Increasing costs of Artificial Fertiliser
Throughout history, humans have used fertilisers to enhance the productivity of their farms. The Egyptians, Romans, Babylonians, and early Germans are all said to have used natural wood ash or manure for this purpose.
But since synthetic fertilisers were introduced, we have encountered two problems. 1) The global food chain has become increasingly reliant on these synthetics, forgetting the more sustainable, eco-friendly methods of ensuring agricultural productivity. 2) The global population has exploded from around 1.7 billion, forcing us to prioritise land productivity more than ever.
What’s the alternative?
Over the last few months, the costs of artificial fertilisers have continued to soar due to increasing gas prices worldwide. This has left British farmers concerned that profit margins will be squeezed tighter.
UK farm income was projected to go up by almost 70% in 2021-22. However, the rising cost of artificial fertilisers might mean this trend doesn’t continue in the following year. The situation already has the potential to cause issues, combined with the pressures of poor weather conditions, Brexit and the COVID pandemic; this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The UK produced 40% of its required nitrogen-based fertilisers. However, two fertiliser factories were temporarily closed down, out of which one is closing down permanently due to the rising gas prices.
Since there is an almost direct relationship between gas and fertiliser prices, it is quite easy to calculate the cost of synthetic fertiliser based on projected gas rates.
As of May 2022, the projected fertiliser rates for June ranged from £660 – £860 per tonne. For November, however, the predicted rates are between £905 to £1,105. With such disparity in rates, it is possible that farmers might wait until January 2023 to buy fertiliser.
That, in itself, might not be an issue, especially if a small number of farmers do so. However, if the majority takes this option, the demand might exceed the supply.
Also, as we mentioned earlier, with one less factory to produce fertiliser in the UK, there may be a reliance on imported fertiliser, which would add to the cost.
How does this affect UK agriculture?
Speaking to the BBC, NFUS crops policy manager David Michie explained how these high prices could affect farmers:
“Many specialist arable, potato, and horticultural businesses do not have livestock enterprises and will have difficulty in accessing bulky organic livestock manures as an alternative source of nitrogen. So any shortfall in supplies of inorganic nitrogen could have knock-on effects on the area and yields of arable, potato, and horticulture crops.”
It’s clear that if we want to protect the future of the British farming industry and ensure that producers around the world can stay in business, we need to find an effective alternative.
Organic fertilisers could provide the solution. Affordable, economical, and entirely sustainable, they will help sidestep the current crisis concerning fertiliser prices and help us create a better planet for all.
Why are fertilisers so crucial to the global food chain?
Fertilisers are essential for the global food supply as they replace the nutrients that crops take from the soil. Without them, the productivity of crop yields would be significantly affected, and global food supply chains would suffer greatly.
These days, almost every food item that ends up on our plates has been produced using fertilisers, whether synthetic or organic. Even animals such as cows need to be fed from grass, which requires using fertilisers to reach optimal productivity levels.
Without affordable fertilisers, we will almost certainly struggle to feed the current global population of 7.7 billion people.
However, with these increases in natural gas prices and synthetic fertilisers, farmers will need to recoup these extra costs from food prices. This means that food prices worldwide are likely to increase, putting the entire planet at risk of high food prices and food shortages.
According to Fortune magazine, “Food prices are already up more than 30% around the world this year, but a rising crisis in the fertiliser industry all but guarantees they’re about to go even higher—and take food prices along for the ride.”
How will UK farmers cope with the increasing costs?
UK farmers will be forced to rethink their cropping plans unless they can find a suitable alternative. Potential solutions include cutting back on synthetic fertilisers (especially nitrogen applications) or applying them more precisely than before. Meanwhile, they could also closely monitor the nitrogen levels in the soil to ensure that optimal levels are maintained for adequate crop production.
However, this seems to be an overly complex and time-consuming process that will only provide a short-term solution to the problem. Furthermore, if the prices of artificial fertilisers continue to climb, they will come under further pressure.
Meanwhile, increasing numbers of future-focused farmers are turning towards a better solution that guarantees healthier and more productive crops for future generations- biofertilisers.
These natural, eco-friendly products produced from food waste don’t just keep costs down but also benefit the environment. Unlike artificial fertilisers, they allow plants to absorb more growth-promoting nutrients, protect the local environment and turn waste products into something useful.
With lower costs, better productivity, reduced environmental impact and a focus on sustainability, biofertilisers could be the answer.
Speak to our experts about how BioteCH4 can provide you with safe-to-use and well-applied biofertiliser. Together, let’s step away from the synthetic and move towards natural and all-around better solutions for the environment.