The Convenience and Customization of Water-Soluble Fertilizers

Water-soluble fertilizers offer a concentrated, customizable and efficient solution that ensures plants get exactly what they need, when they need it.

March 6, 2024
4 mins
Dr. Jason Haegele
North American Agronomy Lead, ICL Growing Solutions

Doing laundry has been made easier by concentrated formulas and laundry detergent sheets. They’re handy, easy to use and you don’t have to lug around a big jug of detergent that’s mostly water.


In a similar way, water-soluble fertilizers are a concentrated and convenient solution that adds flexibility to crop fertility planning.


Water-soluble fertilizers are fertilizers that can be dissolved in water and are applied directly to the soil or plant. They are commonly used in drip irrigation and foliar application, but that’s just the beginning of what they can do. These products can be effectively used across a broad range of crops and different geographies in North America. Anywhere liquid fertilizers are used – fertigation, starter, side dressing, foliar – is a potential application for water-soluble fertilizers.

Convenient and Customizable

Water-soluble fertilizers provide the ability to customize the exact blend of nutrients that the crop needs and when it needs it. For instance, you can have a potassium-only product, a high phosphorus product and a nitrogen product – and then these can each be combined into different formulations.

There are almost an infinite number of ways in which you can customize nutrient management using water solubles. Besides having a lot of options to choose from for the crop that you’re growing, you can apply one product at the beginning of the season and then apply the same product at a higher rate later, or you can switch to a different product.

With liquid fertilizers, most of the product is water, which means the nutrient analysis per gallon is not always very concentrated and it costs more to transport over long distances – something we must consider. Growers might opt for liquid fertilizers instead of water-soluble alternatives due to their convenience in large-scale irrigation, simplified handling and storage, and flexibility in nutrient formulations. But, because water-soluble fertilizers are a dry product, you’re transporting more nutrients for less. Using your own water on the farm also keeps the cost lower and allows fertilizer solutions to be prepared exactly when they are needed.

It’s important to note that there are some nuances when it comes to water-soluble fertilizers and water sources. Most wells, and many other sources, have hard water that contains high levels of minerals. Calcium – either in the water or in the fertilizer formula – can be tricky because it is not compatible with phosphorus. If you’re trying to dissolve a phosphate water-soluble fertilizer in very hard water, that fertilizer will not dissolve well. But ICL has overcome that challenge by developing the innovative Nova PeKacid product. It has an acidic nature to improve compatibility between calcium and phosphate so that everything mixes well and dissolves in the water.

When Quality Counts

ICL has been producing water-soluble fertilizers – available in our Nova, Agrolution and Agrolution pHLow product lines – for many years for use in drip irrigation systems where there is an increased focus on applying nutrients through the water. Higher quality water-soluble fertilizers are critical for fertigation because low quality products have a tendency to clog or damage very expensive irrigation systems, or may be more difficult to dissolve.

While liquid fertilizers are very effective as starter fertilizers, the quality of premixed solutions can vary considerably. One of the biggest factors influencing quality is the source of the phosphoric acid. Unlike ICL, sometimes, manufacturers use phosphoric acid that had previously been used for industrial processes, which can be a concern because phosphoric acid tends to pick up impurities. For instance, if the acid was used to etch metals, it could contain heavy metals that would not be beneficial for the environment, the plant, or the humans or animals consuming it.

At ICL, we manufacture our own phosphoric acid, which means the materials in our water-solubles and liquids were either mined directly or sourced from potash taken from the Dead Sea. This focus on the highest quality ingredients improves solubility – making the granules easily dissolve in water and enhancing the overall performance of the products. Agrolution pHLow 11-45-11, as an example, contains ICL’s unique Nova PeKacid technology and has demonstrated through trials to be an excellent starter because of its quality, solubility and chloride-free source of potassium.

Versatile P and K fertilizers such as Nova PeaK (mono potassium phosphate), Nova PeKacid, and Nova HiPeaK are our core products in the Nova line and we continually focus on innovation and how we can adjust the formulas for different crops or different application types. New formulations and potentially adding biostimulants, micronutrients or other components provide even more options to make traditional water-solubles the ideal solution in many crop fertility programs.

By offering select Nova products in dry, water-soluble, and concentrated liquid forms, growers can select the option that best suits their operations. ICL’s expanded product line reflects our dedication to improving agricultural practices, ensuring enhanced crop productivity and yield with solutions tailored to growers’ needs.

Just as simple and convenient solutions have revolutionized the way we do laundry, water-soluble fertilizers can change the way we farm providing a customizable and concentrated approach to growing healthy crops.