Which is better – granular or foliar nutrition?

Written by Lynette Steuber on Jul 06 2017

Category: Grow Grain

It’s time to get granular about crop nutrition. We compare the pros and cons of granular and foliar fertilizer application.


As the growing season gets underway, fertilizer decisions may be looming on the horizon or staring you in the face. Are you on team granular or team foliar? There are pros and cons to the application and uptake of both methods. Here’s what you need to know when weighing your nutrition options.

Nutrient absorption depends on the application method

Due to the different ways that plants take-up nutrients, some are best applied in a granular formulation while others provide better results when applied using a foliar product. For example, sulphur is non-mobile in the plant. Therefore, when it’s applied as foliar, there is less uptake than if it were applied as a granular.

Granular nutrient absorption uses biological processes in the plant. Stomata – tiny openings in the epidermis of a plant – exchange gases and water vapour. The stomata reduce the pressure in the vascular system to draw water and nutrients up from the roots. For granular absorption to work, nutrients must be available in a water-soluble form in the soil.

Foliar absorption uses physical and a chemical process in the plant. Success depends on something called chelation – a process where positively charged minerals can enter the plant through negatively charged pores. Chelates allow the plant to absorb nutrients through the leaves and shoots. Recent studies have shown that properly-chelated foliars can deliver nutrients quickly and effectively.

Granular products are convenient to mix, while foliar hits every plant

While nutrient uptake is an important consideration, your farm’s agronomic, logistic and economic needs will be the real deciding factors when it’s time to choose application method. Here are a few pros and cons to consider:

Granular Applied


·   Easy to mix in with the rest of your granular-applied fertilizer

·   Helps build nutrient levels in the soil

·   Saves time as application occurs at seeding


·   Less likely to achieve even distribution across every plant – not all plants may get the nutrient

·   Seed safety can be a concern depending on volume of product and placement

·   Typically not as cost effective

Benefits of adding granular fertilizer coatings

·   Coating or layered options avaliable for even nutrient distribution

·   Close to many plant feeding sites

·   Available to all plants

·   Early availability to the plants

·   Economic benefits to you

·   Helps with flow of fertilizer in equipment

·   Reduces dust

Foliar Applied


·   More feeding sites – therefore every plant is receiving the nutrient

·   Usually more economical than granular

·   Have seen better results on some nutrients being foliar fed



·   Not all nutrients can be taken up by the plant through a foliar applied product

·   Takes more time – may require another pass if products cannot be mixed with chemicals

·   If mixed with another product, may negatively impact their performance

There’s no single fertilizer solution that will work for every farm. Developing the right nutrition plan means trading benefits and drawbacks. Your local Cargill agronomist can help sort through the decisions and choose an application method that will work best for you. Contact us anytime – we’re here to offer information and ideas.

Tags: Fertilizer, foliar nutrition, crop nutrition, micronutrients

No Comments

Add a Comment

Morning Commentary


Morning Commentary