What are fertilisers?

Fertilizers are the plants’ food and are usually derived from the soil they grow in. Hence, the overarching goal of fertilizers is to restore or add the required nutrients needed for plants to continue their development. As the plants grow and nutrients are absorbed from the soil, their levels in the ground need to be monitored and restored to avoid depletion. Nutrients can be made out of organic or artificial materials and contain one or several different kinds, depending on their use case. Fertilizers and the corresponding nutrients they provide the plant with are fundamental for maintaining and enabling its physiological properties. 

Besides their nutrient component, fertilizers can come in liquid, granular or even gaseous form. Each has its perks and specific use cases. Manure is an example of liquid fertilizer. After it has been collected from livestock, it is spread into the field via a specialised liquid fertilizer distribution machine or an irrigation system using sprinklers. In the case of manure, it can also be applied when in a more solid format. Using a solid-manure spreader, it is distributed on the field by shredding it. Compared to other fertilizers and application methods, solid manure is limiting as it rarely can be done during the growing season. 

Granular or pellet fertilizers vary in size and can be applied more freely at any time during the growing season. This is especially helpful when a farmer chooses to fertilize in combination with seeding and can do so without damaging the seeds. Furthermore, using granular fertilizer brings about additional flexibility. With different equipment available and based on the crop’s needs, farmers can choose to spread over the crops but in specific rows next to it, e.g. for potatoes. 

Anhydrous ammonia, a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen, is an example of both a liquid and gaseous fertilizer. When pressurised, it is a liquid and also stored as such. However, when the pressure is released and under atmospheric pressure, it turns into a gas. Therefore, anhydrous ammonia is applied to the field in a gas form by injecting into the soil 13-15 cm deep using a pipe. 


What are the most critical nutrients?

1. Nitrogen

Nitrogen is of the three essential nutrients and required for the crops metabolic functions. It plays a vital role in almost all processes in the plant, from building protein to facilitating chlorophyll. How? Nitrogen helps the plant to build important structures such as nucleic acids and proteins. The quality and amount of protein found in the crop is a key metric farmers need to measure. Depending on the crops end use (e.g. human consumption, processed for alcohol) certain standars need to be met. Farmers get paid more for better quality crops.

2. Phosphorus

Phosphorous is the second of the three most critical nutrients. Therefore, maintaining the correct phosphorous levels is a primary concern of farmers at the beginning of the growing season as it promotes root development. Later in the growing season Throughout the plants life phosphorous is key in allowing the plant to store energy and its transfer across cell membranes. Phosphorous also helps to maintain the plants membrane structure. 

3. Potassium

Potassium is the final of the essential nutrients. It, too, serves many functions especially in successful enzyme activation. It also plays an important role in photosynthesis for example through transpiration. Potassium also allows plants to store water during warm weather conditions such as drought. With the correct amounts of potassium, plants also become increasingly resilient to pests.  among which are water retention and increased resilience to pests.

4. Boron

Boron enables the vital function of cell wall synthesis which allows plan cells to expand. Without the correct levels of boron plant growth is stunned. Root development and pollen production are also reduced. Such a deficiency is also visible on the leaves which become deformed. Ultimately a lack of boron leads to a lower quality harvest.

5. Sulfur

Sulfur too helps plants effectively fight diseases. It also aids in the process of photosynthesis by helping to produce the amino acids chlorophyll production. 

6. Calcium

Calcium helps to maintain the plant’s membranes and survive environmental extremes such as drought. 

7. Magnesium

Magnesium enables plants to continue their growth and development even in high temperatures, which otherwise would have slowed it down.


What about other micronutrients?

Plants contain many other elements such as sodium, iodine and silicon. These have, however, not been found to contribute essentially or significantly to the plant’s health. 


Human Nutrition

Proper human nutrition is not only dependent on yield alone. Healthy and well-developed crops are needed. Hence, maintaining the correct levels of nutrients in the soil, which gets absorbed by the plants, directly impacts us. By keeping healthy crops through fertilization, we get our daily calories, vitamins, proteins, fibre and minerals. Though we have become increasingly better at producing more better quality crops through fertilization, we need to become better at scaling. The worlds agricultural outputs need to grow by 60% to meet the demands of the global population in 2050. In our fight for a greener future and freedom from hunger, fertilizers are the key. Sustainably applying fertilizers allows us to grow more food at a better quality for an increasing population without requiring more land.

In our upcoming blog series Fertilizer Practices, we will deep-dive into the world of fertilizers and how they enable the lives of over 3 billion people today. 





Corn or more frequently referred to as Maize, is the third most important cereal crop behind rice and wheat. However, for what it lacks in agricultural production compared to the other cereals today, it makes up for in cultural importance. Alike wheat and rice, maize started out as a crucial staple food for the early farmers that began to cultivate and make use of this wild grass. For the ancient Mayas and Aztecs, however, the importance of maize goes beyond its nourishment.

