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FERTILIZERS: DEFINITIONS AND CALCULATIONS
Biauw T. Kang July 1995
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Training Program Telephone: (234-2) 2412626 PMB 5320 Fax (INMARSAT): 874-1772276 Ibadan Telex: 31417 or 31159 TROPIB NG Nigeria E-mail (Internet): IITA@CGNET.COM
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Ayotunde Oyetunde Kehinde Jaiyeoba Foyinsola Akinrimisi Chiweta Onianwa Nancy Ibikunle Rainer Zachmann
Kang, B.T. 1995. Fertilizers: definitions and calculations. IITA Research Guide 24. Training Program, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. 28 p.
5 and 6. This guide is intended to enable you to: • • • • discuss soil fertility and nutrient availability. and vice versa. Practicals • • • • • Practice the identification of common fertilizers. Calculate the conversion from oxide to elemental basis. calculate fertilizer applications. define different types and grades of fertilizers. Mix fertilizers. Calculate application rates for different levels of recommendations and different types of fertilizers. . Practice the use of Tables 4. Examples of fertilizer recommendations.3 IITA Research Guide 24 Fertilizers: Definitions And calculations Objectives. mix fertilizers correctly. Study materials • • Fertilizer samples.
4 Questions 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 What are nine macronutrients? What macronutrients are supplied by air and water? What are seven micronutrients? In addition to the 16 essential elements. what are some other elements that are helpful in improving yield and quality of crops? Why can water solubility alone not be used as a measure of nutrient availability? What methods exist for evaluating the availability of phosphate fertilizers? What is the definition of "fertilizer"? What is the definition of "grade" of a fertilizer? What does "10-15-18" indicate? How do most countries express the grade of nitrogen. phosphorus and potassium? What is the chemical residual effect of most nitrogen fertilizers? How are fertilizer recommendations expressed? What are five steps in calculating the amount of fertilizer required for a single-element fertilizer? How should you select a fertilizer? What data are necessary for fertilizer calculations? What do you have to consider when mixing fertilizers? .
not all fertilizers can be mixed. . Several definitions and terms are important to describe fertilizers. plants take up nutrients dissolved in water. describes the N-P2O5-K2O content in weight percentage. Mixing of fertilizers makes application easier. Water solubility. however. cannot be used as the only measure of nutrient availability to plants. however. The "grade". The exact amount of fertilizer required has to be calculated depending on type of fertilizer and area to be fertilized. for example. Generally. Fertilizers furnish plants with nutrients for growth.5 IITA Research Guide 24 Fertilizers: Definitions And calculations 1 2 3 4 5 6 Soil fertility and nutrient availability Definitions and terminology Fertilizer calculations Mixing fertilizers Bibliography Suggestions for trainers Abstract.
avoiding toxic concentrations. Soil fertility focuses on adequate and balanced supply of nutrients to satisfy the needs of plants. furnish plants with nutrients. natural or synthetic. The list of essential elements for plant nutrition has increased over the years and now totals 16 (Table 1). Fertilizers.6 1 Soil fertility and nutrient availability Soil fertility depends on the status of a soil with respect to its ability to supply nutrients essential for plant growth. Macronutrients Available from air and water Primary elements Secondary elements Micronutrients carbon hydrogen Oxygen nitrogen phosphorus Potassium calcium magnesium sulfur boron chlorine copper iron manganese molybdenum zinc . Table 1. organic or inorganic. Essential nutrients.
