How to make fertilizer use more sustainable?
You could forgive the agrochemicals industry if it held to the old saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun". Well, at least when it comes to the subject of nitrogen fertilizers which have been commercially available and little changed for decades. Yet that mindset didn’t stop Solvay’s Novecare global business unit’s agrochemical market team from developing a new, more sustainable solution to an age-old problem with these fertilizers – volatilization.
Nitrogen is a key nutrient in any fertilizer program and it’s delivered in the form of urea, a granule-based compound. However, urea applied in granule form can degrade when in contact with soil bacteria, “volatilizing” into ammonia gas and preventing nitrogen from reaching plant roots. That’s why most agrochemical manufacturers apply liquid stabilizers to urea and dissolve it into a formulation using a solvent. The liquid stabilizer suspended in a solvent formulation helps reduce the amount of volatilization. Unfortunately, the traditional solvents used today are high in toxicity and the load capacity – normally no more than 30% of nitrogen stabilizer content – requires more fertilizer to be applied. On top of that, the common solvent used also comes with a very unpleasant smell.
Solvay’s research and market teams sought to deliver what its commercial farm customers wanted – a non-toxic, less unpleasant odor, higher-loading formulation. The result is Solvay Novecare’s N-Protect™. Leveraging Novecare’s expertise in both green solvent technology and agrochemical formulations, N-Protect™ delivers a load capacity up to 50% of nitrogen stabilizer in a non-toxic solvent formulation.
In several large trials conducted last year, N-Protect™-treated urea decreased volatilization by 30% and further reduced the amount of urea needed by 20 percent. In addition, crop yields with N-Protect®-treated urea were 8 % larger versus untreated urea. And for some trial customers, N-Protect™‘s odorless application was an even bigger plus in the field. Already in demand in North America and Europe, the formulation is seen by many in the industry as being “ahead of the global regulatory curve” by anticipating the looming restrictions on the use of toxic solvents in fertilizers.
While there may indeed be “nothing new under the sun,” N-Protect™ is making a case that there’s certainly something new in the soil and plants it shines down on.