August 29th, 2013

"The milkman brings two-and-a-half gallons of South Mountain Creamery’s freshest to Cynthia Terrell’s Takoma Park home each Tuesday, carefully placing the glass bottles on her front porch before dawn and collecting the empty containers from last week’s delivery.

The scene is like a still life from some 1950s Pleasantville. But the Terrell family’s locally sourced lifestyle is made possible by something far more modern.

Middletown, Md.-based South Mountain Creamery delivers dairy, meat, eggs and bread to an average of 7,000 households a week, a figure that has climbed considerably since the owners ran their first delivery to 13 homes in the back of a Ford Explorer more than a decade ago.

The growth has been a logistical undertaking that requires more than just additional farmland, cattle, equipment, trucks and drivers. Underpinning the all-natural process is a gamut of man-made technologies, from robots that milk the cows to software that maps delivery routes."

Read more from The Washington Post

August 19th, 2013

By Mark Bittman

"I’VE long wondered how producing a decent ingredient, one that you can buy in any supermarket, really happens. Take canned tomatoes, of which I probably use 100 pounds a year. It costs $2 to $3 a pound to buy hard, tasteless, “fresh” plum tomatoes, but only half that for almost two pounds of canned tomatoes that taste much better. How is that possible?

The answer lies in a process that is almost unimaginable in scope without seeing it firsthand. So, fearing the worst — because we all “know” that organic farming is “good” and industrial farming is “bad” — I headed to the Sacramento Valley in California to see a big tomato operation.

I began by touring Bruce Rominger’s farm in Winters. With his brother Rick and as many as 40 employees, Rominger farms around 6,000 acres of tomatoes, wheat, sunflowers, safflower, onions, alfalfa, sheep, rice and more. Unlike many Midwestern farm operations, which grow corn and soy exclusively, here are diversity, crop rotation, cover crops and, for the most part, real food — not crops destined for junk food, animal feed or biofuel. That’s a good start."

Read more from New York Times

July 12th, 2013

By Luc Maene

2013 marks 25 years of existence for Fertilizers Europe. The association celebrated this milestone at its annual meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania in June. On this occasion, the concept of infinite fertilizers which continue to feed the world was introduced. The diagram concerned illustrates the commitment of the industry to maximize the use of nutrients and the sustainability of agriculture in Europe.

 For more information, please check the Fertilizers Europe’s website.


July 1st, 2013

By Ford West from The Hill's Congress Blog

"Two months have passed since the West, Texas fertilizer facility tragedy and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families that have been impacted. We are watching closely as the Chemical Safety Board investigation of the incident continues.  And we were eager to hear testimony yesteday in a hearing convened by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to prevent future threats.

Once a cause of the Texas tragedy is determined, the fertilizer industry will closely review the report and recommendations and work together to identify and apply any lessons learned. Our employees live and work in communities small and large across the country, and there is nothing more important than protecting our workers and their neighbors. The Chemical Safety Board’s investigation will likely take several months, but in the wake of this tragedy, we are acting now to take a number of concrete steps to strengthen our commitment to safety.  Those voluntary steps include reviewing what we are doing today and determining what can be enhanced; providing tools that explain and support compliance with federal and state regulations; and developing a Code of Practice that will include audits from independent experts.

Throughout the nation, fertilizer producers and retailers who handle ammonium nitrate are redoubling their safety efforts, reviewing the best ways to operate their facilities and making changes to make a difference.

For example, one facility decided to remove trash, grease guns and front-end loaders (which run on gasoline or diesel) from their building to minimize the presence of anything that could serve as an ignition source.

Fertilizer facilities are also meeting with local emergency responders in their communities to ensure they are aware of material stored on site and response procedures. Working hand in hand with local responders is an ongoing effort. A number of plants and fire departments already do joint training exercises.

Read more here

June 5th, 2013

From University of Washington

"Most astrobiologists believe that life in some form is likely to exist away from Earth. But new research demonstrates that life as we know it on Earth might never have come to exist at all if not for a key element delivered to the planet by meteorites billions of years ago.

Scientists at the University of Washington and the University of South Florida found that during the Hadean and Archean eons – the first two of the four principal eons of the Earth’s earliest history – the heavy bombardment by meteorites provided reactive phosphorus essential for creating the earliest life on Earth.

