Visit to Yara in Hanninghof, Dülmen, Germany
By Kathrine and Bodil
Yara, one of our partners in the Future Cropping project, has a research center “The Institute for Crop Nutrition and Environmental Research” in Hanninghof, Germany. Here, Joerg Jasper is head of a department that develops new models and tools for crop nutrition. Joerg participates in work package 5 in Future cropping on intelligent fertilization, and we, therefore, started the car in order to learn more about the activities that are carried out in Hanninghof.
The research institute in Hanninghof is located approximately 6½ hours’ drive from Aarhus, Denmark, not far from the Dutch border. The institute has approx. 60 employees, of which 25 have scientific backgrounds. The Institute was established in 1959 as part of the Ruhr-Stickstoff AG (Ruhr Nitrogen), and was later taken over by Norsk Hydro. The institute has a laboratory, growth chambers, greenhouses, experimental fields for demonstration and a lysimetric facility. These facilities, which are used for research on both tropical crops and crops from Northern Europe, received more than 600 visitors last year from all over the world.
It is well-known that Yara is a producer of fertilizer, but the Yara business model is to produce fertilizer in combination with knowledge and services for the farmer. Consequently there is emphasis on optimal usage of plant nutrients and minimization of environmental impacts.
As an example three-four experts in life-cycle-analysis are working on developing the most optimal strategies for application of nitrogen-fertilizer in relation to use of water, emission of greenhouse gasses and landuse. One of the concepts that are being further developed is ‘fertigation’, where irrigation and application of plant nutrients are combined in order to minimize loss of nutrients to the environment.
During the visit we met with Joerg Jaspers’s research group, which includes scientists from several countries and with different scientific backgrounds. We also had a tour the institute, which has advanced technical equipment available for research in plant nutrition. We furthermore, discussed Future Cropping and learned more about the history of the Yara N-Sensor, which is currently the world’s most widely used crop sensor. The Yara N-Sensor was commercialized around the millennium and it took a couple of years before a competing sensor product emerged on the marked. During the years a lot of field experiments have been carried out, and the knowledge has been transformed into the algorithms that the sensor uses for variable rate fertilization. The algorithms are adapted for the crop and the local climatic and soil conditions. Luckily, climatic conditions in Denmark and Germany are similar to the degree, that we can use the same algorithms. Yara has previously tried a concept that also included other geo-tagged data, so technically it can be done, but the sensor readings, so-to-speak, already summarises crop history up to the time of measuring crop biomass or N-uptake in the crop.
Regarding plans for further development of the Yara N-Sensor, the scientists consider to improve the algorithms by integrating weather prognoses and crop models, in order to become even more precise in applying the right amount of fertilizer for the crop at each location in the field!