How a battery-powered Finnish fertiliser could energise East Anglian crops
PUBLISHED: 12:28 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:00 09 May 2019
A "world-first" fertiliser made from recycled alkaline batteries will soon be energising UK crops after being imported by a Norfolk business.
ZM-Grow was developed in Finland to provide essential soil nutrients including zinc and manganese, which are extracted from used batteries through a special process developed by manufacturers Tracegrow.
And the first consignments were delivered this week to Norwich-based firm Badger Crop Nutrition, which is the sole UK distributor.
Company owner David Harrod said the "globally unique production process" is the only one in the world which can generate these trace elements from batteries, up to the purity needed for fertilisers.
"The result is a highly-flexible liquid fertiliser containing key nutrients for a wide variety of crops," he said.
"The issue is that 10 billion alkaline batteries are used globally every year and need to be recycled - and 660 million are used in UK every year.
"Through this process, 740 batteries will make a 10-litre container of liquid foliar fertiliser for five hectares of crops."
Zinc plays a substantial role in many biological processes in the soil and is an essential trace element for growth and reproduction of plants, and manganese is required to produce proteins while enabling the plant to make optimum use of other nutrients.
Mr Harrod said while zinc deficiency is seen in 10-15pc of UK field crops, often on sandy soils with both a high pH and phosphate status, manganese is the most common micronutrient deficiency.
Staple East Anglian crops including sugar beet, peas and cereals - particularly barley - are all prone to deficiencies, he said, especially on alkaline soils.
The company says trials of the fertiliser in Västarkvarn, Finland, in 2017 produced a 350kg/ha increase in wheat yield and 900kg/ha in barley from a single application of three litres per hectare.
Because of its source material, it has been certified for organic use in the UK by OF&G (Organic Farms and Growers).
ZM-Grow won a gold medal at the 2018 Helsinki Agricultural Machinery Trade Fair, having been judged on its significance for agriculture, impact on profitability and processes, environmental friendliness and energy efficiency, and impact on workloads and safety.