The most common methods other than water solubility are based on solubility of P2O5 in neutral or alkaline ammonium citrate solutions. For compound fertilizers. and K2O content. • . Since most common nitrogen and potassium fertilizers are readily water soluble. Thus. Belgium.7 The first nine elements are required in relatively large amounts and are called macronutrients. Likewise. phosphorus. The other macronutrients are subdivided into primary elements (nitrogen. most countries specify some degree of nutrient solubility in water or other reagents. carbon. particularly if intended for controlled-release fertilizers. alkaline ammonium citrate. only the water-soluble P2O5 may be guaranteed. of which not less than 50 % must be soluble in formic acid. Soft rock phosphate must contain not less than 25 % P2O5 soluble in mineral acids. special tests may be required for coated controlled-release fertilizers. The remaining seven elements are required in small amounts and are known as micronutrients or trace elements. in some cases. the P2O5 content is expressed as P2O5 soluble in citric acid. Three of them. if partially soluble. For superphosphate. in controlled-release fertilizers). Phosphate is expressed as the sum of P 2O5 soluble in water and (alkaline) ammonium citrate. In addition to the 16 essential elements listed above. even the most "insoluble" nutrients. The product must contain at least 38 % water-soluble P2O5. or in solutions of citric or formic acid. If the compound fertilizer contains Thomas (basic) slag as the only source of phosphate. P2O5. Therefore. hydrogen. some other elements are helpful in improving yield and quality of crops. Some examples of quality control of phosphate fertilizers are: • Federal Republic of Germany. are even more effective than readily water-soluble nutrients (e. potassium) and secondary elements (calcium. the situation is far too complex to use water solubility alone as a measure of availability. or both. It must be ground to such fineness that at least 90 % passes through a sieve with 0. Synthetic organic fertilizers. All nutrients are soluble in water to some degree. However. water solubility is a measure of nutrient availability to plants. are supplied by air and water. at least 30 % of the sum must be soluble in water. Unfortunately. some substances are so insoluble that they are not useful as fertilizers. For example. the total P 2O5 may be acceptable for some fertilizers. Phosphate fertilizers have a wide range of water solubility. Special methods are applied to less soluble elements only when there is evidence that the low (or controlled) solubility may be advantageous. In addition. cobalt and selenium. magnesium. For triple superphosphate.g. may require special methods of analysis. Generally. Most commercial fertilizers contain at least one of the primary elements in a form available to plants in specified amounts. sulfur). water solubility is usually accepted as a measure of nutrient availability. plants take up nutrients dissolved in water. Examples are sodium. natural organic fertilizers may be acceptable on the basis of their total N. and oxygen. Several methods exist for evaluating their availability. silicon. Many partially soluble nutrients are available to plants and. at least 90 % of the sum must be soluble in water.15 mm sieve openings. For compound fertilizers. the P2O5 content may be expressed as P2O5 soluble in water.
Citric acid (2 %) for basic slag. APA does not state the water-soluble P 2O5 content separately. but it is not stated in the guaranteed APA content. it is important to control marketing of fertilizers so that farmers can be sure that each lot of fertilizer has the same effectiveness. Neutral ammonium citrate solution for all fertilizers. The total P2O5 may be stated. . European Economic Community (EEC). • Since a wide variety of natural and synthetic substances are beneficial to plants.8 • United States. an unlimited number of products could be labeled "fertilizer" and marketed as such. Formic acid (2 %) for soft natural phosphates. Regulations adopted in 1977 specify the following permissible solvents as a basis for evaluating phosphate fertilizers: • • • • Water for those phosphate fertilizers "where applicable". The guaranteed P2O5 content of all fertilizers is based on the "available phosphoric acid" (APA) content which is the P2O5 content soluble in neutral ammonium citrate including P2O5 soluble in water. Therefore.
