Future-proof turf management with ICL’s new biodegradable coating for CRFs

A new era of fertilization has begun.

January 16, 2023
5 mins

ICL’s newest biodegradable coating, eqo.s, is set to be one of the most important innovations and technological launches since the first controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) were introduced on the market. It is expected, once again, to shape the future of fertilizers. In an interview with Andy Owen, International Technical Manager Turf & Landscape at ICL, he explains why eqo.s is the future-proof choice for sustainable turf management.

CRFs as part of sustainable turf management

CRFs are an efficient way of providing nutrition for turfgrass. The innovative release technology of CRFs results in a steady nutrient release over a longer period of time, matching the plants’ needs throughout the season. CRFs ensure that turfgrass is never short of nutrition, can grow consistently, and nutrient losses to the environment are significantly reduced in comparison to conventional fertilizers. Additionally, the use of a CRF lowers the fertilizer input, as fewer applications are needed though the season. Andy says: “Choosing a CRF allows the turf manager to select the most efficient way of using nutrition, getting consistent growth, and a coated fertilizer has been proven to provide the highest nutrient use efficiency in many independent trials. On top of that, the new eqo.s coating technology allows faster breakdown after all nutrients are released, which further minimizes the environmental footprint. This makes it an excellent solution for sustainable turf management and ready for the future.”


Eqo.s: the first of its kind

Eqo.s technology is the first coating technology that breaks down revolutionarily fast once all nutrients are released. It is one of the biggest ICL innovations in the past years. “Yet, the turf manager will not notice much difference in comparison to the current ICL CRFs”, says Andy. “Our CRF products are of the highest possible quality, and the technology we introduce today, eqo.s, works similar as the previous coating technologies, but with some key improvements. It shows reliable, improved release pattern, high quality results, and it is fully biodegradable with a super fast breakdown once all nutrients are released.”​​​​​​​


Dr. Andy Owen in conversation with a greenkeeper at a Dutch golf course.

Benefits of CRFs with eqo.s technology

  • Improved nutrient release that matches plant needs over a longer period
  • Revolutionary faster biodegrading coating, leaving no trace behind
  • Compliant with future (EU) fertilizer regulations
  • Use less fertilizer: fewer applications required
  • Less nutrient losses to the environment
  • Consistent, reliable release for consistent growth
  • Stronger, greener, more resilient turfgrass



Compliant and future-proof

The eqo.s innovation is a step into the future for ICL. Driven by an innovative mentality, and of course the introduction of the new 2026 fertilizer legislation, ICL wanted to ensure that its products are completely conform with the highest level of regulations available. Andy: “ICL takes these sorts of regulations very seriously. We’re proud to be upholding the highest standard of fertilizer quality and regulation that is required across the industry. We are leading the way in terms of making sure that we and our customers meet the required targets.”


Fertilizer granules with eqo.s technology.

Research and testing

Like every product and technology at ICL, eqo.s is extensively researched and tested before introduced to the market. The first laboratory tests were done at ICL’s R&D department. Additionally, the technology was tested in independent studies at Bangor University (UK), and in the field at independent trial stations throughout Europe and Australia. “The technology is extremely well-tested,” confirms Andy. CRFs with eqo.s are not so different from our current CRF technologies in terms of use, consistency and quality. The application rates and high quality results will remain, and even the look of the product is similar. It is good news for turf managers as nothing really changes and their CRF products will show the same high performance as before. The main difference is that the fully biodegradable eqo.s coating breaks down quicker and is completely compliant with the new fertilizer regulations.”


How does it work? Andy explains:
“The eqo.s technology is a coated nitrogen system whereby you take a urea nitrogen granule and you apply a coating to it. In the eqo.s system, like the existing technologies, the urea nutrient core is coated with a sulphur (intermediate) layer, topped by an outer coating layer. This outer layer is the critical one as it regulates the movement of moisture into the granule and releases the nutrients out of the granule. ICL is specialized in developing these coatings. Eqo.s offers a 3-4 month longevity. Once all nutrients are released, the coating shell break down quickly into inert materials.”

Sierrablen with eqo.s technology in a spreader.


Introduction of eqo.s in ICL’s CRF brands

The first eqo.s releases will be within the Sierrablen (standard size granule) and Sierrablen Plus (mini granule) ranges. Effectively, any customers that are already using those brands will not notice much difference. The bag will change a little bit, the product will look very similar, but we’re switching from the existing material to the new eqo.s material. Later this year, eqo.s will be introduced in ICL’s other CRF product ranges such as Sportsmaster CRF, Sportsmaster CRF mini, ProTurf and Landscaper Pro.


What it takes to innovate

ICL’s R&D department has extensive lab facilities and is constantly working on improvements and new products. For the eqo.s development, many experts were involved in different phases of a process that took about 5-6 years; from screening formulation chemists, chemical engineers and analysts, to agronomists and technical marketing experts. Andy briefly explains the research process: “Initially we screen a number of coatings that might be suitable. After testing, we narrow that down to the possibilities. You also need to consider the scalability of the coating. You need to be able to produce it in a plant facility so that you can generate the right quantity of fertilizer within a cost threshold to make it economically interesting to produce. On top of that it also needs to be agronomically right in terms of nutrient release and optimal plant growth. Our research is focused on all those three areas; the screening, the scalability and then the agronomic benefits. It’s been a considerably large project for ICL to solve these problems and to come up with the right solution. But I’m proud that we can successfully introduce it to the market today.”


What’s next?

While the production site to facilitate the new eqo.s granular is still being constructed, ICL is also looking ahead developing new sustainable solutions for the turf industry. Andy: “We will continue to deliver the high quality fertilizers that ICL is known for. We’ve invested considerable amounts of time and effort in meeting this new, stringent legislation so that our customers can go on utilizing these technologies in the same manner in which they’re used to designing the right fertilizer programs to meet the needs of the sports turf industry and the sports turf users.”