Humans began cultivating maize around 10 000 years ago in today’s Mexico, and since then it has been introduced to farms across the world. From the northernmost points of the globe (Canada and Russia) back to the South American continent it originated from, consumers have a plethora of maize kinds to choose from. Dent corn, flint corn, sweet corn and heirloom corn are some of the most common examples.

The ancient Mayas were an impressive people that we today remember for their innovative minds, stone temples and curious artefacts they left behind such as their famous calendar. Their empire ruled a vast geographical area stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula, today’s Guatemala, Belize and regions in Mexico. Their empire lasted for a whopping 2700 years and wherever they went, they brought along their faith and maize. According to the Mayan Origin Story, (their explanation of how life on earth came to be) corn is the most important component. According to their ancient faith, the gods called Grandfather Xpiyacoc and Grandmother Xmucane created humans out of maize. Similarly, the ancient Aztecs too believed that humans came from a maize mixture that their gods shaped and moulded. Though we today may no longer consider maize a godly crop it is still appreciated, largely due to its versatility. 

Yellow, white, red, blue, pink and striped

Today there are many different kinds of maize and used in all areas of life such as animal feed, raw material, biofuel and human food. What future purpose the cultivated maize is going to fulfil depends on its makeup, especially texture. As given by its name, Dent Corn can be recognized by a little imprint or dent on top of each kernel caused by an uneven drying of its starch components. Flour Corn on the other hand contains high levels of soft starch giving it a mealy texture. In contrast, Flint Corn has very low levels of soft starch, creating very hard kernels. Popcorn is an example of very hard Flint Corn with small hard kernels. Sweet Corn, which the most common variety eaten by humans contains high levels of sugar. This is due to that its sugar is not converted into starch. Compared to other cereals, maize contains rather low nutritional and protein levels. Hence it is not suitable to use for baking leavened goods. However, due to its texture and even sweetness, it can still be used to make delicious treats. In traditional Latin American cuisine Masa, a maize dough made from Dent Corn is used to make e.g. tortillas and tamales. In the United States, maize is also used in a variety of dishes. Whole cobs can be roasted, eaten as corn on the cob, turned into flour to make bread, pudding, and other confections.

Maize can also be used to make biofuel which is based on ethanol. The ethanol can then be mixed with gasoline to produce gasohol, which can be used as fuel for cars. Though it was initially believed that using maize to make fuel is more environmentally friendly than petroleum, for example, this is still heavily debated. The resources and land area required to produce maize could be used as food may not be the most efficient way to fuel. Today the biggest producers of maize are the United States (346.0 million metric tons/year), China (260.8 million metric tons/year) and Brazil (102 million metric tons/year). 

What are the optimal conditions for corn to grow?

Though maize crops have been modified to better adapt to different weather conditions, this crop generally does not do well in cold weather. For optimal seed germination, the soil temperature should be at least 10 degrees celsius. As with the other cereals, maize needs a fair share of water to grow. However, young maize plants are sensitive to high water levels. In waterlogged fields, they generally only survive between 48 hours to four days. This kind of water stress in maize causes restrictions on the plant’s oxygen uptake. Wet and cold weather conditions also bring about other issues. Such conditions are the ideal environment for Northern Corn Leaf Blight (NCLB). NCLB is a kind of fungal infections maize plants can suffer from and are at first usually noticed on lower leaves. At first, the site of infection have a green-grey colour and is between 3-15 cm long. Over time the lesions turn to a brown colour that also indicates the area of the plant has died. Though this fungus can impact the plant’s wellbeing and harvest outcomes, the actual maize cobs are unaffected. 

Once the little maize sprouts have emerged, the growing season is underway. Generally, maize requires between 60 to 100 days to mature and be ready for harvest. The length of the increasing period heavily depends on the weather. As mentioned, maize does not do well in cold conditions. Hence unexpected frost may extend the growing period or even kill the plants altogether. When the crops are fully grown and their moisture levels between 23-25%, the cobs are ready to be harvested. In the past, like all other crops, maize was harvested manually and later developed to include the use of animals such as horses for a horse-drawn sled cutter. The stalks of the maize were cut using the sled. However, the binding of the stalks for drying, picking the cobs and husking them still remained a completely human dependent process. The first mechanical machines were invented in the 1850s. Though maize can still be harvested manually if other equipment is unavailable, a specialised corn harvester is generally used. Among the newly invented machinery was the mechanical picker. This machine, whose much improved open versions are still around today, allows the farmer to directly and automatically pick the maize cobs from the stalks. 

