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HistoryThe process of adding substances to soil to improve its growing capacity was developed in the early days of agriculture. Ancient farmers knew that the first yields on a plot of land were much better than those of subsequent years. This caused them to move to new, uncultivated areas, which again showed the same pattern of reduced yields over time. Eventually it was discovered that plant growth on a plot of land could be improved by spreading animal manure throughout the soil.

Over time, Fertiliser technology became more refined. New substances that improved the growth of plants were discovered. The Egyptians are known to have added ashes from burned weeds to soil. Ancient Greek and Roman writings indicate that various animal excrements were used, depending on the type of soil or plant grown. It was also known by this time that growing leguminous plants on plots prior to growing wheat was beneficial. Other types of materials added include sea-shells, clay, vegetable waste, waste from different manufacturing processes, and other assorted trash.

Organized research into Fertiliser technology began in the early seventeenth century. Early scientists such as Francis Bacon and Johann Glauber describe the beneficial effects of the addition of saltpeter to soil. Glauber developed the first complete mineral Fertiliser, which was a mixture of saltpeter, lime, phosphoric acid, nitrogen, and potash. As scientific chemical theories developed, the chemical needs of plants were discovered, which led to improved Fertiliser compositions. Organic chemist Justus von Liebig demonstrated that plants need mineral elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous in order to grow. The chemical Fertiliser industry could be said to have its beginnings with a patent issued to Sir John Lawes, which outlined a method for producing a form of phosphate that was an effective Fertiliser. The synthetic Fertiliser industry experienced significant growth after the First World War, when facilities that had produced ammonia and synthetic nitrates for explosives were converted to the production of nitrogen-based Fertilisers.