Slow-release fertilizers marketed to the public usually include a claim that nutrient release will last for a specific time period (e.g., 6, 9, or 12 months). However, no official laboratory method exists that can verify these claims. A long-term (180 days) incubation method has been developed that produces constants for an exponential model that characterizes nutrient release as a function of time. In addition, a relatively short-term (74 h) extraction method has been developed to assess nutrient release under accelerated laboratory conditions. Through regression techniques, release constants established for individual slow-release nutrient sources by the incubation method are used in conjunction with the laboratory extraction data to verify the release claims of slow-release fertilizers. Nutrient release for selected single materials has been predicted with greater than 90% accuracy in previous studies. Nutrient release from mixtures of slow-release products has been more variable. It is typical for water-soluble and slow-release fertilizers to be mixed in commercial products. Ultimately, it is intended that these methodologies will be accepted as an official method to verify nutrient release claims placed on slow-release fertilizers.
L. Carolina Medina, Jerry B. Sartain, and Thomas A. Obreza
L. Carolina Medina, Thomas A. Obreza, Jerry B. Sartain, and Robert E. Rouse
Applying water-soluble nitrogen (N) fertilizer to Florida citrus (Citrus spp.) trees on deep sandy soils may lead to poor nutrient use efficiency and possible nitrate contamination of groundwater if rainfall or irrigation is excessive. Controlled-release fertilizer (CRF) is a possible alternative to increase N uptake efficiency and minimize losses to the environment, but current grower acceptance is limited as a result of lack of experience with CRF performance and its high relative cost. The objective of this study was to measure the N release characteristics of a CRF blend (CitriBlen®) designed for mature Florida citrus trees and its three CRF components [Agrocote® Type A, Agrocote® Type C(D), and Agrocote® Poly-S®] under laboratory and field conditions. We first characterized N release from these CRF materials using a 270-day laboratory soil incubation. The quantity of N released was influenced by CRF material used; after 270 days, cumulative leached N recoveries were 90%, 82%, 85%, and 69% of the total N applied as CitriBlen®, Agrocote® Type A, Agrocote® Type C(D), and Agrocote® Poly-S®, respectively. We then measured the N release patterns of the fertilizers in a 1-year field evaluation and developed their N release curves. Studies were simultaneously conducted in central and southwestern Florida. Mesh bags containing 3.5 g of elemental N from each source were placed on the soil surface within the irrigated zone under a citrus tree canopy to estimate N release rates from the fertilizers. Despite differential N release rates between locations, at 1 year, the rank of N release was Type A > CitriBlen® > Poly-S® > Type C(D). CitriBlen® N release patterns matched well with the current University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences citrus fertilization strategy recommended as a best management practice.