Innovation, AI and the Future of Crop and Soil Management

Explore upcoming technologies like recycled nutrient fertilizers, controlled-release coatings, and AI-driven advancements that promise to revolutionize crop management and environmental stewardship.

February 15, 2024
3 mins
Dr. Jason Haegele
North American Agronomy Lead, ICL Growing Solutions

Plants are amazing.

They are the masters of assimilating energy and nutrients that would otherwise be inaccessible to humans and animals. Think about it… plants take energy from sunlight, carbon from the air, and mineral nutrients from the soil and turn them into wonderful things like strawberries, wheat, almonds, and potatoes. Plus, a bunch of other things that make life possible for the 7 billion people on earth.

Crop nutrition is an exciting field because we’re able to optimize plant growth and replenish soil fertility, ensuring that the process can continue for generations.

My enthusiasm is fueled by the recognition that ongoing innovation is critical so we can make the most of finite resources – soil and mined mineral nutrients – while producing the food we need. We also need biological strategies to fix nitrogen to complement the Haber-Bosch process, and efficient, cost-effective ways to recycle nutrients like N and P from waste streams.

Nurturing Growth: ICL’s Collaborative Approach to Innovation

Progressive innovation can only occur when new ideas come together with the right talent. Worldwide, ICL has over 500 agronomists ⁠who work shoulder-to-shoulder with R&D scientists, engineers and business experts. Talent and ideas are abundant. We actively seek new solutions from our internal team and invest in the most promising external partners. This enables us to quickly evaluate new ideas for technical feasibility and business potential and, in turn, develop them into new products and technologies that will ultimately help growers.

How does ICL’s global network contribute to solving local agronomic challenges?

All agronomy is local. Every country, state, county, farm, and individual field has specific agronomic challenges dictated by factors like weather, soil type, and economics. That being said, there are often similar and recurring agronomic challenges across the world. Because of ICL’s global network, we can learn from the experiences of teammates on the other side of the world to find solutions to local problems. One example is Nova PeKacid®. Developed in Israel as an acidifying source of P and K for the high pH soils and challenging irrigation water quality conditions of Israeli desert agriculture, PeKacid is right at home in bringing value to irrigated agriculture in California and the desert Southwest.

Future Horizons: Advancements Shaping the Agricultural Landscape

As ICL’s North American Agronomy Lead, I get a sneak peek at products and technologies taking shape in many other parts of the world. And there’s a lot to be excited about:

  • Fertilizers made from recycled nutrients (Puraloop™)
  • A controlled-release fertilizer with a biodegradable coating (eqo.x™)
  • Low-salt index, high-analysis water soluble fertilizers for low-volume foliar applications by drone (FertiBuzz™)

While not all of these will be immediately available in the US, ICL’s portfolio of solutions for US growers is continuing to expand with the introduction of unique water-soluble fertilizers from Brazil, some of which contain micronutrients like molybdenum, nickel, and cobalt. Controlled-release coatings, nutrient stabilizers, pH optimizers, and biologicals are other examples of ICL fertilizer innovations.

How will artificial intelligence (AI) continue to shape the future of crop nutrition?

Artificial intelligence will also help us improve how we deliver nutrients to plants. Advanced weather and crop modeling through AI can help growers make the best decisions for planting and harvesting, fertilizing and irrigating. Sensors could provide real-time data that enable precise adjustments to make the most efficient use of water and crop nutrients. We’ve only begun to tap the potential for drones to remove weeds, apply foliar fertilizers, and plant and harvest crops.

Over the next decade, I imagine we will see these technologies combined in new and exciting ways to promote agricultural productivity and environmental stewardship. It’s an inspiring time to be an agronomist.

About Dr. Jason Haegele, North American Agronomy Lead, ICL Growing Solutions

Jason Haegele leads ICL’s research collaborations with universities and third-party research contractors in North America to demonstrate the efficacy of ICL products on a broad range of row crops and specialty crops. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (Ph.D. in Crop Science) and Iowa State University (M.S., Crop Production and Physiology), is a Certified Crop Advisor, and has a broad range of experience in applied research and field sales support for plant nutrition, adjuvant, crop protection, and biological products.