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ADAS: Organic fertilisers ‘key to cutting dependence on artificial fertilisers’

Member News
The views expressed in this Member News article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Agri-TechE.

To cut dependence on fossil fuel made artificial fertilisers, the agricultural sector “must find ways to make the most of nutrient-rich organic fertilisers like livestock manures, slurries and composts” – so says John Williams, Head of Soils and Nutrients at ADAS.

John was speaking ahead of the 18th International RAMIRAN Conference, a global gathering of nutrient management, soil health, and environmental research experts being held in the UK for the first time this September.

With record-breaking artificial fertiliser prices listed as a driving force behind food price inflation last year, there is renewed interest globally in how to best recycle organic materials like farm manures, sewage sludge, compost, and biomethane production by-products for food production. And importantly, how to limit their associated environmental impacts.

John, the Conference Co-Chair said
To feed a growing population, farmers are charged with producing more and more with finite resources. Fertilisers are essential for boosting crop growth and maintaining soil health. Instead of depending on artificial fertilisers created from natural gas, we ought to make better use of what we already have. It’s outdated to view organic materials as waste, they hold the key to enhancing world food production.

He noted though that if these organic materials are not managed well, not only were growers wasting a valuable resource, they could end up causing significant harm to the environment with ammonia and nitrous oxide emissions being released into the air and nitrogen and phosphorus losses to water.

“To sum up when it comes to these organic materials – we either use them or we lose them”.

Maintaining food production in an environmentally sound way is a problem every country can relate to, which is why the global reach of RAMIRAN is incredibly important.

Conference Co-Chair, Professor Dave Chadwick from Bangor University added

“For decades, the RAMIRAN network has played a leading role in sharing information across countries and continents to improve organic material use in agriculture. At this year’s conference, we’re expecting delegates from across Europe, China, the US, New Zealand, Nigeria, and Peru. It is a rare opportunity for leading agricultural scientists to meet, listen, discuss, and hopefully co-develop new solutions to maximise the efficiency of organic materials against the background of changing regulation, policy and market force and increasing pressure on the environment, soil quality and food production.”

The RAMIRAN (Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network) conference takes place between 12 and 14 September at the Corn Exchange and Guildhall in Cambridge. Organised by ADAS, with Bangor University and Rothamsted Research, the conference will attract more than 250 delegates from 25 countries and five continents.

Conference sessions will examine: policy and regulation, nutrient utilisation, soil quality, air and water quality, treatment and processing technologies and promoting best practice.

Find out more be visiting the RAMIRAN website or by following #RAMIRAN2023 on Twitter.