Ease of Growing Ornamentals with CRFs
In the ornamental business, the quality of the plant is the topmost priority, which greatly depends on the management of the grower. Each grower has his own technique and style in bringing out the best in their plants. One common factor among these growers is the kind of fertilizer they use. It would be difficult to support and grow most high valued ornamental plants without using fertilizers because fertilizers supply most of the nutrients needed by plants.
Most ornamental growers use inorganic fertilizers in granulated form. This is because with inorganic fertilizers, nutrients are immediately available and with the fast release of nutrients, salt can also be released easily which can build up quickly in the soil or media. With too much salt, the roots or leaves can be damaged due to its burning effect.
In using inorganic or chemical fertilizers, there is an over feeding and under feeding that occurs while fertilizing the plants. Overfeeding due to application of excess fertilizer like nitrogen makes tissue soft, making it vulnerable to pests and diseases. Aside from making plant tissues soft, it can also burn the roots or even the leaves. Plants can be underfed due to soil moisture content or soil pH. Excess water can leach nutrients or when the soil is dry the fertilizer just dries up before it can be taken up by the plant. When soils are either acidic or basic it renders some nutrients like Phosphorus useless because it is “locked” by forming Aluminum Phosphate (Al(OH)2H2P04) in acidic soils and Calcium Phosphate (Ca3(P04)2) in basic soils.
Positive results of CRFs Controlled Release Fertilizers (CRFs) can eliminate the over and under feeding in plant nutrition because the nutrients are released in the soil or media over a period of time, normally three to four months or even more. Most CRFs contain N-P-K in different ratios and some contain trace elements. It usually comes in prills or granules coated by a polymer or organic based material with different thickness with high quality fertilizers encased. (Some CRFs use a plastic coating technology which unfortunately is not eco-friendly.) The secret of CRFs is in its coat. It determines the rate of absorption of moisture and release of water soluble nutrients. The rate is normally dependent on the soil temperature and availability of moisture. If neither is present, nutrients will not be released. Temperature facilitates the opening of the permeable coats for moisture to penetrate and dilute the fertilizers and eventually be released to the plants.
In the 1960s, Osmocotel”, the world’s first controlled release fertilizer, was developed by Grace Sierra Horticultural Products Co. which later became part of the Scotts Company-the world’s largest specialty fertilizer manufacturer for more than 130 years. Scotts is the world leader in plant nutrition. Osmocot0l prills are made up of many thin layers of soya bean oil based coating.
The coat starts working when water is absorbed into the prills. It dissolves the fertilizer inside, but cannot be released until the prills expand sufficiently to allow the fertilizer to escape through the tiny cracks. And since it is temperature dependent, it is during warm temperature, where plants are in active growth, when its coating expands and fertilizer is released. When it’s cold, less fertilizer is released. One indicator that the fertilizer inside is used up and needs to be replenished is that its granules or prills turns into a semi transparent sphere with water inside from its original yellowish color unlike other polymer-coated granules wherein you cannot determine if it is already empty because you cannot see through its opaque plastic-based coating. It is either you need to check the longevity of the product or wait for the plant to show symptoms of nutrient deficiency before you can determine if it’s time to replenish it or not. This is the unique advantage of Osmocote®, it cuts on costs on fertilizer and labor and it is safe for the environment, no plastic residues on your soil!
In general, CRFs can be an efficient way of giving nutrients to your plants. It minimizes losses in both plant and fertilizer. There will be a reduction in mortality due to excess salts or to pest and diseases and even loss to leaching of nutrients will also be reduced. Operation cost such as labor can be reduced since you will only need to apply once or twice during the propagation of your plants depending if it is annual or perennial. It may be costly at first but if you weigh the benefits a CRF can give, it is worth it. So, why would you settle for a stressful way of growing plants with the use of conventional inorganic fertilizer when you can do it with ease and simplicity of a Controlled Release Fertilizer such as Osmocote® CRF.