Chemical fertilizers For Agriculture Competitive Exams IBPS AFO, NABARD, JRF,SRF,ARS


Fertilizers are chemical substances that contain one or more ingredients of plant food, in large proportions. Some organic synthetic substances like urea have also been included in this category. They may be natural substances or artificial products.


Straight Fertilizers

When a fertilizer contains a single nutrient, it is called a straight fertilizer. Such fertilizer is called nitrogenous or phosphatic or potassic e.g. urea.

Complex or Compound Fertilizers

Two or more nutrients in one compound is known as complex or compound fertilizers. These fertilizers is granular and easy to apply. Examples are:

Nitrogenous Fertilizers

The nitrogenous fertilizers are broadly classified into 4 groups-

Classification of Nitrogenous Fertilizers

Sources of nitrate Name of fertilizer Percentage of nitrogen %P Reaction (Acidity/


Nitrate Sodium nitrate (NaNO3)

Calcium nitrate Ca(NO3)2

Potassium nitrate (KNO3)







Ammonium Ammonium sulphate



Ammonium chloride


Diammonium phosphate


























Nitrate and Ammonium Ammonium nitrate



Ammonium sulphate nitrate

(NH4)SO4, (NH4NO3)


Calcium ammonium nitrage



















Amide Urea CO(NH2)2











Characteristics of nitrogenous fertilizers

According to characteristics, nitrogenous fertilizers are classified in following four groups:

Nitrate fertilizers. The most common nitrate fertilizers in use is sodium nitrate or calcium nitrate.

(a) Nitrate group of fertilizers are soluble in water and hygroscopic (absorbs moisture from the atmosphere to become sticky).

(b) They are alkaline in nature. Constant use of sodium nitrate, creates deflocculation of clay particles and poor drainage.

(c) Contains less percentage of nitrogen than other groups so that its use is diminishing at a fast rate.

(d) They are completely soluble in water and readily available for the use of plants as such, without any chemical change in the soil.

(e) The nitrate is not retained (adsorbed) by the soil and is liable to fast leaching.

(f) They are applied in small doses and repeated at intervals on standing crops (top dressing).

(g) It is not suitable for rice crop in early stage of growth. Because rice plants take nitrogen in ammonical form.

Ammonium fertilizers. This group of fertilizers are in wide use particularly ammonium sulphate.

(a) Ammonium fertilizers are water soluble but non-hygroscopic.

(b) They are acidic in nature.

(c) High level of nitrogen than nitrate fertilizers.

(d) They are less readily available to plants than nitrate fertilizers. The ammonical nitrogen has to nitrify in the soil and be converted into nitrate before it can be taken up by plants.

(e) The ammonia in ammonium sulphate is fixed (adsorbed) by the soil immediately after application and it is not leached away like nitrates. Repeated and heavy doses of ammonium sulphate without adequate supplies of lime in the soil will lead to acidity in the soil.

(f) This group of fertilizers may be used in basal application and top dressing.

Nitrate and Ammonium Fertilizers

(a) These group of fertilizers are soluble in water and slightly hydroscopic (e.g., Ammonium Nitrate – highly hygroscopic ;Ammonium Sulphate Nitrate – slightly ; Calcium Ammonium Nitrate – slightly).

(b) In this group both nitrate and ammonium are available.

(c) Readily available to plants. With its nitrate-nitrogen, the plant drives it immediately. Ammonium form of nitrogen provides a steady source of N.

(d) Availability of ammonium reduces leaching loss.

(e) Acidic in nature but exception is calcium ammonium nitrate which is neutral in reaction.

(f) Used in top dressing and basal dressing.

Amide Fertilizers

(a) Amide fertilizers are soluble in water and hygroscopic in nature.

(b) These fertilizers are converted to ammonium carbonate and then to nitrates due to action of microorganism. The conversion of amides into ammonical and nitrate from takes about 6-7 days.

(c) Leaching loss is very less because once amide is converted to ammonical form it is adsorbed by soil colloids and slowly released and nitrified to nitrates.

(d) Amide fertilizers i.e., urea and calcium cynamide are synthetic organic fertilizers.

Urea: It is slightly acidic in nature. Urea application to soil creates a small loss of calcium from the soil. Urea is highly concentrated nitrogenous fertilizer containing 46% nitrogen. Therefore, its higher concentration may injure the plant roots or germinating seeds. It is desirable that urea be mixed with ashes or small quantity of soil to facilitate an even distribution to avoid risk of injury to plants. The toxic ingredient present in urea is biuret. It is cheapest or economical fertilizer. It can be used in liquid form as foliar application.


Phosphorous fertilizers are classified into: (A) water-soluble, (B) Citrate-soluble, and (C) Insoluble.

