12 May 2010

Call for fertiliser industry legislation not supported

8:25 am on 12 May 2010

There appears to be little enthusiasm in the fertiliser industry for the idea of regulating it again.

Independent soil scientist Dr Doug Edmeades thinks its time to consider new legislation to protect farmers from unsubstantiated claims about fertiliser and related products.

The former Fertiliser Act was repealed in the 1990s and replaced by the Fertiliser Quality Council, which operates a voluntary quality assurance scheme, FertMark.

In Dr Edmeades' view, self regulation isn't working because new products are being released on the market with claims that aren't backed by scientific evidence.

Given products being sold that contain no nutrients of any value, he says, a legal definition of fertiliser is needed along with compulsory registration.

But his call for legislation isn't supported by the Fertiliser Quality Council or the industry research body funded by the two big fertiliser co-operatives.

They say it would be hard to develop a new fertiliser act to cover all the products on the market, because many of them don't actually qualify as fertilisers.

Fertiliser Quality Council chair Neil Barton says he shares Dr Edmeades' concerns about the claims being made for some products but thinks that can be handled by extending the council's role to provide more advice for farmers, based on trial work.

Mr Barton says an estimated 90% to 95% of fertiliser products are registered with Fertmark, and the Fertiliser Quality Council is encouraging others to sign up.