Yara is constructing one of the world’s first industrial-scale green ammonia plants in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The plant is expected to be commissioned next year.

Yara is actively engaged with some of the world’s largest food companies to help document the carbon footprint of their food products.

“Today’s consumers are demanding greater transparency and traceability about where their food comes from and are willing to pay a premium for food that is sustainably produced,” Tim said.

“We are helping major food companies to meet their sustainability targets by documenting the contribution of our fertilisers to their carbon footprint and how we are taking steps to further reduce them.”

Yara was a founding partner of Cool Farm Alliance (CFA), a global organisation that empowers farmers to make more informed decisions about reducing their environmental impact.

“CFA has developed the Cool Farm Tool, a free calculator that determines the carbon footprint of crop and livestock products,” Tim explained.

“Our sales agronomists frequently use this tool when they’re explaining the benefits of our fertilisers and crop nutrition programs to customers and their advisors.”

Farmers also have an important role in helping to reduce the carbon emissions of the food chain by optimising nitrogen use efficiency.

“Agreeably, on-farm emissions associated with fertilisers is small but it is a significant part of agriculture’s contribution and needs to be addressed,” Tim said.

“This can be as easy as selecting a quality nitrate fertiliser that has a known carbon footprint and then applying it in accordance with best practice.

“We call it the four Rs: applying the right amount of the right product at the right time and the right place.

“Nitrate fertilisers are more efficient that urea due because of their lower volatisation and improved plant availability.”

The adoption of whole-of-crop nutrition solutions, objective decision-support tools and carbon-smart farming practices can further help to reduce emissions associated with fertiliser use.

Article written by Yara Australia for Seasons magazine. 

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