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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Columnist: Moses Alhassan

The origin of fertilizers

Have you used any type of fertilization on your farm? For those who use either organic or inorganic (mineral) fertilizers, you might be interested in knowing how fertilization began.

According to Hauser (1968) to the modern science of crop, nutrition started in the 19th century. German Chemist, Justus Von Liebig, and John Bennet among others began to experiment on the effects of the various manures on potted plants in 1837. In 1842, John Bennet patented a manure formed by treating phosphates with sulfuric acid, the first to create the artificial manure industry.

The Birkeland-Eyde process was one of the competing industrial processes at the beginning of nitrogen fertilizer production, as this was used to fix atmospheric nitrogen into nitric acid (source of nitrate). The Haber process and Ostwald process, however, took over in the 1910s and 1920s. Fritz Haber and Walther Bosch developed the Haber process, which produces ammonia from methane and molecular nitrogen (Bellia, 1968). The ammonia from Haber process is then converted into nitric acid in the Ostwald process.

Yara International is the world's largest producer of nitrogen-based fertilizers and continues to provide sustainable and environmentally friendly crop nutrition solutions to farmers all over the world.

Fertilizer usage has increased over the years, however, it is important for farmers to continue using fertilizer, from the right source, at the right rate, at the right place and right time in order to get the most out of their farm fields. Other good agricultural practices such as planting at the right time, using improved seed varieties and using integrated pest and weed control measures are all vital towards attaining high yields at the best quality.


Bellia, F. (1968). Technological Progress in the Production of Urea. In G. FAUSER (Ed.), Chemical Fertilizers (p. 50). Hauser, G. (1968). Food and Fertilizer in Developing Countries. In G. FAUSER (Ed.), Chemical Fertilizers (p. 4).