The IFS celebrated 75 years of achievement during 2022

The International Fertiliser Society was established in 1947; being part of a surge in the technical development of producing fertilisers and the birth of the modern fertiliser industry. The importance of boosting food production across Europe, coupled with rapid advances in the ability to produce advanced fertilisers, led to the formation of an organisation dedicated to the dissemination, discussion, and absorption of such technical information. While originating in the UK, from the outset the Society was an international organisation and has benefited from involvement from industry figures across Europe and beyond.

To celebrate our 75th anniversary we organised a number of special events and activities. Between them, these looked backwards, at what the Society has achieved over its 75 years of existence, explained what it is doing now, and looked forwards, at how the Society can contribute to the industry in the future.

The first of these initiatives was that, for the duration of 2022, the cost of our Proceedings to non-members, bought through the website, was halved, to just £15, while access to our presentational recordings was free for non-members. In addition, access to the recordings of presentations made at our conferences and webinars was made free to non-members.

We ran a series of webinars that took a unique approach to examining the management of soil carbon within the context of productive agriculture. These were organised jointly with Fertilizer Australia and involved a presentation by an expert from each of Europe and Australia, followed by a panel discussion. These webinars turned out to be most popular, with a total of 280 people attending. Their recordings can be viewed for free via this page.

Throughout the year we ran a ‘future scanning’ exercise, designed to provide the Society, and other industry organisations with a similar remit, a better understanding of effective ways to facilitate technical knowledge transfer within the industry. This resulted in a report being published, which covers Members’ views about the ability to obtain and absorb the technical information needed to do their job and advance their career. This report can be downloaded here.

To mark our anniversary, we also enhanced the attractiveness of the Brian Chambers International Award for Early Career Researchers in Crop Nutrition, by providing the winner and two runners-up with the opportunity to make a webinar presentation about their research, further boosting their profile. 

On this page we have summarised the contribution of the Society to the fertiliser industry, along with some of its significant achievements.

Since those early days the Society has expanded and broadened its activities in numerous ways, whilst staying true to its principles of science based information, commercial neutrality and political independence. The early focus on fertiliser production technology broadened to cover the usage and application of fertilisers. Consideration has also expanded to cover the role of contextual factors that affect the ability of crops to utilise nutrients, such as soil management and the availability of water. From relatively early in the Society’s history the interrelationships between crop nutrition and the environment were paid attention – an area that has greatly gained in importance in recent decades. Another area that is becoming ever more prominent is the role of, and potential to incorporate, novel materials into crop nutrition, particularly to facilitate recycling opportunities.

Originally the Society organised meetings, at which one paper would be read to the attendees, perhaps with the assistance of an epidiascope (no overhead projectors, slides, or computers in those days!). From 1961 onwards the Society organised trips and study tours. From 1992 the one-day meetings started to be augmented by two day conferences, in part to further develop the networking aspect of Society membership. From 2016 the in-person gatherings were further augmented with online webinars.

IFS Study Tours

1967South West France
1970Ludwigshafen, Germany
1972Alsace, France
1980Billingham, UK
1981Cork, Ireland
1982Florida, USA
1983Dortmund, Germany
1984Lisbon, Portugal
1986Chester, UK
1987Southern Spain
1989Northern France
1993Cambridge, UK
1994S Central USA
1995Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic)
1996South Africa
2001South West France
2002Western Canada

Arguably the most tangible achievement of the Society during its existence has been the creation of an archive of written Proceedings, presented at our meetings and conferences. This archive, standing at 878 papers at the end of 2022, covers a vast range of topics relating to all aspects of fertilisers and crop nutrition.

The Society has also sought to support the industry in additional ways. Following the untimely death of Francis New OBE, the first secretary of the Society and secretary of ISMA (the precursor of IFA), the Society created the Francis New Memorial medal. First awarded in 1959, and awarded every second year since then, the medal is given to those who, in the view of Council, have made an outstanding lifetime contribution to aspects of the fertiliser industry, usually with involvement in the Society.

In addition, starting in 2015, the Society has organised and funded the annual Brian Chambers International Award for Early Career Researchers in Crop Nutrition.

Francis New OBE

Francis New medallists and presentations

YearTitleAuthor & MedallistProc. No.
1959ConcentrationHoward U Cunningham CBE56
1961The Importance of FertilisersHans Stevenius-Nielsen66
1963Fertilisers in Retrospect and ProspectKeith Jacob77
1965Fertiliser and the World Scene - The Problem of UnderstandingSir Edmund Hudson86
1967Developing a Basis for Fertiliser UseThomas Walsh97
1969Trends in TechnologyTravis P Hignett108
1971Fertilisers and SocietyGeorge W Cooke CBE FRS121
1973Fertilisers - The Future?Bernard Raistrick134
1975The World Food Crisis and its Implications for the Fertiliser IndustryArnold Robinson147
1977Fertilisers in DisputeH van der Molen161
1979The Fertiliser Industry - Development and Change in IrelandJoe Hynes178
1981Fertilisers for Tropical and Sub-Tropical AgricultureDonald L McCune196
1983The Changing Structure of the International Fertiliser IndustryBill Sheldrick212
1985World Fertiliser Industry: Challenges and Constraints in the Recent Past and FutureJohn M Lancaster233
1987Fertilisers in Developing Countries: Opportunities and ChallengesS K Mukherjee254
1989Development and Introduction to Industry of New TechnologyHaldor F A Topsøe277
1991Fertilisers in the EnvironmentP Bernard Tinker OBE302
1993Design and Operation of a Safe and Environmentally Friendly Nitrogen Fertiliser PlantV Bizzotto334
1995Forty Years with the Phosphate IndustryArmand Davister362
199750th Anniversary: Fifty Years with the Fertiliser IndustryFrank J Johnson395
199750th Anniversary: Fertilisers & Agriculture: 50 Years of Development and ChallengesA E 'Johnny' Johnston396
199750th anniversary: The Fertiliser Society 1947 - 1997Graham E N Lance397
1999Nitrogen Fertiliser Planning and Marketing in a Changing WorldBarry Higgs CBE445
2001Experiences of the Past 25 Years and Current Issues for the European Fertiliser IndustryGunnar Kongshaug (by Tore Jenssen)480
2003Fertiliser Consumption and Production: Long Term World ProspectsKeith F Isherwood507
2005Agronomic Knowledge Transfer from Research to the FieldIan R Richards576
2008Food, Fertilisers and Footprints – An Environmental EssayChris Dawson623
2009Safety and Environment – Lessons Learnt and Future Challenges for the Fertiliser IndustryTore Jenssen649
2011Nutrient Recycling and Ecosystem Services: Progress and ProspectsJacques Neeteson688
2013Fertilisers and Agriculture: Meeting the Challenges SustainablyLuc Maene729
2015Global Fertiliser Industry: Transitioning from Volume to ValueAmit Roy769
2017Changes, challenges, and opportunities in fertiliser-manufacturing processes: A personal review and outlookHans Reuvers803
2019Circular Agriculture: Easier Said Than DoneJaap Schroder834
2021To be announced

The Society continues to provide a range of services to its Members, the numbers of which are over 700 are growing rapidly. We organise two conferences a year – one focusing on the technology of fertiliser production and the other on crop nutrition. These are augmented by online webinars throughout the year. Our archive of Proceedings is complemented by a collection of over 130 recordings of the presentations made at our conferences and webinars since 2013. All these resources are accessible for free by our Members.