Controlled release fertilizers enhance soil health

Independent research by the Chinese Shandong Agricultural University has proven that the use of controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) does not only increase nutrient use efficiency (NUE) but can also significantly improve soil health in an agricultural system. This potentially demonstrates the benefits of controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) for turfgrass management.

2 mins

The link between CRF and soil health

The extensive study, running the course of 12 years and published in the European Journal of Agronomy (Gao et al., 2023), confirms that long-term CRF application enrich soil microbial communities and improve soil organic matter, for agricultural systems,  which are also important factors for robust turf health. These findings challenge the often negative perception associated with mineral fertilizers, showing that coated mineral fertilizers (CRFs) can be beneficial for the soil environment.


The research, which analyzed the effects of polymer-coated urea (PCU), sulfur-coated urea (SCU), and polymer/sulfur dual layer-coated urea (PSCU), demonstrated that SCU and PSCU particularly improve the relative abundances of plant growth-promoting microorganisms (PGPMs) and soil organic matter (SOM), leading to improved plant growth and reduced diseases compared to conventional urea and PCU.


CRFs and nutrient use efficiency (NUE)

Market leader in high quality CRFs, ICL Growing Solutions, has long championed CRFs for their efficiency and environmental benefits with a long history of research and trials to proof it. “Efficient fertilization is an important part of integrated turf management”, says Dr Andy Owen, International Technical Manager for Turf and Landscape at ICL. He emphasizes that nutrient use efficiency (NUE) is increasingly vital due to the EU’s potential new regulations that aim to tackle environmental issues.



Integrated Turf Management

Andy emphasizes that CRFs are not your ‘cure-all solution’, but rather a piece of a larger Integrated Turf Management program. “CRFs are part of the solution for certain turf areas, but a truly integrated program could well include some liquid nutrition, biostimulants and wetting agent applications”, he says, we have been operating and advising based on independent research, years of data, multiple sites, and robust statistics. “ITM is a practice, not a concept, and it’s happening now”, Andy adds.


The next step for nutrient use efficiency

The new findings of the recently published Chinese study that demonstrate how CRFs benefit soil health, adds to the proof that CRFs are environmentally friendly, and can potentially help to achieve the best quality turf with reduced environmental impact. Andy: “The positive effect of CRFs on soil microbial life also opens new doors for integrating coated fertilizer with biostimulants derived from plant-promoting microorganisms. This could be a next step in the finetuning and maximizing nutrient use efficiency for turfgrass.”