Business Rural Summer 2021

| 63 The key to lifting the nitrogen efficiency Richard Loader S hane Harold’s message is simple; going for- ward, for New Zealand agriculture to survive farmers have to improve nutrient efficiency across the broad spectrum of farming. Whether its dairy, sheep and beef, horticulture or arable, we have to continue to improve nutrient efficiency. Shane is the Manager and Director of Fert Whole- sale Direct Ltd (FWDL), the company he co-founded with Tulloch Group mid-way through 2014, to pro- vide hard working Kiwi farmers with an alternative to the mainstream supply of fertiliser. “We import and sell directly to farmers all the mainstream fertilisers that are normally sold in New Zealand, outside of New Zealand manufactured superphosphate. We have supplied product right across New Zealand and a little bit into Australia, but our focus is on the South Island market, particu- larly Canterbury south.” To minimise overheads, FWDL contracts out its storage and administration. In the South Island FWDL provides a supply net- work with stores in Invercargill, Timaru, Christch- urch, Blenheim and satellite stores in Ranfurly, Winton and Rangitata. “I’ve been in the New Zealand fertiliser industry for 34 years and I’ve seen the New Zealand cost component over those years continue to ramp up year-on-year, adding significant cost to farm- ers across New Zealand. As the company name suggests, the goal is to reduce the New Zealand costs of imported products and deliver affordable wholesale prices to our customers.” In addition to supplying the broad spectrum of farmers with the product, Shane also provides his regular customers with technical advice. Using the heavy clay soils of North Canterbury as an example, Shane says depending on what the pH levels are like the FWDL team knows that the major nutrient deficiency is sulphur. “One of the discussions we have with a lot of farmers is around the costs of individual nutrients which is not widely publicised in the agricultural farming community in New Zealand. This means a clear understanding on the cost of phosphate versus the cost of nitrogen versus the cost of potas- sium versus the cost of sulphur. If you understand the difference, it might influence your thinking around why you should apply more sulphur and less phosphate and less nitrogen. The indicative nutrient cost today of the four major nutrients applied to New Zealand farms are, phosphate the most expensive at $4.50 a kg, nitrogen and potassium cost around $1.80/1.90 a kg, and sulphur is only 80 cents per kg. “If you buy superphosphate — and I have noth- ing against superphosphate — and you have very good Olsen p levels but your sulphur levels are not very good then you are putting on a whole lot of phosphate that is costing you an arm and a leg, versus possibly using a highly concentrated sulphur product like sulphur 90, and putting a lot more sulphur on which results in a far better clover and pasture response.” Shane says the normal response to urea applied to pasture in New Zealand is a 10:1 response and it’s been that since the mid ‘80s. RURAL SERVICES » Fert Wholesale Direct Ltd “On average we only use 35% of the nitrogen in granular urea applied to grazing pastures. The opportunity is how we improve that efficiency, and that is also where FWDL is coming from. We are now seeing the gap in the market around nutrient efficiency. There has been an evolution in the use of technology and innovation within fertiliser products. FWDL has invested in a company called Global Sustainable Farming which has a patented technol- ogy called One System, which lifts the nitrogen efficiency from 35% up to 80% in independent trials. The patented technology allows the spraying of NBPT — the key inhibitor in Sustain and N- Protect — at the time of application to maximise its effectiveness and using a different smaller size of urea called Prill Urea which has 10 times as many granules for better coverage. Born from a strong desire to provide Kiwi farmers with the opportunity to buy imported fertilisers minus the lofty New Zealand costs and markups, FWDL is now importing new and innovative fertilis- ers that contain humic and fulvic acid that are having a major impact on nutrient efficiency. “The one thing that we have stuck to our guns on is maintaining low New Zealand costs for imported products, and we get a lot of repeat business. We have customers who have been with us from the beginning. But the direction we are going in is nutri- ent efficiency and there are huge opportunities in that market and benefits for the broad spectrum of Kiwi farmers.” One System in action, lifting the nitrogen efficiency on a dairy farm in Canterbury. 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