Boron and borates are a class of fertilizers that are essential to the agriculture industry. They are a major category of fertilizers, along with Nitrogen (N), Phosphates (P) and Potassium (K). Commercially, boron is available in several natural forms. These include borax, Ulexite, Colemanite, and Boric Acid.
Boron and borate minerals are used in many fields, not just as fertilizers. They’re also widely present in the glassmaking industry, ceramics, detergents, and others. In fact, slightly more than half of the borate minerals in the world go towards the glassmaking. Only about 14% of all borate minerals are used as fertilizers. Among these is of course, Ulexite.Demand for Ulexite
Ulexite will continue to see a growth in terms of demand for the year 2020 and beyond. Ulexite itself provides borates to crops, which are micronutrients without any substitutes. Since Ulexite has no other material substitutes, and the demand for agricultural products is not expected to decline anytime soon, we will see the demand trend for Ulexite be pretty stable.
Agricultural demand for Borates stood at 14% in 2012 and is expected to rise by 1.48% in 2020, and a further 1.32% and 1.33% in 2021 and 2022. The forecasted production amount for the agricultural sector in 2020 is about 314,095 tons and this number is projected to increase slightly in the subsequent years to 326,860 tons in the year 2023, as seen in Table 1.
Table 1: Projected Boron Demand Forecasts (In B2O3 tonnes). Source: StormcrowThe recent COVID-19 pandemic around the world is not expected to affect the production and supply of Ulexite in Malaysia. This is because the production of Ulexite as a fertilizer is considered an essential service, as it pertains to the food and agriculture industry.Ulexite Pricing
The pricing for Ulexite has more or less remained stable, and shows only a slight increase due to inflation. In 2005, the documented price of Ulexite was USD250-USD300 per metric ton, and in 2020 we are seeing Ulexite being sold commercially for about USD300-USD350 per metric ton.
Thankfully, the pricing of Ulexite is not influenced by the price of raw materials, as Ulexite is processed mainly by mechanical means. In addition to the price of Ulexite being free from the heavy influence of raw material costs, there is also plenty of room for smaller suppliers to grow in the Ulexite supply business.
The Future of Ulexite
In general, there are several countries that are the main producers include South American countries like Bolivia, Peru and Chile. The main players in the Ulexite production field include Socomirg of Bolivia, Quiborax of Chile and Inkabor of Peru. However, there are many other smaller companies from other countries that can potentially penetrate the market and be successful. This is based on the simple fact that demand is steadily increasing and supply is always welcomed.
The market is definitely not saturated, and the usage of Ulexite is not limited to the fertilizers and the agricultural sector. The best way forward is therefore to vary your target market if you’re producing Ulexite into as many fields and industries as possible.
Stormcrow Industry Report on Borates (https://static1.squarespace.com/static/535e7e2de4b088f0b623c597/t/55365c32e4b09956c7c42fc0/1429625906212/Stormcrow-Borate+Industry+Report-Apr2015-Final.pdf)
Industrial Minerals and Rocks: Commodities, Markets and Uses
Organic fertilizer is considered free from artificially added chemicals and other elements that are harmful to plants. However, organic fertilizer, such as chicken or cow manure, users can either be composted or not composted. There is a difference between these two types of fertilizer. Fresh and not composted manure can be applied to plants that require a high level of nitrogen. However, applying fresh and not composted manure to plants possess a health risk.
The not composted manure contains bacteria and pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. These bacteria and pathogens are in fact harmful to humans. Although they are not taken up by the plant roots, some of these bacteria and pathogens can stick to the plants and can be brought to the kitchen along with the plants. These can then enter the cooked food and harm humans. Also, some vegetables such as cabbages and salads alongside fruits are not cooked before consumption. Therefore, this can also affect consumers.