For example. Secondary and micronutrients are also expressed on an elemental basis. The grade is only the amount of nutrient found by prescribed analytical procedures.60 1. The grade of a fertilizer is the nutrient content in weight percentage of N. and potassium as oxide (K2O).5-14. . In some countries. A fertilizer is a manufactured product containing a substantial amount of one or more of the primary. P2O5 P K2O K CaO Ca MgO Mg SO2 S x x x x x x x x x x 0." Grade. the terms "chemical fertilizer".9. the grade 10-15-18 becomes 10-6. Recently. For example.50 2.9 2 Definitions and terminology Fertilizer. secondary macronutrients or micronutrients.66 0. The grade may also be called 'analysis' or 'formula'. although calcium and magnesium are sometimes expressed as oxides. Conversion factors for plant nutrients.29 0. and 18 % K2O. excluding any nutrient that is unavailable to plants. a grade of "10-15-18" indicates a fertilizer containing 10 % N.83 1. FAO changed to the elemental form. 15 % P2O5.44 2. Several countries have adopted the elemental basis for all plant nutrients. phosphorus as pentoxide (P2O5).40 0. Table 2 shows factors to convert from oxide to elemental basis. "mineral fertilizer".71 1. P2O5. Most countries express the grade as elemental nitrogen (N). but will use both forms for phosphorus (P and P2O5) and potassium (K and K2O) during a transitional period. and K2O in the order N-P-K.20 0. or "inorganic fertilizer" are used to distinguish the manufactured products from natural organic fertilizers of plant or animal origin which are called "organic fertilizers.00 = = = = = = = = = = P P2O5 K K2O Ca CaO Mg MgO S SO2 Table 2.
for example "prilled. Granular fertilizer. A measure of efficiency of the applied nutrient. source. the name of the product indicates the method of preparation. separating a screen fraction of crushed beneficiated potash ore. Efficiency depends on application rate. for example. Solution fertilizer. Fertilizer containing only one nutrient. anhydrous ammonia is sometimes referred to as a gaseous fertilizer even though it is applied as a liquid. A general term for liquid fertilizers including fertilizers that are readily or partially soluble. The effect increases with application rate.10 Straight fertilizer. Chemical residual effect of fertilizer. usually with some upper limit size such as 3 mm. clear liquids. The conditioning agent may be applied as a coating or incorporated in the product. Bulk-blend fertilizer or blended fertilizer. to prevent caking or to control dissolution rate. and method of fertilizer application. controlling crystal size in crystallization processes. Coated fertilizer. Unpacked fertilizer. Fertilizer in the form of particles. Liquid fertilizer dissolved in water and free of solids. Conditioned fertilizer. Prilled fertilizer. but no lower limit. such as clay or sulfur. timing. or between two screen sizes." etc. Compound fertilizer. Most nitrogen fertilizers have an acidifying effect [(NH 4)2SO4 >Urea >CAN]. crushing and screening larger particles. Fertilizer treated with an additive to improve physical condition or prevent caking. prilling a material. Nongranular (powdered) fertilizer. Reaction of fertilizers." crystalline. In general. Table 3 presents abbreviations and grades of common fertilizers. Bulk fertilizer." "compacted. the term "granular" does not imply any particular means of preparation. A granular fertilizer with round grains. usually between 1-4 mm. Granular fertilizer coated with a thin layer of substances. with upper and lower size limits. liquids containing solids in suspension. urea or superphosphate. Effectiveness of fertilizers. Often. Fertilizer containing fine particles. Fertilizer containing two or more nutrients. . Liquid or fluid fertilizer. Two or more granular fertilizers of similar size mixed together to form a compound fertilizer. However. The desired size may be obtained by: • • • • • compacting smaller particles. and (usually) anhydrous ammonia.
62 % K20 50 % K20 16 . Also called calcium ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate limestone (ANL) Urea ammonium nitrate (solution) Ammonium phosphate nitrate Ammonium phosphate sulfate Diammonium phosphate Monoammonium phosphate Ammonium polyphosphate (solution) Nitrate of potash (potassium nitrate) Muriate of potash (fertilizer-grade) potassium chloride Sulfate of potash (fertilizer-grade) potassium sulfate Single superphosphate Triple superphosphate Potassium metaphosphate Monopotassium phosphate Potassium phosphate (see MKP and KMP) 16-20-0 18-46-0 11-55-0 10-34-0 13-0-44 60 . dolomite.32 % N 30-10-0 to 18-36-0 .22 % P205 44 . AN ANL AS ASN CN CAN Ammonium nitrate Ammonium nitrate-limestone mixture (see CAN) Ammonium sulfate Ammonium sulfate nitrate Calcium nitrate Ammonium nitrate/calcium carbonate mixture (may contain chalk. marl.28 % N UAN APN APS DAP MAP APP NK MOP SOP SSP TSP KMP MKP KP 28 .48 % P205 0-55-37 0-47-31 33 .34 % N 21 % N 26 % N 15 % N 20 . or chemically precipitated calcium carbonate. Common fertilizers.11 Table 3. limestone.
