In the search for a sustainable alternative for mineral fertilizers, researchers of ReNu2Farm are testing the functioning of several new recycling-derived fertilizers. A field trial fertilizing machine especially designed for this purpose allows us to perform complex fertilization trials in Belgium. This high-tech machine combines multiple standard fertilization techniques in one device.
This spring, Inagro started with a complex multi-year fertilisation trial. On this field, researchers are performing a field trial with recycling-derived fertilizers. Through this field trial, they want to compare the fertilization value with conventional fertilizers, such as animal manure and mineral fertilizers. Technically, this field trial is very complex. To compensate for the effects of the natural variety of the soil, all treatments are divided on the field at random. However, this entails that the injector can only drive over a field only once, like it would happen in practice. To achieve this on a field with more than a hundred small trial fields, a mechanist developed a specialised field trial fertilizer machine for ReNu2Farm.
Based on standard techniques
The fertilizer machine has been designed in a way so that it is still sufficiently light and manoeuvrable to drive across the small trial fields. That is why Inagro opted for a mounted machine on the back of a tractor. To ensure that the construction of the field trial is as close as possible to the conventional fertilization method, the machine is based on a combination of several techniques that are standard in today’s fertilization techniques.
A combination of two pump systems was made in this fertilizing machine: on the one hand, there is a vacuum pump system that allows the application of large volumes of low concentrated fertilizers, such as animal manure or digestate. On the other hand, a hose pump system allows to also apply high concentrated fertilizers, such as scrubber waters, by the same machine. By choosing two separated systems, it is possible to apply fertilizers that are otherwise not allowed to mix due to safety measure, at the same time.
Central practical research
The researchers hope to make a contribution to the efficiency of the use of fertilizers, through the reuse of residual streams and recycling-derived fertilizers. If research can show that the fertilization value, the speed at which nutrients from those recycling-derived fertilizers are released and the safety are comparable to those of mineral fertilizers, that clears the way for recognition as mineral fertilizer. As a result, the use of recycling-derived fertilizers can increase considerably. The products can then be applied on top of the fertilization of animal manure.
The North-West Europe project ReNu2Farm aims to partially replace mineral fertilizers by recycling-derived fertilizers. An important condition is that the performance and safety is equal to that of mineral fertilizer. In addition, the researchers, including those of Inagro, want to optimally match the products to the wishes and needs of the farmer and the region. That is why Inagro started the multi-year fertilization field trial this spring, to map the fertilizing value of these ‘green mineral fertilizers’. The this three-year field trial, the researchers extensively examine the following parameters in different crops: the N fertilization value, the effects on cultivation and soil fertility, the present soil life and the loss of nutrients to the environment.