Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 167–178 | Cite as

Fate and efficiency of 15N-labelled slow- and controlled-release fertilizers

  • Phillip M. Chalk
  • Eric T. Craswell
  • José C. Polidoro
  • Deli Chen
Review Article


Slow- and controlled-release N fertilizers are designed to increase efficiency and reduce N losses by better synchronizing N availability with plant demand. This paper reviews the use of 15N with these fertilizers to collect quantitative data on the efficiency, residual value and N losses for which relatively few data are available compared with conventional labelled urea and ammonium-based fertilizers. In general, studies of slow-release forms (isobutylidene diurea, oxamide, ureaform) with rice and upland crops show one or more benefits, including improved N uptake efficiency, and reduced N losses via leaching or NH3 volatilization under conditions which favor such losses (coarse textured soils, alkaline pH, respectively). Benefits from residual 15N may accrue in the year following application. Studies with controlled-release 15N-labelled sulfur coated urea (SCU) show benefits in situations such as paddy soils where losses from broadcast urea are a substantial problem. In experiments with 15N polyolefin-coated urea (POCU), rice plant recovery of broadcast conventional urea or ammonium salts ranged from 24 % with losses of 50–45 % with losses of 33 %. Where 15N labelled SCU or POCU was used, the rice recovery ranged from 26 % with losses of 14–72 % with losses of 10 %. Experiments using POCU with corn, barley and potato show similar results. The paucity of published data obtained using 15N points to the need for further studies that will provide concrete evidence for the development of innovative fertilizers with enhanced efficiency and an evidence-based set of recommendations for their selection and use.


IBDU Oxamide Ureaform S-coated urea Polyolefin-coated urea 15



The senior author thanks the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) for a visiting scientist fellowship (Pesquisador Visitante No 101.466/2014), EMBRAPA-Solos as the host Institution and the University of Melbourne for financial assistance with travel expenses.


