Much of the controlled release fertilizer (CRF) used in container nurseries is surface-applied to second year container stock. While labor intensive, it is the only practical means many growers have to apply fertilizer to crops that stay in the same pot for multiple seasons. Historically, container nursery growers have experienced significant losses of CRF when pots tip over from exposure to high winds, heavy rainfall and blasts of air from mist-blowers. This situation causes a high percentage of carefully applied fertilizer to end up on the ground rather than in the pot where it can provide plants with much-needed nutrition. Not only does this cause growers to lose money on the fertilizer, they may also be contributing to the pollution of nearby groundwater sources.
ICL Specialty Fertilizers has solved this longstanding problem with the introduction of Osmocote Blend with Fusion Technology,®an all-new category of CRF. This unique technology consists of a proprietary fusion agent that bonds surface-applied fertilizer prills to the growing media’s surface when activated by water. Once the bond is created, the prills stay in the pot even if it is tipped over and continue to feed the plant as intended.
Fusion Technology has been thoroughly field-tested by repeatedly tipping pots over during a series of intensive research trials. The findings showed that when pots containing standard CRF were mishandled in this manner, approximately two-thirds of the fertilizer was lost over the course of the spring and summer. Comparatively, those pots containing Osmocote Blend with Fusion Technology lost only one-fifth of their surface-applied fertilizer. The research also found that optimal results are achieved if the surface of the growing media is well-settled. It was concluded that the treatment would have kept even more of the fertilizer in the pots if the media had been more tightly packed.
Since fertilizer encourages plant growth, it stands to reason that when pots are tipped over, the smaller amount of fertilizer left behind will stimulate less growth. If CRF application rates are optimal, spillage will reduce rates, resulting in a decline in plant quality and value. The research demonstrated that crop quality declined as fertilizer rate was intentionally reduced. Since it is not practical or feasible to reapply fertilizer every time a container blows over, most growers have just accepted this loss in economic yield as being beyond their control. Fusion Technology not only offers a viable and easy-to-implement solution for second-year, surface-applied fertilizer treatments—it also maximizes profits by improving plant quality.
The Hidden Costs of Lost Fertilizer
The actual cost of the fertilizer that falls out of the pot and gets swept up or washed away is only one way that growers can potentially lose money. Because less fertilizer in the pot generally leads to lower overall crop quality, growers may also be faced with the following scenarios:
- Plants growing at different rates, making it difficult to ship them in a single
block, resulting in lost revenue.
- The off-color or lower quality plants need to be re-fertilized and grown for a
longer period of time resulting in additional fertilizer costs and slower crop
- The longer plants are kept for finishing, the greater the risk they will become injured or diseased, causing them to be lost altogether.
- If plants are not ready to be shipped as planned for, new plants can’t be rotated in.
In today’s challenging economy, growers are carefully monitoring production costs and cutting expenses in order to maximize margins and profits. In many cases, adding Fusion Technology to a fertilizer program may require a larger initial investment. So how can growers quantify how much money they are losing due to fertilizer spillage and decide if an investment in Fusion Technology makes sense?
Fusion Value Calculator
The best way to know if Fusion Technology is right for you is by conducting a proper analysis, detailed enough to make allow a thoughtful, informed decision. To help you navigate through these calculations, ICL has developed The Fusion Value Calculator, a web-based app designed to help growers explore various scenarios to determine if the technology makes sense for them. If you’d like to see what Fusion Technology can do to increase your ROI, contact your local ICL Specialty Fertilizer Territory Manager today. He or she will sit down with you, enter your data, and provide an analysis of your specific operation. This will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision and even set trials that can further demonstrate the increased profit you can experience with this revolutionary product.