The quest for sustainability begins - quite literally, at ground level, and it's impossible to overstate the importance of good soil health. It's the very foundation for the high-quality food we grow – not only feeding New Zealanders but also up to 40 million people off-shore in the many countries who trade with us, buying and consuming our nutritious, high-quality meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and wine.

New Zealand's reputation for environmental awareness is something we value highly, and Kiwi farmers and producers are always seeking new and innovative ways to replace the nutrients that are exported from the soil in the form of the food products we grow. Mātauranga Māori (which means Māori knowledge) has traditionally focussed on the importance of respecting the land and its bounty, so these aims are perfectly aligned.

Farmers and growers can add nitrogen fertilizer to replenish key flora nutrients, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution because overuse can be detrimental. Despite its importance and the essential work it does, nitrogen, once in a plant available form such as urea, ammonium, or nitrate, is susceptible to natural biological losses such as the emission of nitrous oxide, a long-lived greenhouse gas, or when excreted in urine patches. This can lead to leaching losses, which have the potential to pollute waterways. Significant research is being done to investigate ways to reduce these loss pathways. 

For example, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, a farmer and grower-owned collective, now uses AGROTAIN, a world-leading nitrogen inhibitor in its fertilizers SustaiN and PhasedN, to help reduce nitrogen losses from ammonia volatilization when compared to urea, a nitrogen that was previously a firm favorite with farmers. "In some regions, the proportion of farmers converting to these products from urea is up to 70%," says Ballance science strategy manager Warwick Catto.

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