Menu

Pros and Cons of Granular and Liquid Fertilizers

There are several ways to categorize fertilizers. One logical way to look at them is as “granulars” and “liquids.” For the purposes of this comparison, anhydrous ammonia (technically a liquid) will not be considered.

Dry fertilizers are generally incorporated into granules. Fertilizer blends can be created by mixing individual granular fertilizer of known analysis (e.g., 46-0-0, 18-46-0 and 0-0-60) in the proper ratio to create the desired blend. Dry fertilizers can be ground applied as a broadcast; applied at planting as a band, often placed 2 inches to the side and 2 inches below the seed (2-by-2 placement); or applied as sidedress and cultivated shallowly into the soil. When farmers have access to custom blended granular fertilizer, they can fine-tune their crop fertility program and potentially improve crop production efficiency. If all goes well, this can result in more profitable crop production.

Liquid fertilizers have greatly increased in popularity in recent years. They can be either ground applied or foliar applied. Liquids can be broadcast, used in a band application at planting and as mid-season sidedress. When foliar applied, the plant nutrients are absorbed through the leaves and are more readily available for plant use than if ground applied. However, the availability of foliar applied nutrients is short-lived and not continuous for the rest of the growing season. Foliar applications are a good way to correct mid-season deficiencies or supplement soil applied nutrients.

Although there is no difference in the total amount of nutrients supplied by either granular or liquid fertilizer for a specified plant nutrient application, there are differences:

  • Spatial: The distance from plant roots to fertilizer nutrients. Less mobile nutrients like phosphorus can’t get closer than the individual granule containing them. In liquid form, they are more mobile in the soil water solution.
  • Salt content: Granular fertilizers can be “hot.” Roots can steer away from a band of granular fertilizer that contains high levels of nitrogen and potassium. Liquids are often preferred for “starter.”
  • Consistency: The nutrient content is identical in every drop of liquid fertilizer, while granulars have individual nutrient components in each granule.
  • Equipment: The cost of converting equipment to handle liquid fertilizer can be an obstacle.

Here is a short list of advantages of both fertilizer types.

Liquid

  • Ease of handling and application (once set up)
  • Ease of blending
  • Uniformity of application
  • Starter and in-season application
  • Blend with crop protection products

Granular

  • Cheaper in bulk
  • Easier to store (does not “settle out” over time or “salt out” in cold weather)
  • More efficient for heavy pre-plant applications
  • Slow-release options (polymer-coated urea)

Michigan State University Extension does not necessarily recommend one type of fertilizer over another. However, farmers should consider costs, ease and convenience of application, and potential plant response when making fertilizer decisions.

Source: Michigan State University 

Recent News

Soybean Drying, Storage Could Be Challenging
10/16/2019

A challenging soybean harvest this fall is raising many storage and drying questions, according to Ken Hellevang, an agricultural engineer with North Dakota State University Extension. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service on Oct. 6, the percentage of soybeans dropping leaves was 92% in North Dakota, 80% in Minnesota, 78% in South Dakota, 68% […]

Sampling for Soybean Cyst Nematode – Fall is the Time!
10/15/2019

Harvest is well underway and once the soybeans are off the fields this provides some time to sample soil for the SCN populations.  The SCN Coalition theme for the next few years is What’s your number?  Do you know which fields have SCN and what the current population is sitting at?  If its high, then there […]

Corn and Soybeans Move Higher on Supply and Trade
10/15/2019

Strong price rallies in both corn and soybeans closed out the week after a mixed reaction on Thursday.  Corn prices initially fell due to higher than expected production levels.  Severe winter weather over a substantial area of the Corn Belt, along with a possible limited trade deal, brought the subsequent rally on Friday.  If the […]

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now