Updated 19 March 2018 by Technical Manager Dr Bert Quin
Global Sustainable Farming Ltd is the supplier of ONEsystem®, a new technology system for optimising fertiliser nutrient efficiency, at little extra cost per kg nutrient applied. This substantially reduces both farm expenditure and nutrient loss to the environment.
ONEsystem® comprises the application of prilled and/or fine-form fertilisers in wetted form. The initial emphasis is on prilled urea treated with urease inhibitor. Other nutrients, efficiency additives such as AlpHa® lime-enhancer, growth promotants such as gibb acid, trace elements, seed and herbicides will all be able to be added as required.
Operationally, the most important aspects of ONEsystem® are –
(1) Changing from using the very inefficient and environmentally damaging granular urea, to applying wetted prilled urea treated with urease inhibitor. This change doubles the efficiency of applied N, meaning only half as much needs to be applied. This automatically greatly reduces N losses to the environment, both in terms of nitrate leaching and greenhouse gas emissions.
(2) Only the most agronomically efficient and environmentally-protective forms of nutrients are used in ONEsystem®. A wide range of additional fertiliser products and trace elements will become available for application through ONEsystem®.
(3) Increased nutrient efficiency also results from the use of the carboxylate polymer AlpHa®, which complexes phyto-toxic water-soluble aluminium (Al3+), which is present in soil micro-sites even in soils with a ‘safe’ pH of >5.5. Al3+ is very toxic to roots of clover and tetraploid ryegrasses in particular. AlpHa® can be easily applied through ONEsystem®. Essentially, it increases the efficiency of lime.
(4) A wide range of additional products, including growth promotants, herbicides and pesticides are being developed for application through ONEsystem®.
(5) Farmers adopting ONEsystem are recommended to apply their maintenance P as reactive phosphate rock (RPR), or blends of it with MAP or DAP where some soluble P is required, to minimise P runoff losses.
ONEsystem has been extensively testing on farms in Taranaki, Canterbury, Otago and Southland in New Zealand, and Gippsland in Victoria, Australia.
First commercial ONEsystem® units operating in Otago/Southland, NZ and Gippsland, Victoria.
Both units are fully committed to farmer clients who kindly made their farms available for testing during the development process. Detailed information was presented to the Massey University FLRC conference at Palmerston North, New Zealand in February 2017. Ongoing on-farm demonstration days will be held for interested farmers and contractors.
A collaboration between Dr Bert Quin of Quin Environmentals (Pty) Ltd
and Stewart Spilsbury of FOO Technologies Pty Ltd
Written by Stewart Spilsbury
Optimising N, P & K has long been in my blood. I was Operations Director of new entrant Quinphos Fertilisers (Aust) Pty Ltd, the first company to import RPR (reactive phosphate rock) into Australia from the late 1980s. This collaboration evolved through to the development and trials of the first wetted prills prototype spreaders in Australia, as a contractor to Quin Environmental Pty Ltd. Several of my clients are already using ONEsystem®.
Over the many years working with Dr Bert Quin, we have created many savings for our clients, while helping to reduce the impact of P and N on the environment in which we all live. We look forward to many more firsts.
In addition to offering ONEsystem® to my clients, and given that I already can provide intra-paddock yield maps of each paddock each week, the next step is to combine the ONEsystem® with VRA (variable rate application) technology. I am currently in the process of creating a ONEsystem® trailed spreader complete with VRA capability.
Q. What is the problem with granular urea as an N fertiliser?
A. While convenient to use, it is seriously inefficient as a source of fertiliser N. Typically only 40% of any one application gets taken up by the plant! Conversions of N to extra dry matter (EDM) are typically in the range of 5-15 kg DM/ kgN applied.
Q. Where does the rest go then?
A. To the environment. Depending on conditions, from 5 to 50% of N applied as granular urea is volatilised as ammonia gas. A lot (up to 50%) gets leached as nitrate-N. Some gets emitted as nitrous oxide greenhouse gas; some as nitrogen gas. You paid for all that!
Q. Haven’t other people tried making urea more efficient?
A. Yes, with varying degrees of success. But they all involve considerable extra costs, such as one or more of the following – expensive extra equipment; processing into fine particle; on-truck or on-site fluidising; higher application costs; coatings; or the use of additives.
Q. What is different about ONEsystem®
A. Dr Bert Quin has called upon his four decades of soil fertility and environmental research and fertiliser industry experience to develop a simple system that literally doubles the efficiency of the normal range of EDM response to granular urea (5-15 kg EDM/kgN), to 10-35 kg EDM/ha. This means that only half as much urea is required in any particular situation. With little cost premium per kg N, savings are very substantial.
Q. How was this possible?
A. By looking carefully at where the losses and inefficiencies were occurring when granular urea is used, and assessing one by one how they could be eliminated, or at least minimised. See the tables for details.
Q. Is foliar uptake of urea always more efficient than urea applied to the ground?
A. No, not always. For example, urea in solution is usually no more efficient than granular urea. It also costs considerably more, and can only be applied at low rates, to avoid leaf scorch.
Q. Are coated urea products always more efficient?
A. No, not always, despite invariably cost a lot more. ‘Fully protective’ coatings can mean the N is released too slowly relative to plant requirements. The efficiency of many slow-release coatings and is very dependent on environmental conditions.
