Research and Development

The focus of our fertiliser extension and research programs is on the efficient use of existing fertiliser products and the development of enhanced efficiency fertilisers.

 

Considerable emphasis is placed on applying these products in the right place and at the right time. Soil and plant tissue analysis are used to better predict the rates at which fertilisers should be applied, and the use of computer based decision support tools to fine tune fertiliser programs is gaining favour within the industry.

 

Our Nutrient Advantage Laboratory Services is NATA accredited and operates in accordance with the international standard ISO/IEC 17025. Analyses conducted at the lab are certified under the ASPAC proficiency scheme. Our accreditations are a reliable indicator of the technical competence of a facility to perform specific tests. Nutrient Advantage Laboratory Services delivers consistently high quality analytical results by employing nationally and internationally recognised standardised analytical methods.   

We operate one of the largest commercial plant nutrition research and development programs in Australia, with more than 30 replicated research trials per annum, often in conjunction with customers, independent organisations and agronomists.

 

Our long term experiments aim to produce insights that benefit Australian farmers and allow them to improve fertiliser use efficiency and adopt sustainable fertiliser practices. We are also committed to helping farmers in ways that may assist them to improve productivity and profitability through expanding and developing our range of products and services. The development of new fertilisers is driven by the needs of farmers and is focused on improving nutrient use efficiency, flexibility and environmental performance. One of our sustainability keystone projects is the establishment of a joint research partnership to study nitrogen losses from conventional and enhanced efficiency fertilisers to reduce environmental impacts of fertiliser use. IPL offers two enhanced efficiency fertilisers:

 • Entec® is a treatment that retains nitrogen in the stable ammonium form for an extended period. This reduces nitrogen losses to leaching (waterways) and / or denitrification (losses to the atmosphere) while conserving more nitrogen for plant uptake. During 2016, trials have continued to demonstrate the potential for significant reductions in GHG as well as cane yield increase with the use of Entec. Read about the results of these trials on pages 35-42 of the Australian Sugarcane Annual 2016.

Green Urea NV™ is a top dressing fertiliser, recommended where volatilisation losses of ammonia are likely. Green Urea NV products contain urea treated with the urease inhibitor, N-(n-butyl) thiophosphoric triamide (NBPT), and are aimed at delaying hydrolysis of urea into unstable forms that may be lost to the atmosphere, thereby reducing emissions related to fertiliser usage. Green Urea NV can help to protect against volatilisation losses, particularly for:

• intensive dairy and beef pasture production

• irrigated cotton where urea is applied mid-season

• agronomic forestry situations

• field crops where urea is applied to bare soil or soon after crop germination.

This year we completed two three-year joint research projects with the University of Melbourne into reducing GHG emissions from agriculture and began two new projects, also relating to the use of GHG inhibitors in fertilisers. Read about these at the links below: 


Mitigating indirect nitrous oxide emissions in intensive agricultural systems. See also here Reducing nitrous oxide emissions from applied nitrogen with nitrification inhibitors. See also here Healthy soils for sustainable food production and environmental quality Soil microbial indicators for efficient use of nitrification inhibitors  

Efforts to mitigate the environmental impacts of our explosives products continue to be focused on using more sustainable input materials and reducing the impacts associated with product use.

During 2016 we completed an Australian Research Council funded Linkage Project with the University of Sydney into understanding the interaction of ammonium nitrate explosives with reactive ground. This project resulted in the publication of two papers in scientific journals and the lodging of a patent specification to protect the novel technology developed. We also received funding approval for a new Australian Research Council project to investigate Low Fume Explosives for Critical Areas in partnership with Murdoch University. This project is scheduled to commence in 2017 and is aimed at reducing the instance of NOx formation during blasting and, if formed, ways to treat the pollution. Other projects addressing the control of NOx fume include:

Effects of different additives in AN prill on NOx formation during thermal decomposition of AN 

This project addressed the question of whether incorporating different additives in ammonium nitrate prill reduced the likelihood of NOx fume. This project has been completed and resulted in more than six published papers in scientific journals describing the roles and effectiveness of various additives in reducing NOx emissions during blasting. We are currently using this research to develop improved products and product delivery methods.

Modelling of reactions of NOx and biomass molecules during detonation 

This project investigated the use of biomass as a scavenger for NOx molecules formed during the detonation of explosives and significant work determining the reactional pathways in the NOx forming process has been performed. The initial project has been completed and we are continuing to fund the next steps of work in this area to characterise high temperature combustion reactions and improve safety through a new project in conjunction with Murdoch University in Perth.


In North America, we have developed technology that allows the use of bio-fuels and bio-fuel by-products as an alternative to petroleum-derived hydrocarbons for the manufacture of blasting agents and bulk emulsion products. This technology has been enabled in our product line, though take up has been slow due to limited product availability and the relative costs associated with using bio-fuels if the mine site is not located close by. We continue to offer this service to our North American customers and expect greater uptake in the future. 

We are also working with customers to introduce technologies that use petrochemicals extracted from waste materials as part of the explosive composition. Waste materials such as discarded tyres and waste oil from machinery are ideal candidates for use, particularly at remote mine sites where trucking virgin materials in and waste materials out consumes resources and time. During 2016 we continued testing third party extracted materials in Australia and the US as well as oils made from natural gas sources. The recycling of a range of ‘out of specification’ (OOS) materials has also been developed significantly in 2016. We will continue to test non-traditional sources for recycling hydrocarbons and other materials in 2017.

List of research organisations funded