June 13th, 2016

"LONDON (ICIS)--Participants in the fertilizer market are still reeling days after a ban was imposed by Turkey on all fertilizers containing nitrates, with many calling the move a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the government.

"I am mad about the decision. This means no import as well, at least till further notice. For ammonium nitrate, I can understand the ban [AN is explosive]. But for calcium ammonium nitrate and potassium nitrate, they [the ministry] really do not know what they have done," a Turkish supplier said.

On 8 June, the Ministry Of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Interior (security affairs) banned the sale or distribution of ammonium nitrate (AN), calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and potassium nitrate with immediate effect.

The move comes following several car bomb attacks in Turkey this year amid fears AN can be used to make explosives. There is confusion surrounding the ban on CAN since it is not an explosive.

What has upset the industry in Turkey and outside is that the ban was introduced out of the blue without any consultations. The government has banned all fertilizers containing nitrates without determining if the fertilizer is explosive or not.

The annual market for AN and CAN in Turkey is around 2m tonnes. The country also has a large domestic industry based on AN and CAN fertilizers. As for potassium nitrate, Turkey has no production domestically. It imports potassium nitrate from Israel or Jordan."

Read more from ICIS.

June 8th, 2016

Contributed by Dr. Raymond Hoyum, President, Advantage International and Dr. T. Scott Murrell,Director, IPNI North America Program

Knowledge Doubling Curve

Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple. Different disciplines have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.  According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours. 

Agriculture is no different. Growers are constantly challenged by the huge body of information available to them.  Agronomists and growers alike have long recognized the value of using all the tools available to them in developing a high yield efficient crop production system.  For example, over 20 years ago, growers recognized the value of sharing information with their peers through the formation of local MEY (Maximum  Economic Yield) Clubs. 

In many areas of the US, in recent years those early concepts have evolved into grower/retailer/consultant/researcher partnerships known as Research Networks. Today, growers are expanding their contacts nationally, as well as, internationally.  With new social media tools, growers continue to expand the circle of influence.

June 8th, 2016

Contributed by Dr. Thomas Jensen, Director, IPNI North American Program

Don’t forget the weather experienced during a crop year has the greatest effect on crop yields. Crops need sunlight, warmth, moisture, and nutrients to grow. When crops are grown under rain fed conditions, the only need we can supplement is nutrients by adding fertilizers and livestock manures as appropriate. 

Access to irrigation allows addition of water if moisture is in short supply, but we can’t do much if rainfall is excessive. The reality is that farmers are at the mercy of the weather. Most of the time the weather is conducive to reasonably good crop production, but sometimes we receive insufficient moisture, and or warmth, and crop yields are poor. 

In contrast there are those extraordinary crop years when all the crop needs are supplied in just the right combination. For example, 2013 was an example of one of those extraordinary crop years, as experienced in the Western

Canadian Prairie provinces.  In Alberta the average yield of all wheat types was over 58 bu/A. This is the highest average wheat yield experienced from 1962 through to 2013. The average for the previous 9 crop years, 2004 through 2012, was just over 45 bu/A, so considering the past 10 years the 2013 crop year was 29% higher yielding than the average of the previous 9 years. 

Read full version here.


June 8th, 2016

Contributed by Dr. Clifford S. Snyder, Director, IPNI Nitrogen Program

Higher crop yields place increased nutrient-supplying pressures on the soil. It is well known that crop roots absorb nutrients from the soil solution through root interception (as roots explore new soil volumes), mass flow (as water moves through soil pores), and diffusion (as nutrients move in the soil solution from a zone of higher concentration to alower concentration) processes. 

Soils with higher fertility levels are better able to supply plant nutrients during times of environmental stress and also during peak crop uptake demands. Wise, economic additions of fertilizer and/or manure help replace the available nutrients removed from the soil by crop harvests, erosion, leaching, and other losses. Neglecting such nutrient replenishment leads to declines in:

1) soil fertility, 2) crop productivity, 3) cropping system resilience, and 4) indices of soil health; which threaten sustainability.

Soil testing is a very important tool in assessing current levels of soil fertility, and in monitoring changes over time; an essential sustainability practice. However, soil testing is not a perfect tool …. and experienced agronomists know that they should also use complementary plant tissue analyses, as well as estimates of crop harvest nutrient removal, to assess and manage optimum plant nutrition in each field and sub-field area.

Read full version here.

May 26th, 2016

"Some experts believe the wildfires at Fort McMurray suggest we should become accustomed to major disasters that may be linked to the long-term effects of climate change. But the stakes are different in the Prairies. According to a recent study from the University of Winnipeg, the Prairie region represents a unique case around the world.

The study reports that the Canadian Prairies could be the most affected area in the world over the next few decades. Jeopardizing our breadbasket makes climate change the most serious threat to our food security.

Learning that climate change will affect agriculture is not overly surprising, but the expected pace is jaw-dropping. The Manitoba-based report suggests that summers in the Prairies will become hotter and longer. Using a Prairie Climate Atlas, a group of scientists predicted that over the next 50 to 60 years the climate picture is not pretty. For example, the atlas predicts Winnipeg could see 46 days a year of temperatures over 30 C, a frequency which is four times what the city experiences now. Currently, Winnipeg experiences 11 days of 30 C weather on average a year. For Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon the number could grow up to seven times current averages.

