Plant nutrition: regulatory context

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Definition of a fertilising substance:

A fertilising substance is a product designed to ensure or enhance plant nutrition, or the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils.

Fertilising substances include in particular:

  • fertilisers, whose main function is to provide plants with nutrients,
  • soil additives, designed to act on soil properties,
  • materials (micro-organisms, humic substances, plant growth and development stimulators, etc.) whose function, once applied to the soil or plant, is to stimulate natural plant or soil processes, in order to facilitate or regulate absorption by the latter of nutrients, improve their resistance to abiotic stresses or enhance crop quality,
  • fertilising substance agronomic additives, which are compounds that alter the physical, chemical or biological qualities of a fertilising substance, with which they are mixed in-situ.

Definition of a growing medium:

A growing medium is a product designed to provide a medium in which certain plants can grow. Its use creates a substrate with the characteristics required to anchor the absorbing organs of plants, and provide contact with the nutrients necessary for plant growth. For example, peat, compost and rock wool are used as growing media.

As a general rule, plant nutrition products can be placed on the French market after obtaining a product Authorisation (AMM in French).

In France, Anses has been responsible since 01/07/2015 for issuing AMMs, after assessing the approval application dossiers. The assessment process aims to verify whether products are safe for consumers, workers, animals and the environment, as well as the quality of plant production and the agronomic efficiency of products, under the normal conditions of use shown on the label.

By way of exemption, some products can be placed on the market without prior authorisation, if they comply with:

  • either Regulation (EC) No.2003/2003: “EC fertilisers” (mineral fertilisers only),
  • or a mandatory French standard: NF U XX-XXX (e.g. NF U 42-001 for fertilisers, NF U 44-001 for basic mineral soil additives, NF U 44-204 for fertilisers or soil additives with agronomic additive, NF U 44-551 for growing media, etc.),
  • or a specifications document approved by regulations, guaranteeing their effectiveness and safety,
  • or the requirements defined by the Order of 27 April 2016 for natural substances used as biostimulants.

These regulatory texts define and characterise the fertilising substances and growing media concerned, as well as the obligations relating to their marketing, in particular labelling.

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