Fertilizers are combinations of the nutrients that plants must have to grow, in a form they can use. The primary nutrients in fertilizers are three essential elements: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), which are often combined into an NPK blend. Secondary nutrients (sulfur, calcium and magnesium) are needed in smaller amounts for normal plant growth. Micronutrients are also needed but in even smaller quantities. Micronutrients include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel and zinc.
About half of the world’s population is alive today because of increased food production fueled by mineral fertilizers. But most of the present suite of fertilizer products was developed more than 40 years ago. Over the past 25 years, no “new” efficient fertilizer product has been developed – particularly no product affordable for use on food crops by farmers in less developed countries. New and improved fertilizers are critical to help feed the world’s growing population, provide sustainable global food security and protect the environment.
IFDC conducts research and engineering functions related to fertilizer raw materials and the production of fertilizer materials. Activities and projects include:
- Mineral resource evaluations
- Development of new products
- Production of experimental fertilizer products for greenhouse and field trials
- Analysis and identification of fertilizer products
- Bench-, laboratory- and pilot-plant-scale processing studies
- Enhancement of production efficiency
- Environmental and safety assessments
IFDC activities in fertilizer technology include providing technical guidance to the developing world concerning the judicious use of indigenous raw material resources, efficient fertilizer raw material and production processes and the use of safe and environmentally friendly fertilizer products. IFDC experts often conduct or participate in international training programs, workshops and meetings concerning world agriculture, fertilizer use, production and safety. Technical assistance is also provided by answering requests for information.
Ongoing activities include research on:
- New or modified fertilizer products that will increase agricultural productivity
- Utilization of indigenous resources
- The availability and quantity of fertilizer raw materials, with an emphasis on developing countries
- Characterization and evaluation of raw materials
- Fertilizer properties and production technology
- Development of organic/inorganic nutrient products
- Environmental issues associated with fertilizer production and use
Photo Caption and Credit:
Different types of fertilizer. Photo by Clyde Beaver.