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Editorial comment

It’s a staple topic of workplace conversation: ‘What would you do if you won the lottery?’ How someone responds to this question can reveal a lot about their priorities and values. But it can also hold up a mirror to present-day societal concerns.

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Last month, livestock farmer Bob Atkinson, who lives in Lancashire, UK, won £30 000 (approximately US$39 000) in the People’s Postcode Lottery, in which players sign up with their postcodes and pay £10 (US$13) a month for the chance to win cash prizes.

Aged 77, Atkinson could have been forgiven for choosing to spend the money on a holiday or towards retirement. More pragmatically, he said one of the first things he would buy is fertilizer for grass to feed his animals: “We were thinking we might have to manage without the fertiliser…It would have been a bit of a worry whether we could get enough grass without it. But with this help, we’ll probably be able to buy some.” 1 At the time of Atkinson’s win, ammonium nitrate either manufactured in the UK or imported was selling for £1000/t (US$1300/t), which helped to explain his relief.

However, when The New Statesman interviewed Atkinson 2 weeks later in early April he revealed he had yet to buy any fertilizer, saying “I was just hoping that when everybody had got what they need, that the price would come down. When you want ten ton of fertiliser, which doesn’t go very far, and you’re spending £10,000 on it, it’s got to give back.”2

The soaring costs of fertilizer, as well as feed and fuel, are clearly worrying farmers across the world. And if farmers like Atkinson are deferring buying fertilizer and reducing the amount of food they produce then the media warning of an imminent ‘food crisis’ starts to make more sense. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and months of high gas prices are clearly responsible; neither look likely to be resolved any time soon.

So what can be done now? One action that farmers can take, according to Zico Zeeman of EMT, is to use customer-specific fertilizer blends to maintain or increase yields. Turn to pg. 26 to learn more about Zico’s recommendation, which includes a case study from Topolobampo in Mexico. The rest of the issue includes similarly insightful content, including pieces on green ammonia by Stamicarbon and Johnson Matthey and a guide to extending truck scale lifetime from METTLER TOLEDO.

Following a long-awaited and welcome return to in-person events last month, World Fertilizer will be back on the road in May as this issue will be distributed at CRU Nitrogen + Syngas USA in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My colleague Ben Macleod will be attending, so if you are too be sure to say hello and find out how World Fertilizer can help with your marketing plans this year.

1. CASE, P., ‘Farmer plans to buy fertiliser with £30,000 lottery win’, (28 March 2022).
2. HASLETT, E., ‘The UK is sleepwalking into a food crisis’, (06 April 2022).