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Controlled-release fertilizers

Abstract

A substantial improvement in fertility management can be expected from programming nutrient supply rates to fit the physiological requirements at different growth stages of plants and from simultaneously reducing nutrient losses as well as the cost bases for material, transportation, equipment and labor. Usage of controlled-release fertilizers (CRF) can potentially contribute toward reaching these goals. The currently available technology to regulate nutrient release from CRF is analysed and results are discussed.

A partial synchronisation of nutrient release and physiological need of plants can be achieved through use of fertilizers with different release characteristics.

Usage of CRF, especially those containing nitrogen, reduce nutrient losses because, at any one moment, only a small fraction of the total application is present in a readily leachable form. Similarly, volatilization losses of nitrogen are diminished. The improved efficiency of fertilizer use is economically beneficial, saves energy and reduces environmental pollution. However, since nutrient release from CRF continues in the absence of plants, toxic levels of salts can accumulate during a fallow period or, alternatively, leaching losses can be higher than with conventional fertilization. These problems can be important with winter fallow if temperatures are insufficiently low to inhibit the nutrient release.

With currently available CRF it is possible to exceed conventional application rates several fold without a danger of salinity. Thus in addition to reduced nutrient losses economic benefits can also be expected from savings in labor, transport cost and equipment. On the negative side are the additional cost for controlling the nutrient release and often a lower nutrient content per unit weight of the CRF. At present the economic picture is not clear and careful analyses are desirable.

CRF have been tested with a large number of different plants. Good crops can definitely be grown with CRF, yields are usually superior to those with single applications of conventional fertilizers and can approach those obtained with optimum liquid feed or split application programs. So far, usage has mainly been concerned with the nonagricultural field. Much interest exists in using CRF for rice or under plastic soil covers. Solutions to numerous difficult problems were attempted with CRF, such as nutrient supplies to street trees with roots growing under pavements or fertilization of bacteria decomposing oil spills on the surface of the sea.

Zusammenfassung

Wesentliche Verbesserungen der Düngung könnten erzielt werden durch Anpassung der Nährstoffversorgung an die jeweiligen Bedürfnisse der Pflanze bei gleichzeitiger Reduktion der Nährstoffverluste und der Düngungskosten. Dünger mit kontrollierter Nährstoffabgabe (CRF) könnten potentiell zur Erfüllung dieses Zieles beitragen. Die gegenwärtige Technologie zur Regulierung der Nährstoffabgabe und die mit CRF erzielten Erfolge werden analysiert.

Die Synchronisierung von Nährstoffabgabe und physiologischem Bedarf der Pflanzen kann teilweise erreicht werden durch Verwendung von Düngern mit unterschiedlich verlangsamter Nährstoffabgabe.

Nährstoffverluste, vor allem an Stickstoff, sind bei Anwendung von CRF meist geringer. Dies gilt sowohl für Auswaschungsverluste wie auch für das Entweichen von NH3- und N2O-Gasen. Der verbesserte Wirkungsgrad der Düngerausnützung ist ökonomisch nützlich, es wird dadurch Energie gespart und die Umwelt weniger belastet. Da die Nährstoffabgabe aber auch in den unbepflanzten Boden erfolgt, so können sich gelegentlich grössere Mengen an Ionen anreichern, die schliesslich zu Salzschäden führen oder,bei entsprechenden Wetterbedingungen können die Auswaschungsverluste sogar höher liegen als bei konventioneller Düngung. Solche Probleme können bei Winterbrache auftreten, wenn die Temperaturen nicht genügend fallen, um die Nährstoffabgabe zu hemmen.

Gegenwärtige CRF erlauben Einzelgaben, die die Salztoxizitätsgrenze konventioneller Dünger um ein Mehrfaches überschreiten, ohne dass Schäden auftreten. Zum verringerten Nährstoffbedarf dank der höheren Düngereffizienz kommen weitere ökonomische Vorteile wie Einsparungen in Arbeitskraft, Transport- und Maschinenkosten. Nachteilig wirken sich die erhöhten Düngerkosten und der meist gergingebe Nährstoffgehalt pro Gewichtseinheit aus. Der Nettoeffekt lässt sich noch nicht überlicken und sorgfältige ökonomische Analysen sind erwünscht.

CRF sind bei sehr vielen Kulturpflanzen untersucht worden. Dabei sind mit CRF gute Erträge erzielt worden, diese Erträge übertreffen jene mit Einzelgaben von konventionellen Düngern und erreichen oft das Ausmass, das unter optimalen Verhältnissen mit Flüssigdüngung oder mit ratenweisen Düngergaben erreicht wird. Der Schwerpunkt der Anwendung konzentriert sich aber immer noch auf Nichtlandwirtschaftspflanzen. Grosses Interesse für CRF herrscht auch bei der Düngung von Reis oder bei der Düngung von plastikbedeckten Böden. CRF haben auch für zahlreiche Sonderprobleme Anwendung gefunden wie die Düngung von Strassenbäumen,deren Wurzeln hauptsächliche unter Asphalt wachsen oder bei der Düngung von Bakterien, die Erdöl auf der Meeresoberfläche bei Verschmutzung abbauen.

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Oertli, J.J. Controlled-release fertilizers. Fertilizer Research 1, 103–123 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01073182

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Key words

  • controlled-release fertilizers
  • slow-release fertilizers