Dried and processed manure is sold in hardware stores. These types of organic fertilizers are safer in comparison homemade with non-composted manure fertilizer. However, if you wish to make the fertilizer at home, the following steps can be followed:
- Make sure to dry the manure in high temperatures of 55 degree Celsius and above for at least 15 days
- Another way is to dry the manure for 6 months to 1 year in order to kill the pathogens and bacteria
When properly composted, organic fertilizer made at home from manure can be very beneficial over the chemical-based fertilizers. It also helps save the cost of maintaining your backyard garden.
We often hear issues on global warming, climate crisis, poverty and malnutrition happening around the world. Many are unaware that these problems can be lessened, if not solved, through regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture defines as a practice that can reverse the effects of climate change by helping to rebuild soil organic matter and by restoring the biodiversity of degraded soil. This in return, contributes to carbon drawdown and an improved water cycle.
Based on researches done by scientists, with the current rate of soil destruction, including erosion, desertification and chemical pollution, the public health and food supply chain is seen to deteriorate in the coming 50 years. It is expected that the food supplied will lose most of its nutritional values. Other than that, the lack of arable soil will cause a drop in the food supply, causing hunger around the less wealthy side of the world. It will also be impossible to keep the global warming conditions at below 2 degree Celsius and would lead to a loss of biodiversity.
Regenerative agriculture uses technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and environment, rather than damaging it by planting crops. This technology leads to a healthy soil condition that is able to produce high quality and nutrient-rich food. Regenerative agriculture incorporates permaculture and organic farming practices that include crop rotation, composting, using organic fertilizer, and organic farming practices to increase food production, income and most importantly, the quality of the soil.
Biodiesel is the fuel produced from extracting oil from animal fats, plants or waste. Scientifically, biodiesel is called fatty acid methyl esters.Some of the sources of biodiesel include rapeseed, soya beans, and corn. Since some of these are also sources of food, there is a Fuel vs Food debate on biodiesel production from food sources. Therefore, a lot of research is being done on producing biodiesel from inedible sources. Some examples include sandbox seeds and cotton seeds.
Biodiesel is produced through esterification process of oil extracted from the seeds. Firstly, the seeds are cleaned and dried. Then, oil is extracted from the seeds via processes such as soxhlet extraction or by mixing the oil with sulfur dioxide. The oil extracted is then refined and esterified by a reaction between the oil and alcohol as the base. A catalyst can be used to enhance the reaction. The time and temperature depend on the type of alcohol and oil used. Once the reaction completes, the alcohol is evaporated using rotary evaporation.
The use of biodiesel is important as it comes from natural renewable resources. It also helps reduce carbon footprint where the carbon footprint emitted is countered by planting sources like sandbox seeds and cotton seeds for further production. Biodiesel is an important technology which can significantly help overcome the problem of fossil fuel and natural gas depletion. Therefore, more research is to be done to prepare biodiesel on large scales to overcome the depletion.
Azolla, also known as mosquito fern, is a form of aquatic plant that resembles duckweed or mosses. In addition to being one of the fastest-growing plants, it also does not need land to grow on. This is due to its ability to self-produce nitrogen, which other plants tend to obtain from the soil they grow on. This process is known as nitrogen fixation.
Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium, a similar nitrogen-fixing eubacterium, also provides nitrogen directly from the atmosphere but the relationship between these two organisms need to be renewed each generation. On the other hand, Azolla is capable of directly transmitting its cyanobacteria to the next generation during its reproductive cycle. Azolla and its cyanobacteria have evolved together over millions of years, making them a superorganism which can fix nitrogen three times more than legumes and its cyanobacteria.
Azolla is cultivated as a biofertilizer in paddy fields. It provides nitrogen to the surrounding paddy field through nitrogen fixation. Currently, Azolla is used in paddy fields of tropical temperatures. However, research is needed to use the fern in high altitude paddy fields. Also, the algae should be resistant to the pesticides and herbicides that are commonly used in the paddy fields.
Apart from being used as a biofertilizer, Azolla is also being cultivated for livestock feed. It is rich in various vitamins, minerals, proteins and amino acids, thus a balanced food for livestock. There is also the potential of this plant to be used as a biofuel.