These are desert-like temperatures, similar to what one finds in Texas, or even in Mexico. And yes, fire-stricken Fort McMurray is likely to experience warmer and dryer weather in the future.

These are staggering statistics. More heat and less moisture will compromise our ability to grow our agrifood economy. But also, other than farmers, reports on climate change suggest that the most vulnerable to climate change include people and families with less means and indigenous communities. Food will likely become less affordable and the ability for some remote regions to grow food will be negatively affected."

Read more from The Globe and Mail.

May 12th, 2016

"WEST - In an extraordinary turn for one of the ATF's most labored and expensive fire investigations ever, the agency said Wednesday that the deadly blaze that destroyed West Fertilizer Co. in 2013 was a criminal act, and it pleaded for the public's help to find who was responsible.

The news immediately opened old wounds in this small, agricultural town north of Waco, reignited rumors, frustrated residents trying to move on with their lives and threatened to complicate a mound of litigation against the plant and its suppliers.

Anticipating questions about why it has taken three years, Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder outlined the meticulous nature of the investigation.

Investigators for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent more than $2 million, building life-size replicas of parts of the plant and interviewing more than 400 people, to reach the conclusion that the fire was set in the seed room, Elder told reporters. Victims' families were briefed hours earlier. The news conference was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall that served as an aid station in the blast's immediate aftermath.

'Your loss is felt by ATF," Elder said. "It has been a driving factor into why we have gone to the lengths and detail that we have.'

No arrests have been made, he said, and the investigation remains open."

Read more from Chron.

April 19th, 2016

"The Dallas Morning News says its investigation found that many of the agricultural supply and feed stores that used to stock a lot of ammonium nitrate have stopped selling it and others have implemented safeguards like moving the chemical out of dilapidated buildings and into fire-resistant concrete structures. But it reports many recommendations by safety investigators have gone unheeded.

None of the sites that responded to newspaper inquiries reported installing sprinkler systems. The state does not require them, but the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has said such a system could have stopped the West accident before it became a fatal explosion.

And despite calls for keeping stockpiles of ammonium nitrate away from populated areas, in up to eight communities tons of the chemical still sit near schools, houses, nursing homes and even a hospital, according to the newspaper's analysis of state data."

Read more from Houston Chronicle

April 11th, 2016

"Reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas, scientists said on Thursday.

Up to 14% of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

'Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20% of overall global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010,' said co-author Prajal Pradhan.

'Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change.'

Between 30 and 40% of food produced around the world is never eaten, because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers.

The share of food wasted is expected to increase drastically if emerging economies like China and India adopt western food habits, including a shift to eating more meat, the researchers warned.

Richer countries tend to consume more food than is healthy or simply waste it, they noted."

Read more from The Guardian.

March 21st, 2016

"The ResponsibleAg organization announced its “registered retail facilities is now in excess of 1,900,” and the executive director has seen a “marked uptick in participation,” which he expects to continue.

“We are quickly becoming the ‘go to’ organization for retail compliance assistance tools and assessments,” said the executive director, Bill Qualls.

The 1,900 facilities are receiving a comprehensive compliance evaluation, as well as access to comprehensive compliance resources. The registration fee for this service is $150, which was set at a level to encourage participation.

There are at least 10 reasons for retail facilities to participate in ResponsibleAg, according to the organization’s leadership. Those are:

1. Avoid OSHA, DOT, DHS and EPA violations and fines.

2. Avoid employee injuries.


3. Prepare for emergency response."

Read more from ResponsibleAg.

March 14th, 2016

"NOT so long ago Jean Pierre Nzabahimana planted his fields on a hillside in western Rwanda by scattering seed held back from the last harvest. The seedlings grew up in clumps: Mr Nzabahimana, a lean, muscular man, uses his hands to convey a vaguely bushy shape. Harvesting them was not too difficult, since they did not produce much.

This year the field nearest to his house has been cultivated with military precision. In February he harvested a good crop of maize (corn, to Americans) from plants that grew in disciplined lines, separated by precise distances which Mr Nzabahimana can recite. He then planted climbing beans in the same field. On this and on four other fields that add up to about half a hectare (one and a quarter acres) Mr Nzabahimana now grows enough to enable him to afford meat twice a month. He owns a cow and has about 180,000 Rwandan francs ($230) in the bank. Although he remains poor by any measure, he has entered the class of poor dreamers. Perhaps he will build a shop in the village, he says. Hopefully one of his four children will become a driver or a mechanic.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rwanda’s farmers produced 792,000 tonnes of grain in 2014—more than three times as much as in 2000. Production of maize, a vital crop in east Africa, jumped sevenfold. Agricultural statistics can be dicey, African ones especially so. But Rwanda’s plunging poverty rate makes these plausible, and so does the view from Gitega. Another farmer, Dative Mukandayisenga, says most of her neighbours are getting much more from their land. Perhaps only one in five persists with the old, scattershot “broadcast” sowing—and most of the holdouts are old people.

Rwanda is exceptional. But in this respect it is not all that exceptional. Cereal production tripled in Ethiopia between 2000 and 2014, although a severe drought associated with the current El Niño made for a poor harvest last year. The value of crops grown in Cameroon, Ghana and Zambia has risen by at least 50% in the past decade; Kenya has done almost as well."

Read more from The Economist.