How to Select Fertilizer Application Methods

Learn how to select the most suitable fertilizer application methods for your crops, enhancing efficiency and growth.

Table of Contents

Knowing about different kinds of fertilizer application methods is not enough if you are not aware of how to select the right one. You know how important it is to apply fertilizers to the crops, and we are here to tell you how the application method can influence the crop yield. So, what are the steps to pick the right method of application? Well, let’s find out. 

Types of fertilization application methods

Fertilizer application methods are divided on the basis of the type of fertilizer you are planning to use. If your crop demands solid fertilizers, then the application methods are categorized into the following types:

  • Broadcasting: It is of two types basal fertilizer application method and top dressing fertilizer application method.
  • Placement: Includes plow sole fertilizer placement method, deep placement fertilizer method, and localized placement fertilizer method.
  • Band placement: Divided into hill placement method and row placement method.
  • Pallet application: There is no division in this type.

In case you are bound to apply liquid fertilizers, these are the divisions:

  • Starter solutions
  • Foliar application
  • Fertigation
  • Injection in the soil
  • Aerial application

The reason behind choosing a particular kind of fertilizer application method depends on the requirements of your crop. The type of fertilizer, liquid or solid, can also be one of the factors that you should consider while selecting the fertilizer application method. 

How do you select the fertilizer application method?

select the fertilizer application method

Here are the steps that can help you:

  • Step 1 –  Assess the condition of the soil. Try to understand its composition, pH levels, and nutrient deficiencies. You can also conduct a soil test if required.
  • Step 2 – Identify the crop requirements because different growth stages have different needs. You can also consult an agronomist to understand these requirements.
  • Step 3 – Consider the environmental impact each method can have. Check for nutrient runoff capacity or risk of groundwater contamination.
  • Step 4 – Look at the size of the farm and evaluate the equipment you’ll need to cover that much area.
  • Step 5 – Once the data is collected, see if you can invest sufficient money or not. There is initial investment, maintenance charge, labor cost, etc.
  • Step 6 – Try to get the updated tools and equipment for advanced fertilizer application.
  • Step 7 – When everything is assembled, conduct a small trial and see for results. Monitor the response of your crop and make any changes if required.
  • Step 8 – Now that you know which method is suitable, fix a time and the rate at which you’ll need to apply the fertilizer. 

Factors influencing method selection

Now, let’s focus on the factors that can influence your decision:

Soil characteristics

Soil is made of organic and inorganic matter. From the three common categories of soil: clay, silt, and sand, you have to identify what kind of soil you have used for your crop plantation. Now, sand is made up of tiny rocks, and the texture is rough. Whereas clay is sticky and greasy if wet, and slit lies somewhere in between these two kinds. An interesting fact to note is that soil is usually a combination of these three types; however, the proportions might differ. 

So, you have to consider the characteristics of the soil you are using and choose the fertilization application method. The pH levels and the nutrient-holding capacity are all determined by the characteristics of the soil. For instance, if you have sandy soils, the nutrient retention capacity is likely low. Therefore, it might benefit from frequent application of fertilizer. On the other hand, for clay soil, you can go for lighter applications.

Crop specific requirements

Most of the farmers grow different crops in different seasons. This changes the nutrient requirement, and you have to analyze the soil requirements at the start of every season. You’ll always have the advantage of choosing the right method if you follow this practice with every crop rotation. 

It is important to understand the root structure of the crop and its nutrient uptake pattern. Methods like band application or drip irrigation are best if you wish to target the root zone. This can enhance the nutrient uptake and give you better results. However, it is wise to check the crop requirement first.

The reason behind this is simple: some crops are sensitive to high concentrations. For example, excessive nitrogen can boost the leafy growth but hamper the fruit production. In that case, you should choose a controlled-release fertilizer method. With this, you can have control over the nutrient delivery.

Environmental impact

Environmental impact

There is a chance of leaching and nutrient runoff if you are not careful with the application method. This can impact the environment and cause long-term side effects that can harm your crop. So, you should utilize precision techniques or slow-release formulas for sustainable farming practices. 

Nutrient mobility & stability

Different nutrients have different mobility and stability rates. For instance, nitrogen can leach, whereas phosphorus can bind easily to soil particles. It is important to understand these behaviors of different nutrients. This will help you decide which method is optimal with an adequate nutrient supply. 

Capital investment & infrastructure

Not every farmer can invest so much money into every fertilizer application method and experiment to decide better. That is why it is good to look at the funds you can put in to use a desirable application method. Cost implications are important because some methods require a big initial investment, while others don’t.

You might need to install new-age machinery to execute a method. It is not always possible to abide by every prerequisite. So, please evaluate the long-term cost-benefit per the yield requirement. 

Raw material & machinery

Choosing the right kind of equipment does play an essential role in applying the fertilizer. Firstly, you’ll need to pick the right equipment. For instance, while choosing a spreader, you have to pay close attention to three different types and their making. One, there is a rotary spreader. The second is a drop spreader, and the last one is called a liquid spreader. 

Now, consider the kind of fertilizer you have and how much land you’ll have to cover. Then only you can make the best decision. Drop or liquid spreaders will likely work best with precision farming application techniques. On the other hand, rotary spreaders work randomly without following any certain pattern.

Your work does not end here; you have to make sure that you are using the right speed for the application. Get proper gear and drive within the correct margins for optimal application of the fertilizer. Make sure to inspect the parts of the equipment regularly because ignorance can cause broken parts and expensive maintenance buildup. 


You know the tech advancement and how it has changed everything. Like, precision application techniques involve GPS sensors and other devices for efficiency. You should keep up with these changes and integrate these advancements in your practice to enhance production. Nothing can be better than adopting a practice that can minimize the environmental impact.  


An educated farmer can perform the application process on their own, but an uneducated farmer will require assistance. That is why getting labor to operate bigger and more advanced machines seems like a good option. This will increase the cost of the entire operation as well. The best course of action is to adopt a method that does not need more than the optimal number of people for assistance. 

Field topography & size

Another aspect that can influence your choice is the size of the field or farm. For instance, on steep slopes, you cannot have a broadcasting application method. The reason is that it might lead to uneven distribution of fertilizer and also cause runoff. On the other hand, precision technique can work wonders on such topography. It can ensure there is uniform coverage and no wastage.

Water availability

One of the methods is fertigation, and it needs a proper irrigation system for application. Therefore, while picking this method, make sure you have the proper water availability and irrigation system. The fertigation method uses a drip system for localized application and also conserves water during the process. 

Basic practices you can follow

Water availability

These are the best practices you can follow:

Precision agriculture

If you wish to apply nutrients in precise amounts, then precision agriculture is the best answer to your question. This technique reduces wastage and does not impact the environment in large degrees. You can have improved yield with the help of optimized inputs.

Slow-release fertilizers

Coated and slow-release fertilizer formulations allow you to have a gradual release of nutrients. With this method, you do not have to worry about applying the fertilizer multiple times. There is a reduction in nutrient loss as well.


To summarize it for you, for sustainable agricultural practices, you should apply the fertilizers with the right method and at the right time. You can tailor the choice of method per your convenience and try a combination of them if your crop demands it. Making the right choice will give you benefits in the long run. 

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