Maximise Nutrient Use Efficiency with CRF

ICL is helping more farmers to maximise nutrient use efficiency with our collection of controlled release fertilisers (CRF).

February 18, 2022
3 mins

Efficient use of crop nutrients is a top priority for farmers around the world. Growers of every kind of crop want to make best use of increasingly expensive inputs for their crops’ growth, minimise risk of environmental harm whilst running commercial businesses that contribute to global food supplies.

Coated fertilisers from ICL give farmers the CRF technology to deliver the nutrition a crop needs during its complete life cycle with as little as one single application.


Nutrient Losses from Fields Avoidable

The urgent need for this CRF technology – and its widespread adoption – is clear in the facts from fields about current average nutrient use efficiency. The usual proportion of nutrients taken up by crops in the first year after fertiliser application is disappointing.

For example, when agronomic researchers monitored fertilisers applied to major cereal crops, they found phosphorus efficiency is just 15-25%, potassium efficiency is in the region of 30-50% and nitrogen use efficiency is around 40-65%.

The efficiency of nitrogen use in fields managed by some farmers is even more concerning. Up to 80% of applied nitrogen can be lost when fertiliser use is not managed well.


Understanding Nutrient Uptake Issues

The main cause of poor of nutrient use efficiency is obvious. Crops take up nutrients a little at a time and 24/7, but at different rates according to their growth stage. Whereas generally – and for good commercial and practical reasons – farmers apply crop nutrients on a few occasions in the growing season.

Secondly, and adding significantly to the problem, many fertilisers are soluble and volatile so when applied early in the season there are large amounts of nutrients are available, far exceeding the crop’s actual need at that stage.

The environmental issue with poor nutrient use efficiency is becoming increasingly obvious. The loss of nutrients leached in waterways leads to deterioration in water quality and biodiversity. The loss of nutrients into the atmosphere augments problem of climate change.

The financial penalties of poor nutrient use efficiency are also easy to understand. Wasted nutrients are a waste of money, time, and effort.

For all the reasons above, the advent and widespread availability of CRF technology is being welcomed by farmers around the world.

Depending on circumstances in cultivation, CRFs can significantly reduce:

  • Total Fertiliser Use: by a rate of 20% to even 50%.
  • Leaching: by rates up to 55%.
  • Denitrification: by an average rate of up to 40%.
  • Volatilisation: by rates up to 40%.

(Numbers based on independent research with ICL CRF technologies)


CRF Technology – Meeting the Needs of the Crop

Controlling the release of nutrition from a fertiliser is a simple concept and clever technology. It means using smart science to provide nutrition at a rate that much more closely matches what the crop plant really needs.

In simple terms, in CRF each fertiliser granule is covered in a special coating that when in contact with soil moisture begins to absorb water. As the amount of moisture absorbed into each granule of fertiliser rises then the osmotic pressure increases, and the nutrients start to ‘escape’ through micropores in the coating and out into the soil and in reach of crop roots.

This breakthrough nutrient-controlling device, developed by ICL, is E-Max Release Technology. ICL fertilisers produces a range of blends of nutrients, which can be tailored to the needs of specific crops.


Positive Results with CRF

Evidence from use of CRF shows the many benefits of switching to this new alternative to conventional nutrient application.

For example, a seed potato trial in 2021 carried out by Eurofins showed marked improvement of key parameters. With the use of ICL Agromaster CRF compared with grower’s usual nutrient strategy there was a 10% increase in yield, an 82% increasing in nitrogen use efficiency contributing to a positive return on grower investment.


ICL Agromaster (Controlled Release Fertilizer) produced a 10% increase in yield, and an 82% increase in nitrogen use efficiency.


ICL CRF technology is available in 3 product collections:

  • ICL Agroblen – a 100% coated NPK granule providing controlled release for a calibrated length of time.
  • ICL Agromaster – specially selected conventional fertiliser granules with advanced CRF technology to uniformly deliver N control and top-quality performance.
  • ICL Agrocote – N, P or K products with one of the ICL coating technologies releasing nutrients over time, from one to six months, according to what is needed.

It is true to say that, so far, CRF products have been adopted mainly by businesses growing high value crop such as field and root vegetables and fruit. However, with the rising cost of nutrients, an increasing proportion of farmers with broad acre crops are also turning their attention to the CRF processes and products from ICL that will increase the nutrient use efficiency of their fertilizer strategy and crop production plans.