Developing the next generation of Osmocote

Thanks to ICL Specialty Fertilizers' significant investment in research and development, growers have an increasing number of Osmocote solutions to grower challenges to choose from.

New innovative Osmocote products

As Osmocote celebrates its 50th anniversary it continues to innovate for growers. And ICL Specialty Fertilizers continues to invest in product development and applied science.

Several new and updated products have catapulted onto the market. Powered by DCT (Double Coating Technology), the fourth generation Osmocote Exact High K was introduced last autumn (2016). Featuring a new analysis with high potassium content, the revised product was formulated for reducing elongation and improving compactness.

Two other Osmocote "stars" that have bounced into the horticultural world during the past 12 months include the Osmocote specials – namely Osmocote CalMag 3-4M and Osmocote Iron 3-4M (17.8Fe). The first product gives continued release of nitrogen, calcium and magnesium and is therefore suited to plants grown in soft-water areas and in peat-reduced media. Also it improves plant quality by higher calcium availability in the growing medium. Osmocote Iron has been designed to help growers prevent iron deficiency in plants – a nutritional problem that affects many varieties.

The global company has also recently introduced new formulations of several key products in its Osmocote Pro range. As Dorus Rijkers, international technical manager for ICL explains, the firm strives to stay at the forefront of new product development. "We are an innovative company, and so we always like to do better. It’s up to us, to come up with new ideas to grow plants even better and stronger".

Osmocote – growing plants better and stronger

Rijkers unveils that ICL is currently developing products that are suited to specific fertiliser challenges at nurseries. For instance, the company is working on gaining registration in the UK for "Osmocote Blue-Max" for hydrangeas, that it expects will be available in 2018.

Also in the pipeline is a new high-tech product for field-grown hardy nursery stock, says Rijkers. "What we see is that almost all growers with nursery stock use CRFs in pots and plant containers, but growers would also like to apply fertilisers more easily and more effectively in field-grown crops. Gaining efficiency and producing better plants, with lower fertiliser input, will become key here. We are working on new concepts for these types of crops."

Joan Verhoeven, ICL Speciality Fertilizers’ vice president of global marketing and technology, asserts that the firm is also continually testing its existing products and technologies for the nursery stock growers. This, he says, "teaches us how we can improve and develop the next generations of Osmocote".

Alongside developing a next generation he reveals, for example, that as the horticulture industry reduces its peat usage, ICL continues to test how Osmocote performs in peat-reduced growing media. He says:

"Our products are already being used in peat-reduced growing media but ICL, as market leader, will continue to refine fertiliser concepts to maintain its leading role. Growers may expect from us that we provide the best advice on how to combine Osmocote in a total fertiliser approach, when using peat-reduced growing media."

A long-term focus on sustainability

Using CRFs in nursery stock is a very sustainable manner of feeding plants. With the unique Osmocote range of products, growers can select the right product for a very precise nutrition in an environmental-friendly manner.

The CRF industry is currently confronted with changing legislation. EU legislators are reviewing Europe’s fertiliser legislation as part of its circular economy package. The draft legislation relating to CRF technology states that the polymers of such products should be "capable of undergoing physical, biological decomposition, such that most of it decomposes into carbon dioxide (CO2), biomass and water." It adds that the applied coating shall have at least 90 per cent of the organic carbon converted into CO2 in a maximum of 24 months.

Verhoeven and Rijkers assert that, whilst Osmocote is a fully safe and degradable product, ICL is dedicated to match these new requirements. Verhoeven explains that a timeline for these changes has yet to be defined by the legislators.

He says: "The CRF industry agrees with the fact that biodegradability standards will be developed in the future but we need time to meet these changing criteria. 24 months is an impossible time of degradation as for example CRF products need to release nutrients for 12-14 months. We need three years to understand what the time of degradation can be. We want to do this with the legislators and at the same time we also agree to develop a test (as stated in the reviewed legislation) to test the biodegradability of the CRF’s. At the moment, there’s no such official test in the EU."

Also the growers in Europe support the position of ‘Fertilizers Europe’ to create achievable biodegradability standards. This allows growers to continue to use this very effective and efficient way of plant nutrition in the future.

Verhoeven concludes: "We would like to thank growers for their great confidence in Osmocote’s performance and quality. At ICL we take responsibility for keeping the high-quality standards that guarantee that growers have the best possible plants to sell."

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