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Fertilizer Application Methods: Pros and Cons

Gain insights into different fertilizer application methods, their benefits, and drawbacks to optimize plant nourishment.

Table of Contents

A good fertilization application method will ensure a better yield for you. Although there are several application methods that you can adopt, we have the top five methods for you with pros and cons. So, what is the purpose of these application methods? 

The purpose of using a particular fertilizer application method is to ensure that the nutrients are readily available to plants. Now, because the application process of each method is predefined, there is less wastage of fertilizer. 

Let’s not waste any more time and start with the fertilization application methods. 

Factors for consideration

Factors for consideration

Before jumping directly into the application methods, we are going to tell you about the factors that you should consider during the application process. 

Firstly, you should check the availability of nutrients in the manures and fertilizers you are planning to use for your crops. Then, check the nutrient requirement per the growing stage of the crop. Now that you are done with the first two prerequisites, decide on the time of the application. 

Once the application method is performed carefully, your job is to look for the response of the crop. You have to see how it interacts with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Always select a method that you can afford and is economically viable for you. 

The time of application depends on the following:

  • Nature of the fertilizer being used
  • The type of soil
  • The nutrient requirements of the crop

Fertilization application methods

Primarily, fertilization application methods are of several types:

Broadcasting

This kind of fertilization method requires you to spread the fertilizer evenly over the soil area. You can use this method with any kind of fertilizer, for instance, liquid or granular form. It can be useful for you to use this method if you require it to cover a large area, like on a farm or lawn. Using a tractor or a spreader can work wonders on a large area, and for smaller areas, you can toss the fertilizer with your hands.

The broadcasting method is further divided into two types, namely basal application and top dressing. Now, the basal placement method assists you in applying the fertilizer near the roots of the plant. Basically, you can cover the root zone, especially in cereal crops or maize farms.

Secondly, top dressing involves nitrogen fertilizers that are applied in paddy and wheat fields. The sole objective is to make nitrogen available for the growing plants.  

To perform this method, you’ll need:

  • A spreader
  • A bag of fertilizer
  • Water  

Pros:

  • You can perform this method with less labor and equipment.
  • Small-scale farmers can use it with limited capital investment.
  • This method is applicable to any soil or crop.
  • The procedure is simple, and a beginner can perform it without any assistance.

Cons:

  • With no equipment usage, you can have an inconsistent distribution of fertilizer. 
  • It may result in uneven nutrient distribution.
  • There is a wastage of fertilizer because of hand tossing or rain.

Placement

Placement

It is a strategic method where you apply fertilizer to a particular area of soil. What this essentially means is that the plant can easily use the applied fertilizer when applied in small quantities. 

It can be done in various forms, such as deep placement, localized placement, plow sole placement, etc. You can use this method when you have slow-release fertilizers, or the soil has a low fertility rate. The main objective of this method is to achieve a good rooting system.

To define each type of placement application method in one line, we can say that:

  • In deep placement, you can place the nitrogen fertilizers near the roots of the plant in a paddy field. 
  • Similarly, in a localized placement, the fertilizer is added to the soil near the seed of the plant.
  • Plow sole placement involves the fertilization application during plowing. You can use this method before planting the plant.

The method requires you to have:

  • A bag of fertilizer
  • Fertilizer planter or applicator
  • GPS to locate for accurate placement
  • Soil testing kit
  • Protective gear

Pros:

  • There is less wastage of fertilizers because of the placement technique.
  • You can always administer the amount of fertilizer you wish to use.
  • This method can be used for plants in beds and pots. Just make sure the container can hold water.

Cons:

  • You will need to have special machinery and training to place the fertilizer in the right place.
  • This method requires you to apply the fertilizer more than once in case you have a slow-release fertilizer.

Fertigation

In this fertilization application method, you can use the irrigation system to apply the fertilizer to the roots of the plant. This means that you can have control over nutrient delivery and irrigation. Ultimately, the plants that grow in rock wool and any soil-free environment are the ones to benefit from this technique.

So, with the fertigation method, you can apply the fertilizer only where it is needed. The latest automated systems have made it easy for farmers to keep an eye on the application rate. They can also schedule the application time at their convenience. Nothing can be better than being able to operate it on your own.

In this method, you can use water-soluble fertilizers composed of ammonium nitrate, calcium nitrate, potassium chloride, etc. You can also boost soil health with this practice. The fertigation system works by sprinkling the fertilizers into the field. You can use injectors or controlled valves for this method. 

Here is a list of material:

  • A pump
  • Some valves
  • Tubing facility
  • A controller
  • A bag of fertilizer

Pros:

  • You can apply fertilizer to multiple plants at the same time using this application fertilization method.
  • A slow-release fertilizer is used in this method to prevent leaching.
  • It is a targeted method where fertilizer is added in particular spots to avoid fertilizer runoff.
  • With a combination of irrigation and fertigation, plants get the proper dosage of nutrients at the right time.

Cons:

  • For this method, you’ll need special irrigation equipment, and it can be costly.
  • The results will be better if you use an organic fertilizer for this method.
  • You need to be experienced, along with some initial money input, if you wish to get better results.

Foliar fertilization

Foliar fertilization application works wonders when you apply the fertilizer directly onto plant leaves. So, what this means is that now the leaves can directly absorb nutrients through the foliage. It is usually used in liquid fertilizers. The method is most useful during rapid growth time or stress. So, if your plant is in need of extra nutrients, you can use this method easily to provide additional help.

Foliar fertilization can also happen naturally when microorganisms convert dead organisms into useful nutrition. This method should be applied under high-pressure conditions, and large drips should be used so as not to harm the leaf. Use water-soluble fertilizers and take the age of the leaf into consideration. Only once you know the pros and cons of the foliar fertilizer application method can you decide whether this is suitable for your crop condition or not.

You’ll need to have the following for this method:

  • Liquid fertilizer
  • Sprayer
  • Water (if necessary)
  • Gloves for protection
  • pH adjuster for specific formulas

Pros:

  • It is an economical method of application.
  • You can use it for many crop types, like vegetables and fruits.
  • There is no harm done to the environment because no leaching happens.
  • Quick absorption of nutrients takes place.
  • It is helpful to address sudden problems with your plants.

Cons:

  • The leaves can only absorb so much fertilizer, and that makes it a less efficient method.
  • Concentrated solutions can damage the leaves.
  • Overdose can harm the overall health of the plant.

Precision farming techniques

Precision farming techniques

This method basically refers to the precise application of fertilizers’ inaccurate dosage. This method uses technology like GPS and other sensors to measure the exact requirement of fertilizers per your field condition. You can increase your yield if you use the resources in precise amounts as compared to other traditional methods of application.

Tools required for this method are:

  • A GIS software
  • A GPS
  • Fertilizer
  • Machinery
  • Water 

Pros:

  • There is proper waste management done.
  • The potential for risk and volatility is eliminated.
  • Capital investment is reduced.
  • Minimum impact on the environment.
  • You can improve soil health and decide which crop to cultivate per the suitability of the land.

Cons:

  • Technical equipment is complicated and requires expertise.
  • Uneducated farmers can have some challenges working with this kind of method.
  • You will have to pay upfront cash and get modern technology devices.
  • Remote areas cannot use this method.

Parting words!

Each fertilization application method has its advantages and disadvantages. You may consider the cost of application, crop requirements, time taken, environmental impact, etc. when picking the application method. The main objective is always to have more yield.

Mostly, the broadcasting method is used because it can be done manually. However, if you have the means to use other methods of fertilization application, do consider them. There can be a huge difference in the results you get, and some of the methods waste less fertilizer

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