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Managing Nutrients Effectively : Fertilizer Management

What is nutrient use efficiency?

From a farmers perspective, nutrient efficiency can be usually defined as the nutrients applied are all taken up or absorbed by the corp. Nutrient use efficiency (NUE) is a critically important concept in the evaluation of crop production systems, its nutrients inputs as well as its outputs. It can be greatly impacted by fertilizer management as well as by soil- and plant-water management. The objective of nutrient use is to increase the overall performance of cropping systems by providing economically optimum nourishment to the crop while minimizing nutrient losses from the field. NUE addresses some but not all aspects of that performance.


Nutrient & Fertilizer Management Facts

  • Nitrogen is the nutrient that most frequently limits irrigated crop production in Malaysia

  • The nitrate (NO3– ) form of nitrogen fertilizer is extremely soluble and subject to runoff and leaching losses.

  • Phosphorus in soils is tightly held to soil particles and may contaminate surface water through soil erosion in runoff.

  • Organic forms of phosphorus found in humus, manure, and crop residues tend to be more soluble.


1. Straight fertilizers:

Straight fertilizer is a fertilizer that contribute single nutrient to the crops. Few examples of straight fertilizer are urea, rock phosphate, ammonia, ammonium sulfate and muriate of potash. Straight fertilizer can be used straight to the crops but the nutrients that have been supply are incomplete. This fertilizer usually mixed with other types of fertilizer to formulate mixed fertilizer and compound fertilizer. The advantage of this straight fertilizer is because of the low price compare to the other fertilizer. But, the effect to the crops is not good enough.

Straight fertilizer usually contributes one of these 3 main nutrients to the crops which are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) or mostly known as NPK.

  1. Nitrogen fertilizer – Nitrogen is one of the main elements which can be found in most commercial fertilizer. Nitrogen is important to the crops because nitrogen is a component in plant cells (chlorophyll) which gives the green look for the plants. Nitrogen function is to supply foods to the plant during photosynthesis and enhance the plants growth. Lack of nitrogen will cause the leaf become yellowish and consequence on the plant growth.

  2. Phosphorus (P) – Phosphorus is a second ingredient in fertilizer. It will act to enhance root growth and flowering. The root will grow deep and tree becomes much stronger. Nutrient will also be absorbed effectively by the roots.

  3. Potassium (K) – Potassium is also an important component in numerous fertilizers. It is important in flowering and fruiting purpose. Lack of potassium will have an effect on the plants protein synthesis. Potassium will support in plant chemical process such as carbohydrate, sugar, protein, and enzyme synthesis for plant growth.

2. Complex / Compound fertilizers:

Complex fertilizers contain two or three primary plant nutrients of which two primary nutrients are in chemical combination. These fertilisers are usually produced in granular form.

Complex / Compound fertilizers, which contain N, P, and K, can often be produced by mixing straight fertilizers. In some cases, chemical reactions occur between the two or more components. For example, mono-ammonium and diammonium phosphates, which provide plants with both N and P, are produced by neutralizing phosphoric acid (from phosphate rock) and ammonia :

NH3 + H3PO4 → (NH4)H2PO4

2 NH3 + H3PO4 → (NH4)2HPO4



Nitrogen and phosphorous occur naturally in streams throughout Utah and are important nutrients to aquatic ecosystems. However, too much of these nutrients can cause serious problems in lakes and streams. Often times in agricultural areas, excess nitrogen enters the system from animal operations or from irrigation return flow. These added nutrients may lead to fish kills, noxious aquatic plant growth, and foul odors.


  • Follow label directions

  • Lock or otherwise secure storage container valves when not in use

  • DO NOT store fertilizer underground in containers or pits

  • Mix and load fertilizers at the application place when possible

  • Handle and store fertilizer away from wellheads and surface water

  • Immediately recover and reuse or properly dispose of fertilizer spills

  • Always store fertilizers in their original containers


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