Controlled Release Fertilisers (CRF) – helping towards net zero

Read how controlled release fertilisers (CRF) can help farmers increase productivity with a more efficient nutrient supply, using the very latest technology.

January 1, 2023
3 mins
Scott Garnett
England, UK

The recent COP-27 international gathering in Egypt and unusually high temperatures experienced in Europe, have reinforced the need to address the challenges of climate change. For UK agriculture, the NFU has set an ambitious target for the industry to achieve net zero by 2040 – less than 20 years away.

There is no simple solution, no ‘magic bullet’. Instead, it will be taking a multitude of actions and changes. As a well-known supermarket reminds us – ‘every little helps’.

Fertiliser choice will make an impact

Fertiliser choice and use will have an important part to play as the industry moves forward. One of the three key pillars of the NFU’s strategy is to improve productivity leading to the same, or more, food produced with less inputs. In particular, to “use controlled release fertilisers and inhibitors to increase efficient use of nitrogen and reduce emissions.”

However, the environmental benefits from such a fertiliser can be further enhanced by the use of technology that controls the release of the nutrients once they are applied. Sophisticated technology, developed by ICL Growing Solutions, enables growers to tailor the period over which nutrients are released to the growing plants from a few months to over a year.

Improve nutrient availability with CRF

Controlled Release Fertilisers (CRF) use technology to ensure nutrients are available to the crop when it needs it, week by week. As a result, crop uptake significantly reduces the risk of nutrient loss through run-off, leaching or volatilisation. Avoiding the loss of valuable nutrients makes good economic sense as well. It means valuable nutrients are used to their optimum to achieve yield and quality.

Ensuring the right amount of nutrient is available when needed, will ensure optimum uptake and utilisation efficiency of applied nitrogen. Thus, the risk of leaching and volatilisation is further reduced.

Just one application needed

Controlled release fertilisers (CRF) afford other opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of crop production. It makes it possible to apply just one application of fertiliser in a growing season. Reducing application passes will in turn reduce the amount of fuel used on every treated hectare. This brings savings of both emissions and the financial cost of diesel, as well as savings on labour and machinery operating costs.

Single pass applications also minimise soil compaction which, in turn, can lead to compacted soils and the potential for anaerobic conditions that will increase volatilisation.

CRF technology applied to fertiliser products based on naturally occurring nutrients, produced with a very low carbon footprint will therefore reduce on-farm emissions and lower the carbon footprint of farm produce.

E-Max Release Technology

ICL’s innovative E-Max Release Technology developed by ICL, covers the fertiliser with a special coating that – once in contact with the soil and associated moisture – begins to take up water. As the moisture content builds up in each granule of fertiliser, so the osmotic pressure increases and nutrients start to ‘escape’ into the soil via micropores in the coating.

CRF technology is available in three different product ranges:

  1. Agroblen coated fertilisers offer the complete control of nutrient release to beyond 12 months. For many high value crops a single application will last at least one season.
  2. Agromaster combines advanced coating technologies with specially selected conventional granules. Available in a wide range of customised formulations, Agromaster products provide control of nutrient supply, high yields and minimum risk of loss to the environment.
  3. Agrocote Max are single nutrient, coated products that can provide release for up to 12 months. These products are often used to gain high nutrient use efficiency as well as reducing the number of applications needed in a season.