a recommended rate of 80N-30P2O5-30K2O kg/ha can be achieved by combining single-nutrient fertilizers. Calculate the = amount of fertilizer required per m2 by dividing the required amount per ha by 10 000 (1 ha = Step 5. and muriate of potash. storable. Step 3. the rate is given in kilograms of nitrogen (N) per hectare. for example. area to be fertilized (m2). List necessary data: • • • recommended application rate (R) (kg/ha). Calculation for a single-element fertilizer: Step 1.12 3 Fertilizer calculations Fertilizer recommendations are expressed in kilograms of nutrients per hectare (kg/ha) in the order N-P2O5-K2O (or N-P-K). triple superphosphate. If only nitrogen is needed. fertilizer rates are formulated. analysis (C) of the fertilizer (%). 10 000 m2). least expensive. Select a fertilizer that is: • • • • • available locally. Calculate the amount of fertilizer required for the area to be fertilized. . applicable with available equipment. Step 2. Multiply the required amount per m2 by the number of m2 of the area to be fertilized. Calculate amount of fertilizer required per hectare (ha) by dividing application rate (R) by analysis (C). Based on result of field trials or results of soil analysis. Equation 1: Fertilizer required (kg/ha) Step 4. avoid or minimize use fertilizers with residual acid effect). such as urea. Calculation for combinations of single-element fertilizers (example): For example. suited to the soil conditions (on acidic soil.
In the recommended rate 80N-30P2O5-30K2O kg/ha.13 Calculate first the amount of urea (45 % N) required. Assumption: A 15-15-15 fertilizer and urea (45 % N) are recommended for the 80-30-30 kg/ha fertilizer application. This means that you must yet supply another 50 kg of N by urea: Calculation of fertilizer requirement for a certain area (example): recommended application rate area to be fertilized 120-40-0 350 m2 . then the amount of triple superphosphate (45 % P2O5) and muriate of potash (60 % K2O) to satisfy the recommendation 80-30-30 kg/ha using equation 1: of urea of triple superphosphate of muriate of potash Calculation for combinations of single-nutrient and compound fertilizers (example): An application rate of 80-30-30 kg/ha can also be achieved by combining single-nutrient fertilizers with compound fertilizers. Phosphorus and potassium must be calculated first: 200 kg of a 15-15-15 compound fertilizer supplies only 30 kg of N per ha. less amounts of phosphorus and potassium are required.
0350 ha) is: = 9.2794 kg N per 350 m2 or: = 8 kg N/ha .54 kg of MAP does not only provide the phosphorous required. the amount of P2O5 required for 350 m2 is: = 2. the amount required for 350 m (0.11 = 0.1 kg triple superphosphate If you use monoammonium phosphate (MAP) and urea.54 kg MAP This 2.1 kg urea = 3.14 urea calcium ammonium nitrate single superphosphate triple superphosphate monoammonium phosphate 45 % N 26 % N 18 % P2O5 45 % P2O5 11-55-0 2 If you use urea and triple superphosphate.54 kg x 0. but also 11 % of nitrogen corresponding to: 2.