Fertilizers containing water-soluble phosphorus characteristics

  1. Phosphate is water-soluble and quick acting.
  2. Very less leaching loss in this group of fertilizers.
  3. Should be applied in neutral and alkaline soils.

Fertilizers containing water-soluble phosphorus

Name of fertilizer Chemical composition Percentage composition Acidity of alkalinity
     Sulperphosphate  (ordinary)        (single super phosphate) Ca(H2PO4)2 16-20

     Superphosphate   (concentrated)(triple super phosphate) 3Ca(H2PO4)2 40-48 Neutral or acidic
      Diammonium phosphate (NH4)2HPO4 46-48 Acidic


Fertilizers containing citrate-soluble phosphorus characteristics

(1) Insoluble in water but soluble in citric acid, so that it does not become readily available to plants.

(2) No leaching loss.

(3) These are slow acting fertilizers therefore, applied in the soil 15-30 days before sowing.

(4) These fertilizers should be used in natural and acidic soils.

Fertilizers containing citrate-soluble phosphorus

Name of fertilizer Chemical composition Percentage composition P2O5 Acidity or alkalinity
Basic slag (Indian) (CaO)3. P2O5.SiO2  3-5 Alkalinity
Dicalcic phosphate CaHPO4 35-40 Acidic


Fertilizers containing insoluble phosphorus characteristics

(1) Because of their insolubility and their slow availability, fertilizers of this be applied in the soil about 2 months before sowing, phosphorus is available in the form of tricalcium phosphate (Table 16.4).

(2)  Generally, deep placement is done in highly acidic soils.

Fertilizers containing insoluble phosphorus

Name of fertilizer Chemical composition Percentage composition


Acidity or alkalinity
Rock phosphate Ca3(PO4)2 20 – 30
Bone meal  18 – 20                  Alkaline



(1) Potassium fertilizers are water-soluble but not hygroscopic in nature (Table 16.5).

(2) They are readily available to plants.

(3) There is not leaching loss.

(4) As they are neutral in reaction so have little or no effect on the soil pH.

Potash containing potassic fertilizers

              Fertilizer Chemical form Percentage composition of  K2O Reaction
 Potassium chloride       (mutriate of potash) KCL        60 Neutral
  Potassium sulphate K2SO4        50 Neutral


Sulphur containing fertilizers

(1)  Sulphur containing fertilizers are mostly water-soluble.

(2)  Sulphur from these fertilizers is readily available to plants except S from elemental S, because it required sequential oxidation to convert SO4-2 from S (Table 16.6).

(3)  Continuous use of S containing fertilizer decrease pH of soil.

Sulphur containing fertilizers


Sulphur content (%)

Ammonium sulphate


Elemental S


Single super phosphate



Micronutrients fertilizer

The inorganic sources of micronutrient fertilizer are following:

Sulphate (salts)

The sulphate form of micronutrients such as: Cu, Zn, Fe and Mn, represents a water-soluble form that is plant available. Borate is the equivalent plant available form for B.  Sulphates are the most commonly used form for field crops.  Sulphates can be applied to the soil or foliage.  Sulphate products, applied at agronomically recommended rates, can provide long term residual value. e.g. zinc sulphate, ferrous sulphate, manganese sulphate, copper sulphate etc.


Chelates are complexes of certain micronutrients (the positively charged ones like iron and zinc) with organic molecules, to form compounds that can hold the micronutrients in a form that is available to plants.  Chelated micronutrients are much slower to form unavailable compounds, or to leach away.  Chelating compounds occur naturally in organic material in the soil, or can be synthesized to make chelated fertilizers.  Plant roots are able to take the micronutrient directly from the chelate, and release the chelating compound back to the soil. For example, a synthetic chelating agent is EDTA, and a natural chelating agent is citric acid. Chelates are generally many times more expensive than the sulphate or oxide forms, but this is partly compensated for in the low recommended rate of chelate product needed to supply the micronutrient. e.g. EDTA –Zn, EDTA –Fe,  EDDHA – Fe.




Nutrients (%)





1 Urea


2 Ammonium sulphate



3 Ammonium chloride


4 calcium ammonium nitrate


8.1% Ca
5 Single super phosphate



20% Ca
6 Potassium chloride

(muriate of potash)


7 Potassium sulphate

(sulphate of potash)



8 Diammonium phosphate



9 Rock phosphate


10 Phosphogypsum


21% Ca
11 Magnesium sulphate


16% Mg
12 Borex

10.5% B
13 Copper sulphate


24% Cu
14 Ferrous sulphate


19% Fe
15 EDTA-Fe

12% Fe
16 Manganese sulphate


30.5% Mn
17 Zinc sulphate

          11-16 21 % Zn
18 EDTA-Zn

12% Zn


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