Getting blend right for future fertilisers

UniSQ research explores bio-options as fertiliser prices skyrocket

Australian farmers are looking for biofertiliser solutions to save on growing costs, improve the quality of crops and take care of the environment.

Enter the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ), which has been trialling a raft of strategies to turn nutrient-rich animal waste into a bio-solution.

UniSQ Centre of Agricultural Engineering (CAE) Director Professor Bernadette McCabe said the research was about offering real solutions to a global problem.

“Farmers are facing increasing input costs with the rapid rise of fuel and fertiliser prices,” Professor McCabe said.

“A significant influence on global fertiliser prices is the price of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas. Fossil fuels (and air) are the main input into nitrogen fertiliser production, and changes in global prices will be reflected in nitrogen fertiliser prices over time.”

Professor McCabe said the use of biofertilisers brought not only potential economic benefits but also environmental outcomes since using organic waste to produce biofertilisers will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the last five years, a research team has been researching the agronomic benefits of biofertilisers.

As part of this, the recent commission of a lab-scale granulator, funded by the Queensland Government’s Waste to Biofutures fund, the Fight Food Waste CRC and the University has expanded the research into the production of organomineral fertilisers.

“The granulator is a first of its kind in Australia and will enable the production of biofertilisers using various organic waste materials together with mineral fertilisers,” Professor McCabe said.

The product, called an organomineral fertiliser or OMF granule, will have similar characteristics in terms of physical (particle density and diameter, size distribution), mechanical (particle strength) and aerodynamic properties to manufactured mineral fertilisers.

“This is an important consideration in the design of the final product to enable field spreading with standard fertiliser spreading or pneumatic equipment,” Professor McCabe.

The research team will work with industry to develop the final product, which will have a suitable formulation to meet the nutritional requirements for crop and soil.

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