Ravensdown calls out Ballance for lacking Fertmark on one product
Ballance Agri-Nutrients has assured farmers its "smart" fertilisers are up to the mark even though one does not carry the Fertmark seal of quality.
Rival fertiliser company Ravensdown has taken a swipe at Ballance because, while its own coated products are certified under the Fertiliser Quality Council's (FQC) scheme, one of Ballance's is not.
General manager innovation and strategy at Ravensdown, Mike Manning, gave the example of urea which can be coated with an inhibitor, ensuring nitrogen is not lost to the atmosphere but is more available to plants.
Ravensdown's coated products such as N-Protect are already certified under the scheme. This contrasts with Ballance who recently withdrew their coated urea called Sustain from the scheme.
"The amount of active ingredient in the coating has a material effect on the reduction of N-loss and of course it's cheaper for the supplier to use less of the active ingredient."
"It's a case of knowing what you're paying for. If it hasn't got the tick, then the claims may not stick," Manning said.
He challenged what he described as "many importers chasing an opportunity" who were not willing or able to provide the Fertmark assurance. This presented a risk to buyers who had no way of easily telling what they were actually getting.
Ballance's science strategy manager Warwick Catto said his co-operative had initially applied to have Sustain audited by FQC, but had withdrawn it because it was not satisfied with the testing regime.
"They don't have a lab sampling protocol agreed on, they don't say how you get a representative sample, how the product changes and linking it with its functional attributes."
This had implications for any of Ballance's slow release phosphate or nitrogen fertilisers.
Catto said Ballance had elected to re-apply to FQC for registration, but it still had to work through the detail of the testing regime. Modern fertilisers were a challenge to testing labs because they sometimes lacked the expertise to assess them.
FQC chairman Anders Crofoot agreed that Fertmark needed to adapt to cope with the new types of fertilisers on the market.
"In the old days it was just a question of whether you had x percentage of phosphate or nitrogen. It was simple. But now fertiliser is being applied in different ways and we need more clarity about them," Crofoot said.
He warned that fertiliser users needed to be aware there were products on the market, many imported, that were not verified – and which, without independent testing, could contain unknown and even harmful ingredients.
FQC was grappling with the issue of additives in fertilisers and whether they might end up in food. This was highlighted some years ago over the way the nitrogen inhibitor DCD appeared in food and had to be withdrawn.
"Fertiliser is a big budget item. It pays to know what you are buying and what you are using on the land. We urge all fertiliser users to check with their suppliers that products have been Fertmark accredited before they buy them."