BASF has launched a product designed to reduce nitrate leaching from slurry.
A recent article in The Guardian reported a 3.2% rise in ammonia emissions between 2015-2016, following a report published by Defra last month. Farming was cited as the industry responsible for most of the emissions, an understandable assertion, given the volume of the gas emanating from manure management but also the spreading of urea fertilisers.
The Defra report cited that agriculture accounted for 88% of total ammonia emissions in 2016 and that this is the main driver for the increase observed in the last three reported years, with emissions from agriculture increasing from 226 kilotonnes in 2013 to just under 253 kilotonnes in 2016.
The Gothenburg Protocol, which sets emissions ceilings, requires the UK to reduce ammonia emissions by 8% by 2020.
“As an industry, there are reasons that we need to consider ammonia, the first is that media attention could bring greater focus on farming to reduce its ammonia ‘footprint’ because of the impact it has on human health, and because ammonia can travel in our atmosphere and be deposited onto ecosystems where it can have an undesired effect, and lastly these atmospheric losses equate to nitrogen that is lost to the growing crop,” explains Andy Cawley from BASF.
“BASF are launching a product, called Vizura, which is designed for application with cattle and pig slurries, as well as biogas digestates, to reduce nitrate leaching and the quantity of nitrous oxide getting into our atmosphere,” he explained.
He described nitrous oxide as a ‘greenhouse gas that is almost 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming’.
Added the product to organic nutrient sources will help reduce nitrogen lost to the environment, and hence more is then available to the crop to help optimise yield and quality, he said. It works by holding nitrogen around the plant’s roots for a longer timescale, giving crops more chance to make use of the nitrogen from slurry or digestate. The product is a liquid which is added to the applicator or spreader when slurry or digestate is being applied.
“Our trials have shown that, on average, Vizura can reduce nitrate losses by 35% and nitrous oxide emissions by 50%,” Mr Cawley said. “In terms of crop productivity, we’ve recorded average winter wheat yield increases of 5%, maize crop yield increases of 7% and maize starch gains of 12%.”
Environmentally, it also has strong credentials for the future, Mr Cawley said: “It works by reducing the rate at which ammonium in the slurry or digestates is converted to nitrites, and in-turn, nitrates. This is important because nitrates can be easily lost via leaching under certain conditions, such as heavy rainfall on lighter soils. Looking wider at agriculture’s responsibilities to the environment, the potential to reduce the amount of nitrous oxide is important as a tool for addressing farming’s environmental credentials, given its potency as a greenhouse gas.”
BASF has been working with farmers over a number of years and has plans to release both products to the market this year.