The Superior Performance of ICL’s Controlled-Release Fertilizers (CRFs)

The benefits of using fertilizers are undeniable. Investing in buying and applying fertilizers provides the nutrients crops need for healthy growth and improved harvests. In the same way that we need nutrients to grow, plants also have nutritional needs – typically requiring more than 14 essential nutrients for healthy crop growth. But it is not just a case of selecting the right nutrient combination, it’s also important to consider the type of fertilizer. With every fertilizer application, there is the chance that some of the nutrients will be lost to the atmosphere or deep into the soil beyond the reach of the crops’ roots before the plants can effectively utilize them.

Controlled-release fertilizers bring many benefits that make them ideal for ensuring crops have sufficient nutrient availability at the right time to produce the quantity and quality of harvests that we all rely on.

Comparing Fertilizer Types

At ICL, we do our best to ensure all crops get the most from our fertilizers. While conventional fertilizers can supply the nutrients crops need, they often result in nutrients being lost to the environment through leaching, volatilization, denitrification, runoff, and soil fixation, reducing the efficiency of the fertilizer application.

Enhanced-efficiency fertilizers are designed to specifically address the issue of nutrient loss.

There are three types of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers that can reduce this nutrient loss: slow-release fertilizers, stabilized nitrogen fertilizers, and controlled-release fertilizers (CRFs). Let’s dive into each one of them!

Slow-Release Fertilizers

Slow-release fertilizers provide nutrient availability over a prolonged period, up to 6 weeks. This nutrient availability depends on many factors, including soil temperature, moisture, soil pH, and microbial activity in the soil.

Slow-release technology can prevent nutrient losses and are successfully used for professional turf, lawns, gardens, and landscaping. But, when dealing with crops with longer growth cycles or specific nutrient requirements, the number of factors influencing the nutrient release and the period of availability means that the effectiveness of slow-release fertilizers is debatable.

Stabilized Nitrogen Fertilizers

Stabilized nitrogen fertilizers are designed to prevent nitrogen losses caused by volatilization and leaching. As the name suggests, these stabilized nitrogen fertilizers keep the nitrogen in its original chemical form for a longer period of time.

This technology can mitigate N losses, but the effectiveness of stabilized nitrogen fertilizers is influenced by soil type, pH, and temperature. This means that high temperatures and high or low pH soils can reduce the effectiveness of these fertilizers. Sorption to clay particles and organic matter or immobilization by non-target microorganisms can also decrease their efficiency. Furthermore, blending stabilized nitrogen with phosphate fertilizers may result in chemical interactions that reduce the stability of these nitrogen fertilizers.

Controlled-Release Fertilizers (CRFs)

Controlled Release Fertilizers are more versatile and provide optimum nutrient levels throughout the crops’ entire growing cycle, with a wide range of longevities, from 1 month up to 1.5 years. These are the most versatile fertilizers to nourish soil-grown crops.

ICL’s coated CRFs consist of a nutrient core protected by two layers of fully biodegradable coatings. The nutrients inside are dissolved by soil moisture and released into the root zone.

What makes CRFs stand out from the other types of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers is the release process which is steered by soil temperature alone and is totally independent of soil type, pH, or other factors. This means the release rate is more predictable and better matched to the needs of the growing crop.

Compared to conventional urea, controlled-release fertilizers reduce all types of nitrogen losses and improve the crop’s nutrient use efficiency. CRFs reduce N losses from leaching and volatilization by up to 60% and reduce losses from denitrification by over 10%. An 80% increase in Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE) means application rates can be reduced by up to 30%, and farmers can reduce the number of applications, saving on labor and resources.

These benefits, demonstrated by independent research, clearly show why controlled-release fertilizers set the standard among enhanced-efficiency fertilizers, serving as a superior and essential tool for modern agriculture.

For more details on research and agronomic inputs, contact an ICL expert near you.