Controlled Release Fertilizer (CRF) is a granulated fertilizer that releases nutrients gradually into the soil, with a controlled release period. The gradualness of the release depends on low solubility of chemical compounds in the soil moisture. Since conventional fertilizers are soluble in water, the nutrients disperse quickly, as the fertilizer dissolves. But controlled-release fertilizers are not water-soluble, the nutrients disperse into the soil slowly, giving time for the crops to absorb the nutrients. Hence, improving the yield.
A steady nutrient supply for plants!
They offer many advantages over conventional fertilizers. Some of these advantages are as follows:
– They avoid the common “feast-or-famine” syndrome, observed during the inconsistent application of fast-release fertilizers.
– Fast-release fertilizers are easy to apply in excess, consequently damaging the plant.
– Waterway, stream, and groundwater pollution is a problem, and some of that pollution has been traced to fertilizers washing through these water bodies. Because the regulated fertilizers release nutrients slowly, they are less likely to contribute to this type of pollution.
– Compared to natural organic fertilizers, these fertilizers are more concentrated, easier to handle, and they are not dependent upon soil microbes and water to make nutrients available.
However with CRFs, once the fertilizer has been incorporated, it cannot be changed. In early spring and late fall, when temperatures are unseasonably warm or cool, the fertilizer may be released too quickly and cause root burn, or dissolve too slowly causing nutrient deficiencies hence, displaying a lack of flexibility in use.
Controlled-release fertilizers to increase efficiency of nutrient use and minimize environmental degradation
A report by a market research firm estimated the market value for global controlled release fertilizers at USD 2,923 million in 2016, and estimated that the market will record a CAGR of 6.7% during the forecast period of 2017-2022.
Increasing demand for high-efficiency fertilizers, shrinking farmland and land productivity, and the environment-friendly operation mode of these fertilizers are the key factors driving the market demand for controlled release fertilizers. Growing demand from developing regions and increased government and industry support could help sustain market growth. However, regulatory and environmental constraints and high manufacturing costs restrain the market.
North America is the largest market for the product, followed by Europe and Asia-Pacific. Due to increased demand for food, and shortage of arable land, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to record the highest CAGR. Country-wise, the United States, and China are the largest markets for this type of fertilizer.
The main hurdle for the market is the limited use, as the fertilizer is more expensive than the other commercial fertilizers in the market, and can cost between 2.4-10 times of conventional fertilizer. Thus, the fertilizer is used primarily in niche markets, like golf courses, landscaping purposes, greenhouses, and in ornamental, horticultural, and turf production, among others.
Way ahead: Controlled release fertilizers encompass one or more plant nutrients in a coated form that delay their availability for plant uptake and use after application. Controlled release fertilizers offer several advantages over the conventional fertilizers. They reduce toxicity to seedlings and contribute to enhanced agronomic safety. Rapidly escalating global population, along with the increased efforts for sustainable agriculture, is expected to drive the controlled release fertilizer market over the course of the next few years. However, high cost in comparison to traditional fertilizers, and the lack of awareness regarding the benefits of controlled release fertilizer are some of the factors that may hamper the market’s growth.