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Fluid Journal : Fall 2011
10 The Fluid Journal Fall 2011 An Englishman by the name of Humphry Davy successfully used dilute ammonium acetate in a field of wheat. The Concept of Fluid Fertilizers May Well Date Back to 1808 The Fluid Journal • Official Journal of the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation • Fall 2011 • Vol. 19, No. 4, Issue # 74 Did you know? Shortly after 1799 when Sir Joseph Banks and American-born Count Rumford founded, what became a year later, the Royal Institution in London, they appointed Humphry Davy as their first resident lecturer. He proved to be an outstanding researcher, always fulfilling his responsibilities. In 1802, early in his lectureship, he was requested by the Board of Agriculture to direct his attention to agricultural subjects. The following year he instituted a course of eight lectures that he repeated over the next decade. In 1810, his sponsors invited him to publish the text of his lectures as a monograph entitled “The Elements of Agricultural Chemistry.” In general, his lectures tended to be oriented toward arable farming systems and dealt largely with the nature of crops and soils. Conventional crop husbandry and the associated environmental factors were mentioned but the main emphasis was on the chemistry of available plant nutrients. One complete lecture would be devoted to animal and vegetable manures and another to mineral or fossil additions. Enter fluids Davy referred to the different organic manures already in regular use and the way they were transformed by fermentation and putrefaction. He discussed how they could be mixed and the most appropriate way they should be handled and applied. He noted that there was a considerable risk of losing both liquid and gaseous components, which he referred to as “potential nourishment of plants.” To demonstrate this, he placed hot cattle manure in a retort and collected the condensable fluids in a receiver during a period of three days. When he analyzed the content of the receiver, he detected ammonium acetate and carbonate. He repeated this experiment with a slight variation, describing it as follows: “I introduced the beak of another retort filled with similar dung, very hot at the time, into the soil amongst the roots of some grass in the border of a garden. In less than a week a very distinct effect was produced on the grass upon the spot exposed to the influence of the matter disengaged in fermentation. It grew with much more luxuriance than the grass in any other part of the garden.” There seems little doubt that the experiment is probably one of the very earliest recorded instances of the injection of gaseous ammonia into the soil supporting a growing crop--well over a century before its adoption in the United States in the 1930s. Fine tuning. Although the application of organic manures, including urine, had been a well-established practice since the Middle Ages and even earlier, Davy seems to have been one of the first to offer a rational explanation of the nature of the “nourishment” they contained. He was also conscious that such “nourishment” was taken up by plants in “Davy’s work contributed much to the world of fluid fertilizers.” Write, call or e-mail the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation Phone: 785-776-0273 • E-mail: email@example.com Research and education for efficient use of fluids.