What are Fertilizers?
Fertilizers can include a large number of elements and compounds (either natural or chemically synthesized) which are used for the purpose of nourishing all plants (those that are ornamental or those used as food, such as vegetables).
There are three main macronutrients (generally 5-65% of package) which are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P, stated as level of P2O5) and Potassium (K); plus three secondary macronutrients (generally £25%), which are Sulphur (S), Calcium (Ca) and Magnesium (Mg); and finally a dozen or so micronutrients (generally £2%) such as Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Molybdenum (Mo), Zinc (Zn) and Boron (B).
Bags of fertilizers (for grass, vegetables, etc.) will always show the percentage of the macronutrients in the form of a compound number in the form of XX – XX - XX Y, which are always in the same order for the N – P – K values. The last one (Y) can be for the next secondary macronutrient, such as S or Zn and is not always shown.
How is Fertilizer Produced?
Nitrogen is associated with the production of chlorophyl and will thus help with the growth of leaves and with the general health of the plant. It is used extensively in the culture of maize and other cereals. Because most plants cannot assimilate the nitrogen contained in the air directly, the bulk of the nitrogen fertilisers used in agriculture is synthesized using natural gas (CH4) and air to produce ammonia, which can be used as-is or further transformed into other compounds, such as urea or ammonium nitrate, so that it can be applied to the soil and absorbed by the plants.
Phosphorus (presented as P2O5 or phosphate) is associated with the development of roots, flowers, seeds and fruits. Most of the phosphate used in extensive agriculture comes from processes involving the reaction of phosphate rock (mined in a few areas around the world) and sulphuric acid to produce phosphoric acid which is then combined with ammonia to produce ammonium phosphate granules (MAP or DAP) sold to growers.
Finally, potassium (in the form of K2O) helps with stem growth, movement of water in plants, promotion of flowering and fruiting. The potassium used in agriculture generally comes from mined deposit from a few areas around the world, such as Canada and Russia. The ore, which contains a significant amount of NaCl (salt), then goes through a process to remove most of those salts and to concentrate the level of K to about 60-65% before it can be shipped and sold as fertilizer.
Other nutrients, such as sulphur or zinc have equally important functions as they are required for the general functions of the plant. However, they are generally required in smaller quantity, except for sulphur who is now becoming a very important nutrient to replace the sulphur that used to be supplied by acid rain and other air born sulphur compounds coming from environmental pollution.
Sulphur, for example, can be supplied through a synthesized fertilizer called ammonium sulphate, which can be available to the plant immediately but can also be washed away under hard rain, or, in the form of elemental sulphur which can be degraded by soil bacteria which will supply a slower, more controlled release, and more stable under rain condition, of nutrient for the plants.
Extensive Fertilizer Experience
Through previous projects for various customers, and at multiple facilities across the world, Tri Innovations has the expertise required to design fertilizer handling systems. Whether it is a terminal design for the reception and management of the product, the selection and design of sulphur addition process, or the design of storage fertilizer (either in solid or liquid form), Tri Innovations can help push your project forward.