Liquid or Dry Fertilizer–Which is Best?

February 18, 2009 at 7:00 am 12 comments

Next to “What is the Cash Rent?”, one of the most commonly asked questions is “Which is better, liquid or dry fertilizer?”  In the February 3, 2009 CORN Newsletter, this very question was answered by OSU Soil Fertility Specialist Robert Mullen.  The answer is simple: they are both equally efficient in supplying nutrient needs in our area. Dr. Mullen writes:

For almost all situations (unless you are in the desert southwest), the choice of dry or liquid is one of material handling and price per pound, not plant availability. Both liquid and dry phosphate fertilizers will stay put in the soil when incorporated, too, so picking dry or liquid is up to you and your application equipment. Pick the cheapest commercial source once you calculate the value per pound (and read a recent soil test report for your field).

Recently, the discussion of using a polyphosphate or orthophosphate has received attention.  In the same article, Dr. Mullen writes:

In the 60s, the old forms of phosphorus (P) fertilizer were all orthophosphates, but advances in chemistry led to the production of more concentrated P fertilizers, the polyphosphates and pyrophosphates. Some folks may choose all “ortho” liquid, as it is already plant available, however when polyphosphates are introduced into the soils in your field, they convert to orthophosphate anyway, usually in a very short period of time (in less than a day if the conditions are right). This process is fast enough to supply plants with the P they need, so again, pick the cheapest form of fertilizer that meets your needs.

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  • 1. Gill  |  February 18, 2009 at 8:26 am

    even though both liquid and dry fertilizer are equally good, I personally feel that liquid fertilizer are more easy to use because you can use spraying equipment to spray the liquid but in the case of solid we have to do a lot of work to apply it in the farm.

    • 2. andykleinschmidt  |  February 18, 2009 at 9:45 am

      Thanks for your comment Gill. Everyone has their own preference with regards to liquid vs. dry fertilizer.

  • 3. Bruce  |  March 12, 2009 at 1:15 am

    In addition, there are some liquid fertilizer that work as a foliar feed for the plants as well as the soil microbes. Like GIll mentioned easy to use and greater percentage of plant uptake makes a strong case to use liquid fertilizers

    • 4. andykleinschmidt  |  March 12, 2009 at 9:32 am

      Hi Bruce, nice to see you here again.

      I agree that liquid fertilizers can work effectively as a foliar feed for plants (and to a lesser extent the soil microbial population).


  • 5. RYan  |  December 1, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I am doing some research on starter liquid fertilizer for corn and wondered if anyone could enlighten me on the chemical make up, or most used application for liquid fertlizers. I understand there is different needs for every acre of ground, but i am looking for a general starting point and what chemicals are most widely used in starter either 2×2 or in furrow fertilizing.

    • 6. andykleinschmidt  |  December 1, 2009 at 11:22 am

      Your question it good, but it is difficult for me to give you a one size fits all answer. First, I am not knowledgeable of what chemicals are most widely used for starter. To get an answer to that question, I suggest you start contacting the major co-ops and agribusinesses dealers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, etc. You’ll find that the answers will vary widely, and are based on 1) what is available for a particular geography and 2) what farmers are asking their agribusinesses to supply. Another important consideration is liquid and dry. In some areas, farmers have moved to all liquid (or mostly so) and other areas dry still predominates. In my area, I see both so it is not uncommon to see one farmer use a dry 32-9-8 starter 2×2 and a different farmer use a 2-18-15 liquid banded in the furrow.

  • 7. Bob Borchert  |  August 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    We are planning 2 3-acre food plots, clover and some winter wheat, the soil rest calls for 800 lbs of lime per acre, how do you handle that requiremt with liquid?

    • 8. andykleinschmidt  |  August 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      Liquid? I am not familiar with using liquid sources for liming needs. Unless, perhaps, you are planning to dissolve a pelletized lime in water first. However, I’d recommend just applying the pell-lime to the surface through dry broadcast.

  • 9. Bob Borchert  |  August 23, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Is there a liquid product for lime needs, test calls for 800 lbs of lime per acre.

    • 10. andykleinschmidt  |  August 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      I don’t know if there is a liquid product for lime needs. Most likely not, simply because of the volume of lime that is generally needed to neutralize soil pH. I suggest you look for a dry product. I suspect you’ll be ahead, in terms of saving money, if you use a standard lime product.

    • 11. john  |  September 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

      Google liquid lime, there are several products available for liquid lime.

  • 12. Brad  |  October 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Trying to decide if I should go back to a liquid system.. Fert wagon is in need of repair and auger is shot. Have found a good planter with liquid on it for a real good price. Has anyone tried going liquid pop up in furrow along with 10 gal of 28% in a 2×2 band next to the row?


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