Phosphoric Acid, Phosphates & Fertilizers Experts

Fertilizers History

Neolithic man probably used fertilizers, but the first fertilizer produced by chemical processes was ordinary superphosphate, made early in the 19th century by treating bones with sulfuric acid. Coprolites and phosphate rock soon replaced bones as the P source. The K fertilizer industry started in Germany in 1861.In North America the K industry started during World War I and expanded with development of the New Mexico deposits in 1931 and the Saskatchewan deposits in 1958. Modern K fertilizers are more the product of physical than of chemical processes.The first synthetic N fertilizer was calcium nitrate, made in 1903 from nitric acid produced by the electric arc process. The availability of synthetic ammonia after 1913 led to many new N fertilizers, but physical quality was poor. In 1933 TVA was formed with a national responsibility to increase the efficiency of fertilizer manufacture and use. More than 75% of the fertilizer produced in the United States is made with processes developed by TVA (Tenesee Valley Authority). Major fertilizers and fertilizer intermediates introduced by TVA include ammonium nitrate, high-analysis phosphates, diammonium phosphate, nitric phosphates, ammonium polyphosphate, urea ammonium phosphates, 11-16-0 and other liquid base solutions, superphosphoric acid, wet-process superphosphoric acid, suspensions, granular urea, and S-coated urea. These have had major impact upon the production of mixed fertilizers, bulk blending, and the fluid fertilizer industry. Future fertilizers not only must be technologically feasible, economical, and agronomically suitable—as have been past fertilizers—but also must meet various air and water pollution standards during production and have reduced total energy requirements. In the 1730s, Viscount Charles Townshend (1674–1738) first studied the improving effects of the four crop rotation system that he had observed in use in Flanders. For this he gained the nickname of Turnip Townshend. Chemist Justus von Liebig (1803–1883) contributed greatly to the advancement in the understanding of plant nutrition. His influential works first denounced the vitalist theory of humus, arguing first the importance of ammonia, and later promoting the importance of inorganic minerals to plant nutrition. Primarily Liebig's work succeeded in exposition of questions for agricultural science to address over the next 50 years. In England, he attempted to implement his theories commercially through a fertilizer created by treating phosphate of lime in bone meal with sulfuric acid though it was much less expensive than the guano that was used at the time, it failed because it was not able to be properly absorbed by crops]. At that time in England, Sir John Bennet Lawes (1814–1900) was experimenting with crops and manures at his farm at Harpenden and was able to produce a practical superphosphate in 1842 from the phosphates in rock and coprolites. Encouraged, he employed Sir Joseph Henry Gilbert, who had studied under Liebig at the University of Giessen, as director of research. To this day, the Rothamsted research station the pair founded still investigates the impact of inorganic and organic fertilizers on crop yields. In France, Jean Baptiste Boussingault (1802–1887) pointed out that the amount of nitrogen in various kinds of fertilizers is important. Metallurgists Percy Gilchrist (1851–1935) and Sidney Gilchrist Thomas (1850–1885) invented the Thomas-Gilchrist converter, which enabled the use of high phosphorus acidic Continental ores for steelmaking. The dolomite lime lining of the converter turned in time into calcium phosphate, which could be used as fertilizer, known as Thomas-phosphate. In the early decades of the 20th Century, the Nobel prize-winning chemists Carl Bosch of IG Farben and Fritz Haber developed the process that enabled nitrogen to be synthesised cheaply into ammonia, for subsequent oxidation into nitrates and nitrites. In 1927 Erling Johnson developed an industrial method forproducing nitrophosphate, also known as the Odda process after his Odda Smelteverk of Norway. The process involved acidifying phosphate rock with nitric acid to produce phosphoricacid and calcium nitrate which, once neutralized, could be used as a nitrogen fertilizer. The Englishmen James Fisons, Edward Packard, Thomas Hadfield and the Prentice brothers each founded companies in the early 19th century to create fertilizers from bone meal. The developing sciences of chemistry and Paleontology, combined with the discovery of coprolites in commercial quantities in East Anglia, led Fisons and Packard to develop sulfuric acid and fertilizer plants at Bramford, and Snape, Suffolk in the 1850s to create superphosphates, which were shipped around the world from the port at Ipswich. By 1871 there were about 80 factories making superphosphate. After World War I these businesses came under competitive pressure from naturally-produced guano, primarily found on the Pacific islands, as their extraction and distribution had become economically attractive. The interwar period saw innovative competition from Imperial Chemical Industries who developed synthetic ammonium sulfate in 1923, Nitro-chalk in 1927, and a more concentrated and economical fertilizer called CCF based on ammonium phosphate in 1931. Competition was limited as ICI ensured it controlled most of the world's ammonium sulfate supplies.