New fertilisers promote green and sustainable development

Image: China Agricultural University

Fertilisers are an important strategic material for ensuring food security.

China has emerged as a pivotal contributor to this development. It is now the largest producer and consumer of synthetic fertilisers. However, long-term extensive and unevenness fertiliser use has resulted in macronutrient surpluses and micronutrient deficits in many regions.

For a long time, the development of China’s fertiliser industry has been dominated by industrial production, and whether or not fertiliser products match agricultural demands has been overlooked. Fertiliser production has always pursued high concentration, purity, and solubility, which not only fails to improve nutrient utilisation but also can lead to plant nutritional imbalance.

Existing fertiliser products are increasingly disconnected from agricultural demands. In addition, the fertiliser industry has high resource consumption, energy consumption, and industrial waste discharge, making it a key industry for China to implement dual carbon emission reduction.

To align with green and sustainable principles, it is important to bridge the gap between the fertiliser industry and agriculture, promote ecofriendly green chemical technology practices throughout the fertiliser industry chain, and foster innovation in the development of novel fertilisers.

Prof. Fusuo Zhang from China Agricultural University and his team have proposed the concept of green intelligent fertilisers, and strategies and pathways from the integration of industry and agriculture and interdisciplinary collaboration, in response to the current production status and existing problems in the fertiliser industry.

Green intelligent fertilisers are new types of high-quality fertilisers produced based on the principles of optimised plant nutrition that matches crops, soils and the environment, using big-data intelligent algorithms for targeted supply-demand matching, activating root-fertiliser synergy or feedback by intensifying crop biological potential, developing advanced green manufacturing technology to stimulate crop rhizosphere effects and exploiting mineral resources contained in raw materials. Such fertilisers have the characteristics of high nutrient efficiency, low-carbon production and use footprint, and maximized utilisation of nutrient resources in the whole industry chain.

Green intelligent fertilisers are an important entry point for integrating the fertiliser industry and the agricultural chain through green transformation of fertiliser production, and represent a transformative approach to optimising crop nutrient management.

The researchers propose several pathways based on sustainability, efficiency and circular economy principles. These include activating root-fertiliser synergy by intensifying crop biological potential, as well as sensing the soil environment by intelligent materials for precise nutrient release. It also includes matching nutrient release and crop demand, as well as fully utilising rock mineral nutrient resources and industrial byproducts to create new green fertilisers with low resource and environmental costs.

Zhang Fusuo and his team has collaborated with Yunnan Yuntianhua Co., Ltd. to successfully produce green intelligent fertilizers for rice, macadamia, maize, and potato, achieving synergistic goals of fertiliser efficiency, yield enhancement and quality improvement.

This study was published in the Journal of Frontiers of Agricultural Science and Engineering.

Jim Cornall is editor of Future Food Today and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.