Maize and remote sensing

Like other crops, maize needs to be protected from various diseases that affect its development and yield. As mentioned above, one common illness that farmers need to watch out for is Northern Corn Leaf Blight. Another fungal disease that farmers battle is the so-called Corn Smut. However, in Mexico, this infection is not always considered harmful. Here the infected but not yet fully developed galls of the maize are considered a delicacy and can be enjoyed as a taco filling. Unlike the Northern Corn Leaf Blight, Corn Smut also attacks the actual maize cobs. Corn Smut prefers warmer climates and causes significant economic losses for the farmers. Early signs of this fungal infection are white coloured galls. This later burst and release fungal spores that infect other plants. The spores can even overwinter in the soil and attack plants in the spring. Unfortunately, there are no chemical means to kill or control Corn Smut. Early detection and removing infected plants is the only way of keeping the fungus in check. However, detecting infected cobs in fast fields and doing so before the galls rupture and further the fungus’ spread is rather challenging. Using remote sensing, even maize farmers can receive a lot of help, for instance with detecting pests and infections before they have the chance to make considerable damages to the crop and yield. Early detection of infestations, even before they are visible to the human eye, are essential especially for infections that cannot be managed using chemical assistance. Monitoring maize health is not the only assistance farmers can get from remote sensing. Remote sensing can even help farmers to optimise their sowing strategies by suggesting the best sowing dates. 

Once considered a gift from the gods and the matter of which humans were created, maize in all its shapes and flavours remains an important part of many cultures cousins. With several million tonnes of corn produced and consumed each year, we may after all still be a few % maize. 


Popcorn Facts

1. Why do kernels pop?

As the kernels are heated, the water inside them expands and breaks through the hard surface and exposing the soft starchy inside. 


2. Why do some kernels not pop?

Their water content is too low. 


3. How long have humans consumed popcorn?

With the earliest evidence found in Peru, humans have enjoyed popcorn since ca 4000 BC. The kernels were tossed in hot sand until they popped. 


4. What country eats the most popcorn?

The United States.






与小麦和大米一样,大麦最初是一种滋养人类的草,已有 7000 多年的历史。种植这种大麦草的一些最早发现将我们带回了古埃及农民,他们掌握了这种作物,将其转变为面包和啤酒(有人可能会争辩说是一顿完整的饭)。然而,古埃及人并不是唯一喜欢这种坚果味作物的人。大麦作为传统希伯来、希腊和罗马食品中的标志性成分,在全球文化中发挥了重要作用。即使在北欧,对大麦的依赖也不容忽视。 


对于我们现代人来说,这听起来像是一个坏笑话的开始,但在 14 世纪的英国,这是一件严肃的事情。与许多历史测量单位一样,它们基于实际事物,几乎不是主要的候选单位。 1324 年,英格兰国王爱德华二世为一英寸的长度设定了新标准,即 3 粒大麦纵向排列时所跨越的精确距离。如果这看起来像是一个不确定的测量,而只是一个精确的单位,那么您并不孤单。当时的英国商人也有类似的看法,要求国王更清楚。这导致国王发布了一项官方法令,定义了迄今为止英格兰使用的确切单位。该法令规定,3 粒大麦为 1 英寸,12 英寸为 1 英尺,3 英尺为 1 码。 


有两种主要的大麦品种,它们的区别在于植物的行数。六行大麦每行有六粒,含有更多的蛋白质,特别适合生产动物饲料。根据粮食及农业组织 (FAO) 的估计,大约 70% 的大麦作为动物饲料结束了它的旅程。两行大麦每行仅包含三粒谷物,并且含糖量较高,因此非常适合用于酒精饮料中的麦芽生产。麦芽大麦可以生产啤酒、威士忌甚至大麦酒。当大麦用于烘焙(例如制作面包)时,通常可以预期会出现更小、更松软的面包。与小麦大麦相比,大麦含有较少的麸质,使其更加紧凑和坚韧。大麦还有许多其他用例。在第一次和第二次世界大战期间,烤大麦被用作咖啡的替代品。今天,烤大麦咖啡仍然是传统咖啡豆的流行无咖啡因替代品。 


就像其他谷物一样,大麦是一年生作物。然而,与其他谷物不同,它特别耐寒。大麦对环境和温度的适应性非常强。例如,虽然大麦发芽的理想温度范围在 12°–25°C 之间,但 4°–37°C 之间的任何范围对作物来说都足够了。大麦的生长期同样令人印象深刻。虽然理想情况下它需要 90 天,但它能够在比任何其他谷物更短的时间内生长和成熟。在其生长过程中,该作物还表现出非凡的耐热性。北非周边地区的农民倾向于与近乎沙漠的条件作斗争。然而,在秋季播种大麦时,即使这些条件也比不上大麦。一旦成熟,作物水分含量低于 12%,就可以收获了。大麦的栽培过程包括播种和收获,与其他谷类作物的栽培过程相同。 


大麦可能与谷物一样接近超级作物,但即使是它也有其弱点。大麦植物容易发生的部分病害与小麦共有,如褐锈病、黄锈病和霉病。 Ramularia 是一种大麦特有的真菌感染,主要由受感染的种子引起。这种疾病的症状的特征是叶子上的小褐色斑点导致它死亡。可以做些什么呢?






1. B族维生素

3. 咖啡



4. 动物饲料