Q. What will be the result if I use ONEsystem®
A. You will need only half as much N to get the same DM response as granular urea, in any situation. The very low cost per kg N premium with ONEsystem mean that you typically save close to 50%. The doubling of plant uptake efficiency means N losses to the environment are massively reduced. Farmers operating under an N-cap regime will be able to produce at least twice as much EDM as they can with the same amount of N applied as granular urea.
ONEsystem®– eliminating N losses and inefficiencies with granular urea
|Granular Urea Loss/inefficiency||ONEsystem® answer|
|Many plants receive no N at all - insufficient number of particles||Use of prills mean 10 times more particles – N supplied to every single plant|
|Little if any foliar uptake, missing out on this very efficient mode of N utilisation by the plant||The use of prills, wetted during spreading, ensures that the product adheres and dissolves on the leaf|
|Very susceptible to ammonia loss||Urease inhibitor minimises this
|Nitrate leaching is a big problem - too much is produced too soon relative to plant N uptake||Faster, more even plant uptake via foliar uptake and better distribution of small particles|
ONEsystem® – eliminating drawbacks with other efficiency alternatives
|Drawbacks of alternative||ONEsystem® answer|
|High cost of product (most coated granular products)||Cost of prills similar to granules; application costs competitive|
|Lack of reliable benefit (granular urea, ‘biologically-treated’ urea)||Wetted prills optimise foliar uptake, nbpt minimises NH3 volatilisation|
|Scorching-excessive instantaneous leaf uptake (liquid or fluidised urea)||Time required for wetted prills to dissolve slows foliar uptake enough|
|Striping due to uneven spread and fines falling behind truck (granular)||Prills give far more even coverage, avoiding striping|
|Difficulty in getting product when Farmer needs it (contractors)||Focused ONEsystem® contractors synchronise with farm rotation|
Click on the file below to see the results of independently-conducted research trials with ONE
(uploaded April 2016)
Australian ONEsystem® Trial Results – to be presented at FLRC conference Feb 2017
NBPT – The Safe Way Forward for Nitrogen Efficiency
During his recent travel to Europe, Dr Bert Quin visited research institutes, in Spain and northern Ireland and the Irish Rebublic who are conducting research into various aspects of use of the urease inhibitor nbpt. This inhibitor has a very simple role; it slows down or ‘inhibits’ the conversion of fertiliser N (or urine N when used with Spikey®) for just a few days before decomposing itself into plant-available forms of N and P. The enormous benefit this provides is much, much lower ammonia volatilisation, as the peak concentrations of ammonium in the soil are reduced. Also, the more extended conversion of urea to ammonium automatically means slower conversion to nitrate-N, meaning better uptake of N and therefore better pasture response. The science is a obvious as the results; more than 50% of Ballance clients now use SustaiN (nbpt-coated granular urea), a product Dr Quin developed and introduced through Summit-Quinphos in 2002. Dr Quin said that despite some disappointment over the industry’s initial criticism of the product, it is very satisfying to see that the benefits of the product are now recognised. On average, it improves urea efficiency by 25-30%.
One of the great things about nbpt is the absence of residue problems, because of the rapid decomposition of the product of 10-20 days. Research in Spain has shown that it is completely safe even when sprayed on to vegetables such as lettuce. It has been shown to prevent excess nitrate levels occurring in vegetables. No residues could be detected after 20 days. It is highly likely that it has the same benefit on ryegrass, according to Dr Quin.
The new nbpt-spray treated prilled urea known as ONEsystem® recently developed by Dr Quin with private funding from Global Sustainable Farming Ltd (GSF) takes urea efficiency a lot further ahead again – by 170 to 290% depending on conditions. At this level of efficiency, the great majority of the urea being recovered by the plant, which is the way it should be” he says. Another advantage of ONEsystem® is that, by being designed to be used on a ‘follow-the-cows’ basis on dairy farms, a whole new level of residue protection is built in. “I truly believe that ONEsystem® will revolutionise fertiliser N use in New Zealand” says Dr Quin. SustaiN was a good first step in the right direction, but ONEsystem® is the end-game, he said. Results of independently conducted trials under grazing were presented to the New Zealand Grassland Society conference in November 2015.
Implications of ONEsystem® for the future of granular urea in NZ
Dr Bert Quin, who has brought both SustaiN® and now its far superior son ONEsystem® to the NZ market to reduce farmers’ N costs and reduce impacts on the environment, says Ballance and Ravensdown need to be thinking very hard about the future of granular urea in NZ. Ballance have mentioned recently that they are looking at decommissioning the old Kapuni granular urea plant (which produces just 265,000 tonnes urea per year), and replacing it with a million tpa plant. This step would probably require Ravensdown to commit to purchasing its urea from Ballance; meaning an indirect takeover of Ravensdown, unless the plant was to be owned by an independent entity. The two companies currently use about 800,000 tpa. The excess could be sold at much reduced margin to Australia.
Regardless of the ownership, it will be a massive decision to make. This decision just got a whole lot bigger with the introduction of ONEsystem®. ONEsystem® uses prilled urea, which is made by a different (and slightly cheaper process). “At the very, very least, Ballance should be hedging their bets on this one” says Dr Quin. “They also need to contemplate the fact that ONEsystem® reduces N requirements by over 50% on average, so we won’t be needing a plant anything like 1 million-tonne pa capacity if they get brave and build a prilled urea plant instead”. Dr Quin says Ballance have his phone number if they want to talk.