Fertilizer 101: Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers


May 23, 2014

All over the world, researchers are striving to make advances in fertilizer technology that reduce losses to the environment and increase nutrient availability. One breakthrough was the development of Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers (EEFs).  These advanced fertilizers give farmers another tool in their arsenal for achieving responsible nutrient stewardship.

EEFs are fertilizer products that can reduce nutrient losses to the environment while increasing nutrient availability for the plant or crop. These fertilizers can either slow the release of nutrients for uptake or alter the conversion of nutrients to other forms that may be less susceptible to losses. 

Controlled/slow release fertilizer contains a plant nutrient in a form which delays its availability for plant uptake and use after application, or which extends its availability to the plant. Slow and controlled release fertilizers include nutrients that are absorbed, coated, occluded or reacted. Many manufacturers are now using semi-permeable polymer coatings, which allow water to move in through the coating and dissolved urea to move out. This gradual nutrient release allows for greater plant uptake and less loss of nutrients due to leaching or denitrification.

A nitrogen stabilizer is a substance added to a fertilizer which extends the time the nitrogen component of the fertilizer remains in the soil in the urea or ammoniacal form. Stabilized nitrogen fertilizers include urease and nitrification inhibitors, which extend the time that nitrogen remains in a plant available form. 

As the majority of applied phosphate fertilizer is unavailable to a plant during the first seasons of application, phosphate fertilizer enhancers decrease the initial precipitation of P fertilizers from antagonistic cations allowing increased available P within the soil solution. 

Even when yields are not significantly improved, EEFs can benefit the environment. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water contamination. In addition, EEFs can also benefit areas where nutrient loss caused by leaching is high, such as wet soil conditions.

By working together with researchers, the fertilizer industry is helping to create sustainable nutrient solutions that maximize crop yields while protecting the environment.