Carbon dioxide is essential to plants as oxygen is essential to humans and animals. Humans and animals inhale oxygen produced by plants and exhale carbon dioxide that is used by plants to support photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process carried out by plants in order to prepare ‘food’ with the presence of sunlight, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide.
An efficient photosynthesis rate is needed for the plants to be able to grow to their full potential. Naturally, plants need 0.1 to 1.0 % volume of carbon dioxide to reach their optimal photosynthesis rate. However, the surrounding air contains only 0.03 % of carbon dioxide that is available for photosynthesis. Therefore, plants are unable to reach their maximum growth due to the lack of carbon dioxide. This results in smaller plants, leaves and fruits.
In order to ensure optimum growth, carbon dioxide has to be supplied to the plants. In the 1920s, carbon dioxide gas was supplied directly to the plants. Pipes were built along with the plants. Carbon dioxide gas would be slowly released from the pipes to be absorbed by the plants. However, the situation was difficult to control as there is the runoff of the carbon dioxide into the environment.
In current days, fertilizer in the form of calcium carbonate is available to the consumers. This type of fertilizer is usually a slow release. Once applied, the granules slowly release carbon dioxide over a long period of time, just enough for the plants’ stomata to absorb some carbon dioxide to assist photosynthesis, and avoid wastage and environmental poisoning. The extra source of carbon dioxide enables plants to produce a higher yield of fruits and also larger and healthier fruits.
The most important mechanical quality of fertilizer is the ability to spread evenly, precise application, a low impact on the environment and promising a high return on investment. The first look of fertilizer can actually indicate the quality of the granules. Dust-like and crushed granules indicate fertilizer with low quality. On the other hand, granules that are smooth and inhomogeneous size indicate high quality and ability to spread evenly.
Taking into importance the well-being of the environment, fertilizers should be free of additives. Another important effect of fertilizer is the release of carbon footprint. Carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment by a certain activity, which in this case is agriculture. This leads to an increase in global temperature. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the fertilizer emits carbon footprint at its lowest both during production and application.
Next quality is the high return in investment. The fertilizer applied should be able to return the investment in fertilizing during harvesting. Some fertilizer types require more fertilizing with more quantity and more frequency. This type of fertilizer brings a lesser return on investment. Fertilizer that needs to be applied lesser times, but with the same harvest, promises a higher return of investment.
In short, a good quality fertilizer should have the following:
- Free-flowing (easily applied)
- Consistent in particle size with smooth and hard granules
- Easily spread – ensuring even distribution patterns
- Quickly dissolve when in contact with moist soil or water (avoid run-off)
- Free from contaminants and additives
Fertilizers are one of the largest costs when it comes to oil palm plantations. Up to 85% of agricultural expenditures are spent on fertilizers. As such, fertilizers should not be wasted and should be used conservatively.
The best way to make sure that wastage is minimized is to ensure that fertilizers are correctly applied. Fertilizers like Ulexite (which provides Boron) should be applied at the correct time and place. This will benefit your soil and crops, as well as help, keep your expenditure in check.
Here are the best times to apply Ulexite fertilizers:
- After you have weeded your plantation
Weeds are very common in oil palm plantations and are often carried by the wind. There’s no easy way to deal with weeds as they have to be removed manually. You cannot use herbicide as this will endanger the oil palms.
Therefore, weeding has to be done by manually removing the weeds. Make sure you apply your fertilizers after a fresh round of weeding. This is because weeds can leach away the Boron in your fertilizer and use it to grow rapidly.
- Avoid overly rainy seasons
In any case, you should avoid applying fertilizers during the wettest time of the year, which usually occurs from November to January each year. This is because the excess rain is able to wash away Boron into the deeper parts of the soil, away from the roots.
- Dry seasons are not good either
Too much rain will cause the Boron fertilizers to leach away, but applying them during extremely dry and hot seasons isn’t practical either. This is because there isn’t enough rain to dissolve the Ulexite. Furthermore, the heat can cause the fertilizer pellets to dry out into dust and be blown away by the wind.