  1. Acquaye S, Inubushi K (2004) Comparative effects of app1ication of coated and non-coated urea in clayey and sandy paddy soi1 microcosms examined by the 15N tracer technique. I. Effects on growth, N uptake, and yield of rice crop. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 50:205–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akiyama H, Yan XY, Yagi K (2010) Evaluation of effectiveness of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers as mitigation options for N2O and NO emissions from agricultural soils: meta-analysis. Glob Change Biol 16:1837–1846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen AL, Stevenson FJ, Kurtz LT (1973) Chemical distribution of residual fertilizer nitrogen in soil as revealed by nitrogen-15 studies. J Environ Qual 2:120–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azeem B, KuShaari KZ, Man ZB, Basit A, Thanh TH (2014) Review on materials & methods to produce controlled release coated urea fertilizer. J Control Release 181:11–21PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beaton JD, Hubbard WA, Speer RC (1967) Coated urea, thiourea, urea-formaldehyde, hexamine, oxamide, glycoluril, and oxidized nitrogen-enriched coal as slowly available sources of nitrogen for orchardgrass. Agron J 59:127–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergner H, Görsch R (1979) Metabolism of labelled isobutylidene diurea in sheep. Ann Rech Vét 10:382–384PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown MA, Volk GM (1966) Evaluation of ureaform fertilizer using nitrogen-15-labelled materials in sandy soils. Soil Sci Soc Am J 30:278–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Calancea L, Bologa M, Chiriac M (1990) Utilization of 15N to evaluate the availability of nitrogen from different fertilizers for Lolium multiflorum. Studia Universitatis Babeş-Bolyai, Biologia 35:37–44Google Scholar
  9. Carter MF, Vlek PLG, Touchton JT (1986) Agronomic evaluation of new ureaforms for flooded rice. Soil Sci Soc Am J 50:1055–1060CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen D, Suter H, Islam A, Edis R, Freney JR, Walker CN (2008) Prospects of improving efficiency of fertiliser nitrogen in Australian agriculture: a review of enhanced efficiency fertilisers. Soil Res 46:289–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christianson CB, Carter MF, Holt LS (1988) Mineralization and nitrification of ureaform fertilizers. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 17:85–95Google Scholar
  12. Craswell ET, Godwin DC (1984) The efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers applied to cereals grown in different climates. In: Lauchli A, Tinker PB (eds) Advances in plant nutrition. Praeger Publishers, New York, pp 1–55Google Scholar
  13. Craswell ET, De Datta SK, Hartantyo M, Obcemea WN (1981) Time and mode of nitrogen fertilizer application to tropical wetland rice. Fert Res 2:247–259Google Scholar
  14. Craswell ET, De Datta SK, Weeraratne CS, Vlek PLG (1985) Fate and efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers applied to wetland rice. I. The Philippines. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 6:49–63Google Scholar
  15. De Nobili M, Santi S, Mondini C (1992) Fate of nitrogen (15N) from oxamide and urea applied to turf grass: a lysimeter study. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 33:71–79Google Scholar
  16. Delgado JA, Mosier AR (1996) Mitigation alternatives to decrease nitrous oxides emissions and urea-nitrogen loss and their effect on methane flux. J Environ Qual 25:1105–1111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. DeMent JD, Hunt CM, Stanford G (1961) Nitrogen fertilizers, hydrolysis, nitrification, and nitrogen availability of oxamide, as influenced by granule size. J Agric Food Chem 9:453–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Engelstad OP, Getsinger JG, Stangel PJ (1972) Tailoring of fertilizers for rice. Bulletin Y-52. National Fertilizer Development Centre, TVA, Muscle ShoalsGoogle Scholar
  19. Fillery IRP, Vlek PLG (1986) Reappraisal of the significance of ammonia volatilization as an N loss mechanism in flooded rice fields. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 9:79–98Google Scholar
  20. Gardner JB, Drinkwater LE (2009) The fate of nitrogen in grain cropping systems: a meta-analysis of 15N field experiments. Ecol Applic 19:2167–2184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gonzalez ME, Gonzalez A, Toro CA, Cea M, Sepúlveda N, Diez MC, Navia R (2012) Biochar as a renewable matrix for the development of encapsulated and immobilized novel added-value bioproducts. J Biobased Mat Bio 6:237–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Guertal EA (2009) Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers in vegetable production: a review. Hort Technol 19:16–19Google Scholar
  23. Hauck RD (1994) Synthesis of 15N-labelled isobutylidene diurea, oxamide, and ureaforms for use in agronomic studies. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 25:191–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hill WA., Rodney PB, Fearon CG, Ogiste LG (1980) Field studies of N-15 labelled urea and isobutylidene diurea. III. Residual fertilizer N recovery by ryegrass. In: Agronomy Abstracts, 72nd annual meeting, American Society of Agronomy, p 168Google Scholar
