Fertilizer research

, Volume 35, Issue 1–2, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Controlled-release fertilizers to increase efficiency of nutrient use and minimize environmental degradation - A review

  • A. Shaviv
  • R. L. Mikkelsen


Total world consumption of fertilizer N, P2O5, and K2O in 1990/1991 was 78, 37, and 26 million tons per annum, respectively, with a projected yearly increase of demand of about 2 to 3%. Trends in crop production (maize and wheat) in the last four decades show that N application rates increased about 15 times whereas its accumulation in grain increased only 3 to 4 times. At the same time nutrient recovery by crops remained relatively low (e.g. about 50% for N). This represents a potentially alarming situation from environmental, economic and resource conservation points of view and indicates an urgent need for improving efficiency of fertilizer use.

Anticipated benefits from slow/controlled release fertilizers (SRF/CRF) are addressed through two main processes: a. nutrient availability in the plant-soil system as affected by the interaction/competition between: plant roots, soil microorganisms, chemical reactions and pathways for loss; and b. matching nutrient release with plant demand. The various aspects of fertilization and environmental hazards associated with SRF/CRF and factors affecting nutrient use efficiency (NUE) are discussed in the light of these controlling processes. Environmental aspects include: pollution by nitrate, phosphate, and emission/volatilization of N2O or NH3; quality of food and fibers; and factors affecting soil degradation. Agronomic or physiologic aspects include: reduced losses of nutrients, labour saving, reduction of specific stress or toxicity, increased availability of nutrients and induction of synergistic effects between specific chemical forms of nutrients (e.g. interaction of mixed NH4/NO3 nutrition with K, effects of physiological acidification of the rhizosphere on P and Fe availability etc.).

Despite the environmental and agronomic benefits offered by SRF/CRF their practical use in agriculture is still very limited. Possible measures which may encourage their use in practice are: a better assessment of expected benefits; attainment of improved technologies or concepts for producing more efficient and less expensive SRF/CRF; optimal design of fertilizer compositions to induce synergistic effects; better understanding of the mechanisms which control nutrient release; construction of conceptual and mathematical models for predicting release rates and patterns under both laboratory and field conditions, for supporting the technologist, farmer and environmentalist in their decision making.

Key words

Ammonia volatilization denitrification eutrophication nitrate leaching pollution soil degradation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Shaviv
    • 1
  • R. L. Mikkelsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Agricultural EngineeringTechnion-IITHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Soil ScienceNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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