15 According to the recommended application rate you still need to add 120-8 = 112 by N/ha.7 kg urea/350 m2 . Thus. you must still provide additional urea: (120-8) kg N/ha x = 8.
multiply the rate of N (nitrogen) application by conversion factors of 5.0 for aqua ammonia. Rate of N Ammonium application sulfate (kg/ha) (20 % N) Urea (45 % N) Aqua Anhydrous ammonia ammonia (25 % N) (82 % N) 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 50 100 150 200 200 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650 700 750 22 44 67 89 111 133 156 178 200 222 244 267 289 311 333 40 80 120 160 200 240 280 320 360 400 440 480 520 560 600 12 24 37 49 61 73 85 98 110 122 134 146 159 171 183 To calculate the amount of fertilizer required. 1. Conversion of pure elements to quantities of nitrogen fertilizers (kg/ha).2 for anhydrous ammonia. .16 Table 4.0 for ammonium sulfate.2 for urea. 4. 2.
2 for triple superphosphate. Rate of P2O5 application (kg/ha) Ordinary superphosphate (20 % P2O5) Triple superphosphate (45 % P2O5) 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650 700 750 22 44 67 89 111 133 156 178 200 222 244 267 289 311 333 To calculate the amount of fertilizer required.17 Table 5. 2. Conversion of pure elements to quantities of phosphorus fertilizers (kg/ha).0 for ordinary superphosphate. multiply the rate of P2O5 (phosphorus) application by conversion factors of 5. .
. multiply the rate of K2O (potassium) application by conversion factors of 1. Rate of K2O application (kg/ha) Muriate of potash (60 % K2O) Sulfate of potash (50 % K2O) 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 17 33 50 67 83 100 117 133 150 167 183 200 217 233 250 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260 280 300 To calculate the amount of fertilizer required.0 for sulfate of potash.7 for muriate of potash. Conversion of pure elements to quantities of potassium fertilizers (kg/ha).18 Table 6. 2.
754 p. If you mix these fertilizers. Beaton.D. 5 Bibliography Forth. For example.19 4 Mixing fertilizers If fertilizer application requires more than one element. J. B. S. .D. 4th edition.G..L. 1988. Soil fertility and fertilizers. W. or mix them together. 1985. New York.L. If you need to apply nitrogen and phosphorus. However. Soil fertility. strong basic fertilizers such as lime. You may weigh these fertilizers and apply separately. and one of them becomes less effective (Figure 1). or urea with superphosphate. the elements react against one another. H. Tisdale. especially on large mechanized farms. It is more convenient to mix the fertilizers because application is easier. Ellis. it is likely that a combination of single element and compound fertilizers are necessary. John Wiley & Jons... Nelson. New York. do not mix ammonium sulphate with rock phosphate. not all fertilizers can be mixed. Macmillan. should not be mixed with urea otherwise the nitrogen may be lost as ammonia.
but do not deviate from the subject. Generally: • • • • • • • Distribute handouts (including this Research Guide) to trainees one or several days before your presentation. Allow consultation of handouts and books during examinations. etc.).. Respect the time allotted. Promote interaction of trainees.20 6 Suggestions for trainers If you use this Research Guide in training . Assure them that your handouts (and this Research Guide) contain all relevant information. Use the questions on page 4 (or a selection of questions) for examinations (quizzes. . Reduce theory to the minimum that is necessary to understand the practical exercises. but to pay full attention to the training activity. Allow questions. Do not distribute handouts at the beginning of a presentation. Ask trainees not to take notes. or distribute them at the end of the presentation.. Keep your training activities practical. otherwise trainees will read instead of listen to you. periodical tests.
Conduct the practicals suggested on page 3 in groups (3-4 trainees per group. and figure onto transparencies for projection with an overhead projector. . Present and discuss the content of this Research Guide. using the study materials listed on page 3 (1 hour). Have resource persons available for each group. 2 hours).21 Specifically: • • • Discuss with trainees about experiences. You may photocopy the tables. the other groups should compare the results with their own calculations. needs and feasibility of fertilizer application under local farming conditions. formula. Ask each group to present the results of one example. Give each group the same set of data for calculating fertilizer applications. Make sure that each trainee has the opportunity to practice.
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