Enhanced efficiency fertilizers, or EEFs, have been on the market for a while, but not everyone in the lawn and landscape industry knows what they are. The definition of an enhanced efficiency fertilizer is a product that allows increased plant uptake of nutrients while reducing nutrient loss to the environment through leaching denitrification and volatilization when compared to a reference product, such as urea or ammonium sulfate, both readily available (quick-release) fertilizers.
“In laymen’s terms, a product that works better than urea with respect to increasing plant uptake and reducing environmental losses, that’s an enhanced efficiency fertilizer,” says Eric Miltner, Ph.D, agronomist for Koch Turf & Ornamental. “Although enhanced efficiency fertilizer might be a newer term, there are products that fit this classification that have been around for decades.”
Methylene urea fertilizer has been in the industry for 50 to 60 years, and it would be considered an enhanced efficiency fertilizer. Sulfur-coated urea, polymer-coated urea and natural organic fertilizers also fall under the enhanced efficiency umbrella, as would the new classification of stabilized nitrogen or inhibitors.
Research on the effectiveness of EEFs goes back at least 35 years. A Texas A & M University study published in 1982 examined nitrogen leaching through golf greens. The study’s data represented the percent of nitrogen that was applied and how much was recovered in leachate throughout the growing season. When the researchers applied ammonium nitrate in the sand-based green, about 23 percent of the nitrogen they applied was recovered in leachate. When they applied urea-formaldehyde and IBDU fertilizers – the popular and most common slow-release fertilizers of the day – they recovered less than 2 percent of the applied nitrogen in leachate.
“When you look at this particular study, it’s clear that effective EEF technology has been out there for a long time,” Miltner says. “That said, the technology has certainly advanced over the years. Each EEF produced by KAS has its own unique characteristics and valued advantages. That means that lawn and landscape businesses can customize their fertilizer programs to incorporate these advanced technologies, which optimize nutrient efficiency and minimize nitrogen loss.”
More recently, researchers at Penn State University in 2014 compared Koch Turf & Ornamental’s XCU® slow-release fertilizer – a polymer-coated, sulfur-coated urea – to a straight urea fertilizer. They applied the two fertilizers at a rate of 0.9 pounds per thousand square feet of turf in a single application. Then, they mowed the turf each week for nine weeks, collected all the clippings and measured the amount of nitrogen present in the harvested clippings.
“The researchers recovered 45 percent more nitrogen in the clippings where our XCU product was applied versus the clippings treated with urea alone,” Miltner says. “The two fertilizers were applied at the same rate, at the same time and under the same environmental conditions. That’s a good demonstration of how turf treated with an EEF like XCU takes up more nitrogen. And that gives you more bang for your buck.
“Today, more jurisdictions are passing specific regulations on nitrogen application, and they’re making allowances for the use of enhanced efficiency products. That’s why it’s important for lawn care contractors to become familiar with this technology –it will help you and your customers understand compliance with these new regulations and improve nitrogen use efficiency.”
To learn more about the many advantages of Koch Turf & Ornamental’s enhanced efficiency fertilizers (EEFs) or their other turf nutrition products for the lawn and landscape market, visit kochturf.com or contact a regional sales representative.