What is Nutrient Use Efficiency?
How effective are the fertilisers we use to grow crops? Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) establishes how much of the nutrients applied to crops are taken up by them, and how much yield is generated per unit applied. Better nutrient use efficiency can reduce fertiliser inputs whilst increasing yields.
When plants come under environmental stresses they cannot use their nutrition efficiently
Understanding and manipulating a plants physiology can help improve the efficiency of feeding them
Getting more applied nutrients into the crop improves efficiency & environmental impact
Using Plant Science to Improve Nutritional Efficiency
Since the 1960s the amount of fertiliser used per hectare has increased sixfold, yet the majority of fertiliser applied does not get taken up by crops and ends up in the environment where they cause pollution. Typically only a third of nitrogen applied is taken up by crops. Getting more of the inputs we apply to crops into the crop then is a major challenge for agricultural sustainability.
By understanding how plants take up and metabolise the nutrients they use Levity’s scientists are finding ways to create smarter fertilisers, fertilisers that get fully taken up, fertilisers that target the parts of the crop that are actually deficient, fertilisers that give more yield and are used at lower doses.
The Problem… Pollution & Wasted Inputs
Annual cost of US N pollution ($Billion)
Annual cost of EU N Pollution (€ Billion)
Percentage of N fertiliser wasted
What We Do
Levity use a unique combination of crop science and agronomy to find better ways to grow crops. Our scientists are researching how plant physiology can improve agricultural inputs to develop products that help farmers produce better yields.
Levity have world class research facilities split between two sites at Myerscough Agricultural College and Lancaster University. Our team of scientists enjoy unrivalled access to formulation and development labs, testing labs, controlled environment growth rooms, experimental glasshouses, field test sites and a huge array of analytical equipment.
Lab to Land
What sets Levity apart is how we approach product development. We bridge academia and industry, taking the very latest in academic research and finding ways to put it to practical use to solve problems for farmers. Our products start on a farm where our expert agronomists take time to understand the challenges faced by growers, we then go back to the lab and apply crop science in research programmes. The products that emerge are tested around the world in rigorous independent trial programmes before we are finally ready to go back to the farm with a new product.
Levity research how plants take up distribute and metabolise the nutrients applied to them, this understanding of how nutrients work inside crops is helping us t make smarter and more effective products. We have already set new benchmarks for nitrogen and calcium, allowing far better performance and lower inputs for farmers. Our expert scientists are actively researching how to improve Iron, Zinc, Silicon, Phosphorus and other nutrients. By understanding how crops work we are delivering better inputs for farmers around the world.
What are we actually trying to grow? Is the question are researchers ask when we look into how crops use the nutrients we apply to them. Often more of the nutrients applied to crops are used to grow the parts that are discarded than the parts that are harvested. Levity’s research explores how plants partition growth, and the influence fertiliser has on it. This research is helping Levity to make fertilisers that target reproductive growth, giving higher yields than conventional products.
Some nutrients such as Calcium are not absorbed properly when crops are stressed. Levity’s crop scientists study why nutrient deficiency is effected by crop stress, and are developing products that crops can use whatever the growing conditions. Our research is making fertilisers that are more reliable and that give consistent results regardless of stress. This research is helping soft fruit growers get better firmness, and potato farmers lift quality when stress is present.
Plant Energy Budgets
Plants must use energy to fuel growth and development, so energy used to take up and metabolise fertiliser can limit growth. Levity’s research looks at how much energy crops use to process fertiliser, and look for ways to make fertilisers that take less energy for plants to use, leaving more energy available for growth. Our research is helping make fertilisers that work more quickly and give better growth. Our nitrogen products are up to 12 times more energy efficient than conventional nitrogen sources, delivering better performance to farmers.
Why do some parts of plants not take in nutrients, whilst other parts do? levity are researching why nutrients like calcium and zinc are deficient in some parts of plants and not others. This research is being used to make smarter fertilisers, that target the deficient parts of crops more effectively. By properly understanding why problems occur we can make more effective products that deliver better results at lower doses for farmers.
What is applied to the soil or foliage is not always what is taken up by the crop. Nutrients can be altered by microbes, making them less available or changing them into forms that are less effective. Levity’s formulating scientists develop ways to protect our product from degradation, holding them in the most effective form for plant growth. This research prevents leaching and volatilisation, so more of our products are used by crops ensuring all our products are better for the environment and deliver great results for growers.
Energy Efficiency Using LimiN™
Plant Energy Needed to Utilise Conventional N
Plant Energy Needed to Utilise LimiN Stabilised N
(X) Times More Efficient With LimiN
What Does This Mean?
All crops must use energy in order to grow and maintain themselves, and to run metabolic activity. When plants take up and metabolise nitrogen (to create growth) they need to power the process, but some types of nitrogen are easier to use than others. Conventional nitrogen from fertilisers or manures tends to be mostly taken up as nitrate regardless of what form it was applied (it changes in the soil) which is highly inefficient for the plant to process. The form of N used and stabilised in Levity products like Lono and TouCaN is easy for the plant to use and uses 12 times less energy.
How Can This Be Used on Farm?
On farm, the use of more energy efficient fertilisers like Lono improves the rate at which crop can grow. Often when crops are stressed due to heat, drought or salinity energy availability is low and plants can not convert nitrogen into yield quickly enough, making the form of nitrogen available growth limiting. Farmers using these more advanced products see their crops responding faster and recovering from stress more quickly than when fertilised with conventional N fertilisers.
Fertilisers are essential to maintain food production and the six-fold increase in use since the 1960s has played a big part in the increase in food production over the last 50 years. However current levels of fertiliser use are unsustainable, so we need to find ways to produce crops using smaller amounts. With more than half of all fertiliser applied never making it into crops there is huge potential to both raise yields and decrease use by developing smarter ways to feed crops. I am proud of the advances our team has contributed in this field, with huge improvements in the efficiency of nitrogen and calcium use coming from our research. Nutrient use efficiency is a major focus in my research, and I hope to see many new products emerging in the future.David Marks
Conventional fertilisers take a lot of energy for plants to take in and metabolise, the crop can’t use the same energy twice so this inefficiency costs yield. Our research into energy efficient is helping to make products that give far better growth allowing the plant to use it’s energy for growth rather than nutrient processing. This approach is particularly effective when crop stress is present, and our research is helping farmers increase yields where conventional products give poor results.Anna Weston