Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has kicked-off field trials evaluating fertilisers blended with zinc and manganese micronutrients extracted from spent alkaline batteries.
The company’s 90%-owned subsidiary Envirostream Australia is undertaking the trial which involves seeded wheat near Kojonup about 260km from Perth in Western Australia.
Envirostream is assessing the use of zinc and manganese derived from single use alkaline batteries that are commonly found in torches, toys and remote control devices.
The zinc and manganese are extracted from the batteries as a mixed metal dust at Envirostream’s recycling plant in Victoria.
To prepare the material for the field trials, the mixed metal dust was combined with mono-ammonium phosphate (MAP) fertiliser.
By blending the micronutrients with the MAP fertiliser, Envirostream has created a slow-release product which has been tailored to meet the needs of broad-acre farming in WA.
The Kojonup seeding was undertaken on the 5 June and involved five types of treatment, including: no fertiliser in seed furrows, application of MAP only, application of commercial fertiliser with added zinc and manganese, and use of MAP blended with two different dosages of Envirostream’s mixed metal dust.
Harvesting at the trial site is scheduled for December this year, with Lithium Australia noting results are expected in the first quarter of 2021.
“Using recycled batteries to enhance fertilisers has the potential to divert toxic materials from landfill, provide the fertiliser industry with more sustainable inputs and improve crop yields,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin explained.
“The slow-release nature of the micronutrients produced by Envirostream could prove a real advantage in terms of local crop conditions.”
“We look forward to the outcome of the trials later this year,” Mr Griffin said.
As well as carrying out the field trials, Lithium Australia is in discussions with a number of fertiliser manufacturers regarding using the mixed metal dust as the micronutrient source.
The company stated discussions have been positive and that it will provide further updates as they progress.
Additionally, Lithium Australia pointed out rapid-release fertilisers blended with micronutrients from alkaline batteries are already commercially available in the northern hemisphere.