The Victorian fertiliser survey 2008-09
Fertilisers are a major input to modern agriculture, helping to sustain high levels of productivity. However their use also carries some risks that are managed in Victoria by regulating labelling requirements and contaminant levels for fertilisers.
The Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) (Fertilisers) Regulations 2015, administered by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR), manage the risks posed to human and animal health, food safety and trade from the use of fertilisers in Victoria.
The 2008-09 Victorian fertiliser survey involved the sampling and testing of 25 chemical fertilisers sold in Victoria to determine whether they complied with the previous Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) (Fertilisers) Regulations 2005.
The analysis included the assessment of heavy metal contaminants, product labels and advice notes for compliance.
For the purposes of the regulations, fertilisers are defined as substances manufactured, represented, sold or used as a means of directly or indirectly:
- fertilising the soil
- supplying nutrients to plants, or
- conditioning soil by altering the chemical, physical or biological composition of the soil.
As a result, the regulations apply to chemical fertilisers as well as manure, poultry litter, lime, gypsum, soil ameliorants and biosolids (by-products of sewage treatment processes).
The regulations manage the risks posed through fertiliser application by:
- setting the maximum permissible concentrations of the heavy metal contaminants cadmium, mercury and lead in fertiliser products
- setting the 'trigger levels' of contaminants that requires specific warning statements
- setting minimum requirements for product descriptions, to be supplied via product labels or advice notes
- requiring that product descriptions be provided to purchasers as attached labels or advice notes.
Compliance is monitored by the department and encouraged through an integrated program of testing for contaminants, surveys of product description, liaison with manufacturers and industry bodies as well as broader communications activities.
Results - laboratory analysis
The laboratory analysis results were positive, with all 25 samples meeting the content standards for cadmium, mercury and lead (Table 1). While a sample of single super phosphate contained cadmium at the maximum permitted concentration (MPC) of 300 mg cadmium/kg phosphorus, this was within the limit and therefore acceptable.
Of the 18 phosphatic fertilisers tested (fertilisers with 20 g or more phosphorous/kg of fertiliser), 15 contained cadmium in excess of the 1 mg cadmium/kg fertiliser 'trigger level' which requires concentration and warning statements on the product label. None of the seven remaining samples (the non-phosphatic fertilisers) contained cadmium above the required trigger level.
Mercury was detected in 3 single super phosphate samples above the trigger level of 0.2 mg mercury/kg. Lead was not detected in any sample at concentrations above the 20 mg lead/kg fertiliser trigger level.
Table 1: Laboratory analysis of fertiliser samples for cadmium, lead, mercury and phosphorus
|mg Cd/kg fertiliser||mg Cd/kg P||mg Pb/ kg fertiliser||mg Hg/kg fertiliser||g P/kg fertiliser|
|Single super phosphate (SSP)*||20||244||2.9||0.3||82|
|Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP)*||2.6||14||1.1||<0.01||190|
|Mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP)*||5.2||26||4.7||<0.01||200|
|Triple super phosphate (TSP)*||22||110||1.6||0.016||200|
|Mono-potassium phosphate (MKP)*||<0.5||-||0.12||<0.01||200|
|N P K S *‡||1.2||7||0.1||<0.01||180|
|N P S Zn*‡||8.6||43||0.17||<0.01||200|
|P S Ca *‡||20||154||2.4||0.092||130|
|Calcium nitrate (Cal NI)||0.11||-||0.084||<0.01||<0.01|
|Calcium nitrate w/boron (CaNI + B)||<0.01||-||11||<0.01||<0.01|
|Ammonium sulfate (SOA)||0.28||-||0.47||<0.01||0.5|
* phosphorus exceeds 2%
‡ complex fertiliser
† cadmium relative to phosphorous
|Requires cadmium concentration and warning statement on label|
|Requires mercury concentration and warning statement on label|
Results - product description survey
The product description survey found at least one non-conformance in all product descriptions collected.
Non-conformances detected included three fertiliser products delivered without an advice note (a serious breach) and two products had insufficient business details on the label.
A nitrogen-based fertiliser lacked the required warning statement for buiret.
Fifteen products required the cadmium warning statement and concentration. One product description did not contain the required cadmium warning statement and concentration and the other 14 products did not reference the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code in the warning statement.
Of the three products containing mercury concentrations above the trigger level, all product descriptions detailed the precise concentration but the warning statements were not worded correctly, as they did not reference the Food Standards Code.
The required dust warning label statement was absent from 10 products and the remaining 15 products had incorrectly worded dust statements.
The DEDJTR Chemical Standards has worked with the fertiliser industry to improve the issues identified through this survey. Manufacturers have responded positively to requests and have addressed production description deficiencies.
DEDJTR will continue to encourage fertiliser resellers and spreaders and their peak industry bodies, to provide fertiliser product descriptions to all the groups in the supply chain to ensure they are received by purchasers.
DEDJTR would like to acknowledge the high level of cooperation received from the Victorian branch of AFSA and the fertiliser manufacturers throughout this project.
Copies of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) (Fertilisers) Regulations 2015 can be downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website at www.legislation.vic.gov.au
ISBN 978-1-74264-242-0 (online)
Download the PDF version of this document: The Victorian fertiliser survey 2008-09 (PDF - 574.7 KB)