The driest months in the year for Malaysia are June and July, with less than 10 days of rain.
- Months with moderate rain are the best
The best months to apply fertilizers would definitely be the months that are not too hot or rainy. These moderate months are usually from February to March, and September to October each year.
Moderate rainfall months can optimize the effect of Ulexite fertilizers, as they avoid the environmental extremes that can reduce efficiency. Ulexite or boron fertilizers need time to be absorbed, so it’s best to start applying these fertilizers as early as possible in the optimal season.
- The best time of the day
The best time of the day to apply Ulexite is in the morning, before the sun gets too hot and there’s a lot of wind. Applying fertilizers evenly in the morning reduces the chances of it evaporating and being lost to the elements. It would be even better if you water them a little to protect them and ensure maximum absorption.
In order not to miss the optimal months of the year, you’ll have to make sure you prepare all the necessary equipment, machinery and fertilizers beforehand. Check out our new Granular Ulexite fertilizers, available at 10% and 15% concentration.
Contrary to the famous believe that weeds disrupt the growth of farms, Studies have shown that weeds actually help to make farms more productive. The study proved that having certain types of weeds around the farm help reduce crop losses.
The study shows that due to the ecological niches, the excessive growth of a more invasive species of unwanted plants is inhibited by these weeds. This proves that a certain level of biodiversity is positive for the ecosystem, both natural and man-made.
Some examples of beneficial weeds include white clover and dandelions. Some legumes can help in nitrogen fixation when paired with the correct bacteria. For example, white clover, when paired with Rhizobium bacteria, often add nitrogen to the soil through nitrogen fixation process. This can help farmers reduce the amount of fertilizer that needs to be applied to the soil.
Some weeds have strong widespread roots. These roots introduce nutrients and organic matter to the soil by turning the clay into a more dense and richer soil. Other than that, some weeds become the support for some soft rooted plants. For example, tomatoes can cling on to weeds to allow their weak roots to go deeper into the soil.
This finding and approach can result in excellently if applied on a wide scale. The need for fertilizers and pesticides can be reduced. This would benefit both the farmers and consumers. Farmers tend to save money on fertilizers, while consumers have a chance of enjoying better and healthier food without the usage of pesticides.
Fertilizers are a vital component of sustainable crop production. Fertilizers assist in increasing the production of crops and while ensuring that the crops are healthy. If nutrients provided to the plants are inadequate, the fertility is mined from the soil, and thus, the crop will not be able to attain its optimal yield. On the other hand, if too much nutrient is provided without managing the risks, there is a high possibility that the excess fertilizer will move away from the plants and in result, affect the environment.
The 4Rs guide is an approach to utilize fertilizer optimally. This practice is good for the grower, farming community, and also the environment. The 4Rs stand for:
- Right Source
- Right Rate
- Right Time
- Right Place
The 4Rs are explained in a more detailed manner as below.
Before applying fertilizer, ensure first that the type of fertilizer applied is of the correct source (i.e. Potassium fertilizer, Nitrogen fertilizer, etc.) you would want to apply the correct type of fertilizer for optimal growth of your plant. Ensure that there is a balanced source of nutrients in the fertilizer, based on the plants.
Assess the soil nutrient content in which your plants are planted in before applying any fertilizer. Some soil has a higher nutrient content than others, while some have a significantly low amount of nutrients. Therefore, the soil nutrient level needs to be checked to avoid over-fertilizing or under-fertilizing.
Assess your crop intake dynamics, soil supply, nutrient loss, and logistics before applying fertilizer. You should know how long it takes for your crops to take up the fertilizer. Recognize also the weather factors before fertilizing. Too much rain will result in fertilizer runoff while no rainfall will retard the absorption of fertilizer by the crop roots.
Before applying fertilizer, you should know the dynamics of the roots. You should know where the roots are located and if it is easy for the roots to intake the fertilizer from where you have applied it. Applying fertilizer too far from the roots will only result in wastage as the fertilizer will run off with rain before it can be absorbed by the roots.