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Smart fertilizing - boosting yields and protecting the environment

Smart fertilizing - boosting yields and protecting the environment

By Scout Nelson

Farmers are increasingly using enhanced efficiency fertilizers, such as nitrogen inhibitors and controlled-release products, to increase crop yields and reduce environmental losses. Proper understanding and use of these innovative fertilizers are crucial for farmers seeking increased efficiency and sustainability.

Nitrogen inhibitors, which delay the transformation of nitrogen in the soil, are divided into two main categories: nitrification and urease inhibitors. Nitrification inhibitors, such as nitrapyrin and DCD, slow down the conversion of nitrogen fertilizers into nitrate, thereby reducing the risk of leaching or denitrification.

Urease inhibitors, like NBPT and NPPT, prevent the rapid conversion of urea into ammonia, reducing atmospheric loss. It's crucial to recognize that these products are not permanent solutions but serve to delay nitrogen transformation, offering a window for crop uptake.

Slow-release and controlled-release fertilizers offer alternative methods to manage nutrient release. Slow-release fertilizers, including methylene urea, break down through biological and chemical processes, eventually releasing nitrogen in a form accessible to plants.

Controlled-release fertilizers, such as polymer-coated urea, rely on physical processes to release nitrogen gradually, protecting against immediate volatilization.

While enhanced efficiency fertilizers offer significant benefits, their effectiveness depends on appropriate application and environmental conditions.

For example, polymer-coated urea should be incorporated into the soil to prevent runoff, and nitrification inhibitors are more beneficial when applied with urea rather than urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) due to UAN's immediate nitrate content.

The decision to use enhanced efficiency fertilizers should be informed by the potential for nitrogen loss. Areas prone to wet conditions or with high residue might benefit more from specific inhibitors or controlled-release products.

Applying these fertilizers in low-risk scenarios may not justify the additional cost. Strategic application, tailored to specific crop needs and environmental conditions, is essential for realizing the potential benefits of these advanced fertilizers.

Enhanced efficiency fertilizers represent a valuable tool in the farmer's arsenal, promising not only to improve crop yields and reduce costs but also to safeguard our environment.

As the agricultural community continues to evolve, leveraging these advanced solutions will be key to achieving sustainable productivity and environmental protection.

Photo Credit: usda

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