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A quick guide to industrial agriculture chemicals

At Airedale Group, we have been supplying a variety of agrochemicals to customers across the UK since 2007. So, when it comes to explaining and exploring this diverse group of products, we’re perfectly placed.


The agriculture industry relies on a variety of chemicals to enhance crop yields and protect against disease or pests. These products are used in a multitude of ways, chiefly as fertilisers and pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, molluscicides and more).

Why are agrochemicals so important and what are they used for?

Agrochemicals are essential for crop productivity — they help plants to grow, thrive and survive by ensuring optimum soil conditions and protection from the damaging effects of pests like weeds, insects and fungus. They are essential for the success of the agricultural industry and therefore global food supply.

  • Soil fertility and pH: Phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen all help plants to grow quickly and healthily — fertilisers are a type of agrochemical that provide soil and plant tissues with these essential nutrients. pH neutral soils are ideal; too much acidity or alkalinity prevents uptake of the essential nutrients mentioned above. Here, liming or acidifying agents help to keep the soil pH at an optimum level. Soil conditioners can also be applied to enhance aeration and moisture capacity.
  • Controlling weeds: Herbicides help to control or kill weeds that risk outcompeting your crops for available sunlight, water and essential nutrients. These agrochemicals can be selective — which means they only kill certain species or weeds — or non-selective, meaning they kill all weeds.
  • Controlling insects: Insecticides are the next key sub-group of agrochemicals. They help to control or prevent types of beetles, moths, weevils, aphids and midges that can attack and destroy crops, usually by poisoning them.
  • Preventing fungal disease: Fungicides are the last major subtype of agrochemicals. They work by inhibiting the ability of fungus to infect crops. One of the most destructive crop diseases in the UK is that caused by honey fungus.

So, we know the key roles that agrochemicals perform and why they’re so important — but what are some examples of the most important agrochemicals?

Examples of chemicals used in manufacture of agrochemicals

Potassium chloride, phosphoric acid and nitric acid are three of the key, most popularly-sourced chemicals — they are used to produce potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen-based fertilisers respectively. However, as such a wide-ranging group of products with diverse applications, there are many other chemicals required in the manufacture of agrochemicals.

Potassium chloride — used in potassium-based fertiliser production

One of the foremost agrochemicals, potassium chloride is used in the production of potassium-based fertilisers by converting potash rock into plant food.

Plant growth is often limited by the availability of potassium, a key macronutrient that helps with water regulation, enzyme activation and stress tolerance.

Phosphoric acid — used in phosphorus-based fertiliser production

To create phosphoric acid, phosphate rock is treated with sulphuric acid. This is then mixed with ammonia in the production of phosphorus-based fertilisers.

Phosphates are the compounds that provide the energy needed for most reactions in living cells; as mentioned earlier, soils rich in phosphates are conducive to enhancing and supporting plant growth.

Nitric acid — used in nitrogen-based fertiliser production

Nitric acid is mixed with ammonia to create nitrogen-based fertilisers like ammonium nitrate. This can also be mixed with urea to create urea ammonium nitrate.

Nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, which plants use to convert sunlight into sugars as part of photosynthesis.

Phosphates — used in fertilisers, fungicides and pH regulators

In agriculture, phosphates are most commonly applied as phosphorus fertilisers — they are added to the soil to supplement and support the natural phosphorus levels in the soil, encouraging growth and boosting crop yield.

When added to soil, phosphates are taken up through the roots of the plants and flowers, enhancing the plant’s ability to transform the sun’s light into energy (photosynthesis).

Other phosphates have uses including as agents to break down clay and other soil types. They can also correct mineral deficiencies in the soil which may impact growth and yield, as well as balancing pH levels.

A few examples of phosphates used in agriculture include:

  • Dipotassium phosphate (DKP) — used in fertiliser manufacture; a source of phosphorus and potassium for regulating pH and ammonia levels.
  • Diammonium phosphate (DAP) — used as plant food to increase soil pH.
  • Monopotassium phosphate (KH2P04) — a source of phosphorus and potassium for regulating pH and ammonia levels; used in fertiliser manufacture; also a fungicide.

Other acids — for phosphorus and nitrogen fertilisers, herbicides and cleaning

Acids play a number of vital roles in agriculture, including converting raw materials into various fertilisers, pH adjustment, improving nutrient availability, and in cleaning and disinfection. These acids include, but are not limited to:

  • Sulphuric acid — a colourless liquid utilised in the production of phosphoric acid, which, as mentioned is then used to manufacture phosphate-based fertilisers.
  • Acetic acid — the active ingredient in herbicides that causes the cell membranes in the weed foliage to die. As it’s biodegradable, it’s seen as an eco-conscious choice.
  • Peracetic acid — Whilst not used for crops, peracetic acid is used as an in-situ sanitiser and biocide in agricultural premises and dairy farms, able to destroy viruses, harmful bacteria and spores. After use, it is able to break down into its individual, environmentally-harmless components.

Manganese nitrate — a source of manganese for crops

Manganese nitrate is used in fertilisers to correct a manganese mineral deficiency in crops. Manganese is an essential macronutrient for photosynthesis, plant development, metabolic health and stress tolerance; it is extracted from the soil and transported through the phloem from root to shoot.

Sodium bicarbonate — a fungicide, insecticide and liming agent

Sodium bicarbonate can be used for controlling fungal disease in plants, such as powdery mildew, black spot and downy mildew. By dehydrating insects, it also works as a pesticide against aphids, mites and whiteflies. It can also be used to neutralise a soil’s acidity.

Can we help with your agrochemical needs?

We have been supplying products and chemicals for the agriculture industry for over 15 years.

With an independently-owned fleet of delivery vehicles and a range of agrochemical products available in bulk sizes to meet your needs, we’re perfectly placed to fulfil any requirement quickly, efficiently and securely.

Whether you know exactly what agrochemical you’re after or you’d like some assistance from our experienced team, get in touch through our contact page, phone 01535 637876 or email


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