How many types of fertilizers do you know of?
Over the years of Man’s agricultural endeavours and later, recreational gardening, we have come to know of some basic conventional fertilizer options such as the use of manure or organic fertilizers. Manure as fertilizer for your plants works because it is high in nutrients, and so it is able to improve the soil quality and carbon, which helps soil nutrients become readily available to plants. Also, because it is organic, manure also improves soil structure and aeration, reducing erosion and leaching of nitrogen and allows the soil to hold more water with proper drainage.
That said, there are definitely downsides to using manure as fertilizer. Because of hormones, pesticides, and diseases, raw manure needs to be composted before it should be used. But even after being composted, manure can still retain these harmful properties, which in turn, get transmitted to food crops, which can cause serious problems.
In terms of commercial fertilizers, the most commonly used are water-soluble quick-release fertilizers. These are readily available for plants to take up when they are administered properly at the right time. Quick-release fertilizers are optimal for options such as hydroponics. However, they have to be reapplied often in order to minimize nutrient loss and to accommodate plant nutrient demand. This leads to a problem of potentially using too much fertilizer at once without timing it to the plants’ needs at various growth stages.
What are our better alternatives to deal with these challenges?
Scientists have been working on new fertilizers called controlled-release fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers, which have become more and more popular in recent years.
Controlled-release fertilizers possess a plant nutrient in a form that delays its availability for plant uptake and use after application, or that extends its availability to the plant. These types of fertilizers can also dynamically release nutrients and meet the vegetation’s changing nutrient demand throughout its growth cycle, maximize nutrient use efficiency, and minimize environmental concerns.
Slow-release fertilizers have a slower release rate of nutrient than conventional water-soluble fertilizers and even Controlled-release fertilizers. However, the rate, pattern and duration of release are not well controlled because they are dependent on soil moisture and temperature conditions. Slow-release fertilizers can occasionally be released very quickly when excessive moisture and high temperatures occur in the same period of time.
The use of controlled-release fertilizers and slow-release fertilizers can help with reducing nutrient losses, increase nutrient-use efficiency, and very importantly, protect the environment, which is why the application of Controlled-release Fertilizers or Slow-release Fertilizers is considered to be optimum in today’s age.