VFRC Publications - Page 28

Fertilizer Products The resource use and environmental considerations warrant the continued search for ever more sustainable solutions. Micronutrients are extracted from ores which should be minimized because of limited availability. More importantly, accumulation in soil and the environment should be prevented and reuse optimized through advanced chemical processing to recapture nutrients from waste, thereby evolving towards a recycling-based circular economy. Therefore, auxiliary information to target-specific agro-ecological conditions should support the scaling up of balanced fertilizer avenue. With a straightforward business case for producing fertilizers that contain micronutrients, VFRC foresees a continuous production line of increasingly effective and efficient fertilizer products and technologies within a few years’ time. The micronutrients themselves are already serving high value markets as specialty products, such as in floriculture, general horticulture, and home gardens. While these fertilizers are expensive, the nutrient ingredients generally are not. They could, therefore, be produced to serve a wider market of bulk food crops like grains, roots and tubers. Investments should be made in the production of balanced fertilizers. Simply mixing granules containing different nutrients can be done immediately and at a local level by agro-dealers, but application in the field could be uneven, generating poor yield responses and low uptake efficiency. The process of coating existing fertilizers with micronutrients or embedding them into granules will be complex, as would the production of liquid fertilizers that could be applied foliarly. Therefore, a centralized production system could be a more viable option, operational at the medium term. It was in this context that VFRC engaged in the development of a zinc-core technology, i.e., minigranular zinc-containing urea, with urea acting as the carrier, in search for fertilizer products with enhanced uptake efficiency. Scientific evidence suggests that more advanced packaging of nutrients, for instance as tiny particles of 10200 nanometers or “micnobits” (compared to bacteria sizes of about 1,000 nanometers), could be more effective in terms of uptake and utilization by plants. Prototypes of these solutions can be available in a few years’ time. Minigranular zinc-containing urea and devoured micnobits in plant cells. VFRC foresees a continuous production line of more effective and efficient balanced fertilizer products which increasingly meet societal demands. 24