Sustainability can be defined in many ways but in general terms, it is all about managing today’s requirements without impacting on the ability to meet tomorrow’s needs. It can also be split into three dimensions: economic, environmental, and social. The first two of these, economic and environmental, are very clearly linked to YaraBela fertilisers.
Considering the economic dimension, or sometimes referred to as ‘profit’, then this is very relevant to farm profitability. In a recent wheat trial, YaraBela Axan increased yield by 165% taking a crop from 7.26 t/ha to 12.01 t/ha. This profitability improvement equated to €698/ha. In YaraBela Axan each and every granule supplies nitrogen and sulphur in an immediately available form for efficient crop uptake. The sulphur element is very important with many soils and consequently crops, being deficient. YaraBela Axan, with its ideal nitrogen sulphur ratio, delivered an extra 0.43 t/ha in yield compared to a straight nitrogen application (Yara 2020 trial), improving profitability by €50/ha. The extra revenue achieved through investing in YaraBela Axan comes from the targeted application to meet the crops season-long demand for nitrogen and sulphur, alongside the accurate, even spread of nutrient that is achieved at the point of application.
Naturally, it is important that this ‘profitability’ doesn’t come at the expense of the environment. An environmental measure that can be used towards improved sustainability is resource efficiency. An example here is Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) which in arable crops can be targeted at 80%. When this is calculated for the YaraBela Axan applications described above, then the NUE% was improved by 2%. Achieving the optimum nitrogen rate is also key for sustainability, thus reducing losses in the nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen management tools such as the N-Tester BT and N-Sensor can be used to determine application rates. By using these diagnostic tools seasonal nitrogen uptake can be monitored enabling ‘fine-tuning’ of nitrogen applications. A crops nitrogen uptake will vary between years, fields and within fields. This variation in uptake is a consequence of variation in soil nitrogen supply, crop growth and prevailing weather conditions. By taking in-season measurements with N-Tester BT, atfarm or N-Sensor then dynamic nitrogen management decisions can be made, ensuring optimum nitrogen applications are made. In a four-year trial series taking such an approach delivered an extra 7% yield, whilst using 13% less nitrogen fertiliser, clearly demonstrating an improved nitrogen use efficiency. Another Yara investigation in 2017 compared ‘dynamic nitrogen management’ through the use of N-Tester with ‘static’ management where no change was made to the pre-season plan. In this trial, the N-Tester improved nitrogen use efficiency by 14.5%, with the best NUE coming from the N-Tester at 74%. Such large improvements clearly minimise the environmental impact associated with surplus nitrogen applications.
In recent years ammonia is at the forefront of many discussions, and with agriculture being the major contributor then it is important to understand what positive actions can be taken to mitigate this issue. It is estimated that costs that can be attributed to ammonia in the UK are € 542,883,212. This is predominantly the costs associated with poor human health caused by ammonia emissions. The YaraBela products (i.e. ammonium nitrate (AN) and calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN)) have the lowest ammonia emissions of all the common nitrogen fertilisers
As well as human health issues, ammonia has a negative impact on a number of key ecosystems that are considered important towards sustainability, thus reducing the emissions through fertiliser choice has further benefits.
Another consideration regarding environmental sustainability is the nitrous oxide emissions during fertiliser production. Yara was instrumental in the development of the ‘abatement’ technology that removes over 90% of the N2O emissions that occur during the nitric acid production stage of manufacture, significantly reducing the carbon footprint. All YaraBela products are manufactured in ‘abated’ factories giving them industry-leading, certificated, low carbon footprints.
The third pillar of sustainability is the societal component that a product can deliver. Food security and poverty are clearly humankind gains associated with fertiliser. It has been calculated that mineral fertiliser nourishes 48% of the global population and has saved 2.7 billion lives over the last hundred years.
As society now looks to mitigate ‘climate change’, further reductions in carbon footprints need to be made if ‘net zero’ targets are to be achieved. Yara is investing in a number of innovations, including ‘green ammonia’ that will ‘decarbonise’ fertiliser further adding to its current sustainability profile.