When released in water, that reactive phosphorus could be incorporated into prebiotic molecules, and the researchers documented its presence in early Archean limestone, showing it was abundant some 3.5 billion years ago."

Read more from here

June 4th, 2013

From USA Today

"An upside to climate change? The issue has been blamed for many problems, including more acidic oceans and rising pollen counts, but a study released Friday suggests a benefit: Arid regions are getting greener.

Satellite data since the early 1980s have shown a flourishing of foliage worldwide, and scientists have suspected this change may be due partly to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas emitted by the burning of fossil fuels..

Turns out, they were right because of CO2's "fertilization effect," according to a team of scientists led by Randall Donohue of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia."

Read more from here

June 4th, 2013

From The New York Times

"The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Tex., in April has highlighted glaring shortcomings in federal and state regulation of facilities that produce, store and use toxic chemicals.

The casualties in Texas — 14 killed and nearly 200 injured — were shocking, but the fact is that chemical disasters imperil millions of Americans who live and work close to industrial plants in dense cities and sprawling suburbs. Last November, the Congressional Research Service identified 2,560 facilities that could each put more than 10,000 people at risk in the event of an accident. Last year, 1,270 people died in more than 30,000 chemical spills and accidents. The Texas catastrophe showed that federal regulators have been far too lax in their oversight of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer at the center of this explosion. The West Fertilizer Company stored 540,000 pounds of the stuff at its plant in 2012 (it is unclear how much it had in April). In spite of the potential risks posed by the fertilizer, plants are allowed to keep it near residential areas. Plants with large quantities are required to tell the Department of Homeland Security how they keep the material secure, but the West plant did not bother to do so. "

Read more from here

May 10th, 2013


"The same chemical that makes fertilizer so useful also makes it really cheap bomb fuel. Researchers at Sandia labs in Albuquerque wondered if they could render the explosive properties of fertilizer inert while still keeping the beneficial properties intact, and this week announced success in a test batch. Even better, they're sharing the innovation for free.

The problem with improvised explosives is that they're cheap, made from otherwise-harmless everyday materials, and the directions to make them aren't too hard to find. This is true of pressure cooker bombs, a terror weapon so ubiquitous that its been used by everyone from anarchists to religious radicals on at least three continents, and it's especially true of fertilizer bombs.

Ammonium nitrate is the culprit. The first recipe for ammonium nitrate is over 350 years old, and despite centuries of research into other fertilizers, ammonium nitrate remains one of the cheapest and best. As an added benefit for farmers, ammonium nitrate "improves both the quantity and quality of protein-containing crops," which is a tremendous benefit to humanity.

Except for that part where it explodes. Normally, of course, ammonium nitrate doesn't blow up; if that was a daily occurrence, the recipe would have been abandoned 349 years ago. Ammonium nitrate requires the addition of another reagent to go off. In modern fertilizer bombs, readily available fuel completes the process, turning the normally-stable fertilizer into an extremely volatile explosive."

Read more here

May 10th, 2013

From The Columbus Dispatch

"Scotts Miracle-Gro has removed phosphorus from its popular Turf Builder line of lawn fertilizer to help reduce the type of harmful algae blooms that have plagued waterways such as Grand Lake St. Marys and Lake Erie.

The Marysville maker of lawn-and-garden products sees the move as a milestone for its industry, which it says is partly responsible for the phosphorus runoff that feeds one of the nation’s most costly and challenging environmental problems — nutrient pollution.

“As consumers feed their lawns this spring, they should know they can get great results from our products while also protecting and preserving our water resources,” said Jim Lyski, Scotts’ chief marketing officer, in a written statement.

Harmful algae blooms in coastal areas of the United States are estimated to have a yearly negative economic cost of at least $82 million, mostly because of their effects on public health and commercial fisheries, according to a 2006 report by the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science."

Read more here

February 25th, 2013

From Farm Futures

"Study claims efficient fertilizer use could result in net savings worth more than $170 million.

A 20% improvement in fertilizer efficiency by 2020 would reduce nitrogen use by 20 million metric tons, according to a report commissioned by the United Nations Environmental Program.

The report was released at a forum held last week in Nairobi, Kenya, and was developed by nearly 50 experts from 14 countries.

The experts are calling the campaign to improve nitrogen efficiency "20:20 for 2020. Their analysis shows how this could provide a net savings worth more than $170 million by the end of 2020 through intergovernmental framework to address fertilizer use."

Read more here