Contaminants can occur in fertilizer products due to their natural occurrence in raw materials and as a result of manufacturing processes. Continued use of fertilizers that contain contaminants may lead to an increase in their concentration in the soil that may then lead to adverse effects on the environment or unacceptable levels in food.
Fertilizers can contain a wide range of concentrations of various forms of nutrients. Consistent description of nutrient form and content allows informed decision making.
Enhancing agricultural productivity will have a key role in providing food in the future. Fertilizer will be one of a number of technologies used together to increase food production per hectare of agricultural land.
The Australian fertilizer industry recognises that intensification, including increasing fertilizer use, can harm the environment, particularly when fertilizer is used inappropriately.
Some fertilizers can be used as explosive precursors and have been used in improvised explosive devices (IED’s) in many parts of the world.
Transport, storage and associated handling of fertilizer products present a range of risks including product loss, associated environmental hazards and road safety issues. Environmental risks can be summarised as Leach, Load, Run and Blow.
It is in the industries best interests to avoid product loss, while community expectations are that off-site product loss and contamination of soil, water and air quality is minimised.
Fertilizers are sold with a stated analysis of the nutrients that they contain. They are also required to not exceed maximum permissible concentration (MPC) levels for certain impurities.
When fertilizer companies purchase finished products or ingredients, the supplier provides a certificate of analysis listing nutrient content and levels of certain impurities.
Australia is free of many plant and animal diseases and pests that could cause significant losses to our agriculture or natural environment should they become established here. Exotic plants could also cause problems if introduced. To manage these risks Australia has a very strict quarantine regime.
Greater than 90% of the fertilizer used in Australia is sold in loose bulk which does not require packaging. The remainder of the fertilizer used is packed into bags and drums made from various plastics. This packaging protects both solid and liquid forms of fertilizer for transport, storage and use in smaller volumes.