Best option for the environment and farming remains ammonium nitrate, says fertiliser research

UK - The findings of a research programme which looked for alternatives to ammonium nitrate fertilisers were published today by Defra.
calendar icon 4 October 2006
clock icon 3 minute read

The research found that the only realistic alternative to ammonium nitrate (AN) in the UK market was urea. However it also showed that a switch to urea would lead to an increase in emissions of ammonia to the atmosphere which could hamper the UK's commitment to reducing these emissions. The research therefore concludes that AN remains the most sustainable option for farmers.

The research programme was commissioned by Defra in 2002 when there was concern about the safety of ammonium nitrate fertiliser following an explosion at a fertiliser factory in France, and concerns about terrorist use of fertiliser in bomb-making.

The research looked at possible alternative nitrogen fertilisers and at whether application methods for urea could be improved to reduce ammonia emissions – which contribute to acid rain and nutrient pollution

Because of the commercial sensitivity of the research, which could have affected businesses and share prices, it was classified as restricted and not published immediately on its completion.

However, safety improvements in the handling of AN have reduced the commercial sensitivity, so that the research has now been declassified and can be made public. In particular, regulations introduced in 2003 require anyone producing, importing or storing AN fertiliser to obtain a certificate showing that it has passed a Detonation Resistance Test.

Earlier this year, the Agriculture Industries Confederation launched a voluntary Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme to improve safety, security and traceability of fertilisers from manufacture to farm. In conjunction with this the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, NaCTSO have launched a website, secure your fertiliser, that gives all fertiliser users guidance on storing fertiliser, including AN. This is aimed at raising awareness of the potential danger that inadequate storage of fertiliser can create and gives a checklist of reducing these risks.

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