  25. Hossain MZ, Shibuya K, Saigusa M (2001) No-tillage transplanting system of rice with controlled availability fertilizer in the nursery box. II. Improvement of the initial growth of rice in the no-tillage transplanting system. Tohoku J Agric Sci 51:49–59Google Scholar
  26. Inubushi K, Acquaye S, Tsukagoshi S, Shibahara F, Komatsu S (2002) Effects of controlled-release coated urea (CRCU) on soil microbial biomass N in paddy fields examined by the 15N tracer technique. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 63:291–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jahns T, Kaltwasser H (2000) Mechanism of microbial degradation of slow-release fertilizers. J Polymer Environ 8:11–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jahns T, Schepp R, Kaltwasser H (1997) Purification and characterisation of an enzyme from a strain of Ochrobactrum anthroi that degrades condensation products of urea and formaldehyde (ureaform). Can J Microbiol 43:1111–1117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kamekawa K, Nagai T, Sekiya S, Yoneyama T (1990) Nitrogen uptake by paddy rice (Oryza sativa L.) from15N labelled coated urea and ammonium sulfate. Soil Sci Plant Nutr 36:333–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kanno H (2008) Uptake process and recovery of co-situs applied polyolefin-coated urea as affected by release pattern on corn (Zea mays) under humid climate in Northeastern Japan. Tohoku J Agric Res 58:65–75Google Scholar
  31. Katyal JC, Singh B, Vlek PLG, Craswell ET (1985) Fate and efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers applied to wetland rice. II. Punjab, India. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 6:279–290Google Scholar
  32. Ladha JK, Pathak H, Krupnik TJ, Six J, van Kessel C (2005) Efficiency of fertilizer nitrogen in cereal production: retrospects and prospects. Adv Agron 87:85–156Google Scholar
  33. Li G-H, Zhao L-P, Zhang S-X, Hosen Y, Yagi K (2011) Recovery and leaching of 15N-labelled coated urea in a lysimeter system in the North China Plain. Pedosphere 21:763–772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lunt OR, Clark SB (1969) Properties and value of 1, l-diureido isobutane (IBDU) as a long-lasting nitrogen fertilizer. J Agric Food Chem 17:1269–1271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morgan KT, Cushman KE, Sato S (2009) Release mechanisms for slow- and controlled-release fertilizers and strategies for their use in vegetable production. Hort Technol 19:10–12Google Scholar
  36. Murray TP, Austin ER, Howard RG, Bradford TJ (1985) Reactions of molten urea with formaldehyde. Ind Eng Chem Prod Res Dev 24:420–425CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ogiste LG, Hill WA, Fearon CG (1980) Field studies of N-15 labelled urea and isobutylidene diurea. 1. Sweet potato yield and fertilizer N recovery. In: Agronomy Abstracts, 72nd annual meeting, American Society of Agronomy, p 173Google Scholar
  38. Ramesh K, Reddy DD (2011) Zeolites and their potential uses in agriculture. Adv Agron 113:215–236Google Scholar
  39. Rodney PB, Fearon CG, Ogiste LG, Hill WA (1982) Recovery of isotopically labelled fertilizer-N by tomato ryegrass sweet-potato rotation. Hort Sci 17:157Google Scholar
  40. Rubio JL, Hauck RD (1986) Uptake and use patterns of nitrogen from urea, oxamide, and isobutylidene diurea by rice plants. Plant Soil 94:109–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shoji S, Gandeza AT, Kimura K (1991) Simulation of crop response to polyolefin-coated urea: II. Nitrogen uptake by corn. Soil Sci Soc Am J 55:1468–1473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Timilsena YP, Adhikari R, Casey P, Muster T, Gilla H, Adhikari B (2015) Enhanced efficiency fertilisers: a review of formulation and nutrient release patterns. J Sci Food Agric 95:1131–1142PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tlustos P, Blackmer AM (1992) Release of nitrogen from ureaform fractions as influenced by soil pH. Soil Sci Soc Am J 56:1807–1810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Trenkel ME (2010) Slow- and controlled-release and stabilized fertilizers: An option for enhancing nutrient use efficiency in agriculture. Int Fert Assoc, ParisGoogle Scholar
  45. Westerman RL, Kurtz LT (1972) Residual effects of 15N-labelled fertilizers in a field study. Soil Sci Soc Am J 36:91–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Westerman RL, Kurtz LT, Hauck RD (1972) Recovery of 15N-labelled fertilizers in field experiments. Soil Sci Soc Am J 36:82–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zvomuya F, Rosen CJ, Russelle MP, Gupta SC (2003) Nitrate leaching and nitrogen recovery following application of polyolefin-coated urea to potato. J Environ Qual 32:480–489PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Phillip M. Chalk
    • 1
    • 3
  • Eric T. Craswell
    • 2
  • José C. Polidoro
    • 3
  • Deli Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.Embrapa-SolosGávea, Rio de JaneiroBrazil

Personalised recommendations