Fertilizers are critical to maintaining the health and vitality of your crops. Two of the most common types of fertilizers are liquid and granular fertilizers. While they both serve the same purpose of providing essential nutrients to plants, they differ in their application methods, efficiency, and cost.

Choosing between liquid and granular fertilizers can be a daunting task. Here, we will explore the differences between the two types of fertilizers and provide you with the information you need to decide which option is the best for you.

Granular FertilizerLiquid Fertilizer
Application MethodsBroadcast spreaders, drop spreaders, hand-held spreadersSprayer, watering can
Ease of ApplicationRequires spreading equipment, can be difficult to apply evenlyEasy to apply with a sprayer or watering can
EfficiencySlow release, lasts longerQuick release, requires more frequent application
Rate of AbsorptionSlower to be absorbed by plantsQuickly absorbed by plants
Salt ContentTypically lower salt contentMay have higher salt content
Nutrient ConsistencyMay have inconsistent nutrient distributionUniform nutrient distribution
CostTypically less expensive, especially when bought in bulkMay be more expensive than granular fertilizer

What Is Granular Fertilizer?

Granular fertilizer is a dry fertilizer that typically comes in pellet form. This type of fertilizer is known for its slow-release properties, meaning it slowly releases nutrients over time. As a result, using granular fertilizers can help reduce the frequency of fertilization compared to quick-release fertilizers, which disperse all nutrients at once. 

Slow-release granular fertilizers typically only need to be applied once during the season.

Granular Fertilizer Benefits

  • The slow-release properties of granular fertilizers make them ideal for long-term crop health.
  • Granular fertilizers require less frequent application compared to quick-release liquid fertilizers because they can last for several weeks or months.
  • Granular fertilizers have a longer shelf life than most liquid fertilizers, saving you money in the long run.
  • When bought in bulk, granular fertilizers cost less than liquid fertilizers.

Other Things to Note

  • It can be more challenging to spread granular fertilizers than liquid fertilizers.
  • For struggling crops that require an immediate nutrient boost, granular fertilizers may not provide enough nutrients fast enough.
  • Since some granular fertilizers contain dust and particulate matter, uniform nutrient distribution is sometimes impossible.

What Is Liquid Fertilizer?

Liquid fertilizer is a type of fertilizer that comes in a liquid concentrate that needs to be diluted with water before being applied. Some liquid fertilizers begin as water-soluble tablets that dissolve in water first. 

Unlike granular fertilizers, liquid fertilizers are typically quick-releasing, meaning they provide an immediate burst of nutrients to crops. This quick release also means that liquid fertilizers may need to be applied more frequently than granular fertilizers.

Liquid Fertilizer Benefits

  • Liquid fertilizers provide an immediate burst of nutrients to crops, which can help quickly improve health.
  • They are easy to apply, making fertilization fast and efficient.
  • Liquid fertilizers can be more effective than granular fertilizers in areas with poor soil or low water availability since plants can absorb them more easily.
  • Liquid fertilizers can be more cost-effective than granular fertilizers when fertilizing smaller crop areas.

Other Things to Note

  • Liquid fertilizers require more frequent application than granular fertilizers due to their quick-release properties.
  • They can be more expensive than granular fertilizers, particularly if they contain high-quality ingredients.
  • Applying liquid fertilizers can be more time-consuming than using granular fertilizers, mainly if you need to mix the concentrate with water before application.
  • Liquid fertilizers have a shorter shelf life than granular fertilizers and may lose their strength over time.

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Do Liquid and Granular Fertilizers Share Any of the Same Nutrients?

Both granular and liquid fertilizers supply the most vital nutrients that crops need to thrive: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most fertilizers contain a specific ratio of these nutrients which can be determined by reviewing the fertilizer label.

For example, 24-25-4 fertilizer refers to fertilizer that contains 24% nitrogen, 25% phosphorus, and 4% potassium. Potassium is sometimes referred to as potash in the context of fertilizer. Regardless of whether you choose a granular or liquid fertilizer, both types will provide your crops with the same valuable nutrients in the same ratios.

Application Methods

When applying fertilizer, there are different methods for liquid and granular fertilizers. Here are some application instructions and tips for both:

Liquid Fertilizer

Foliar application:

  • Foliar application involves spraying liquid fertilizers directly onto the leaves, so the plant can easily absorb nutrients through the leaf surface. This is useful for ensuring that nutrients are quickly delivered, especially during periods of high nutrient demand or stress. Avoid applying liquid fertilizer during hot or dry weather, as it may cause leaf burn.

Irrigation application: 

  • Irrigation systems (drip irrigation, micro-sprinklers, center pivots, etc.) can easily apply liquid fertilizer to crops. These systems mix the fertilizer with irrigation water and apply it directly to the root zone of the plants. Irrigation systems are helpful for evenly distributing nutrients to crops and ensuring maximum uptake by the plants.

Seed treatment: 

  • Seed treatment is the process of applying liquid fertilizer to the seed before planting. With seed treatments, the seed absorbs the nutrients from the fertilizer during its early growth and development.

Soil application: 

  • Soil application is a fertilization method that involves applying liquid fertilizer to the soil’s surface so the plants can absorb its nutrients through the roots. This method typically helps provide nutrients to established crops, especially when the soil conditions make it challenging for granular fertilizers to infiltrate the soil.

Banding or side-dressing: 

  • This fertilization method applies liquid fertilizer in bands or trenches along the crop row, similar to granular fertilizers. Banding or side-dressing ensures that an intense concentration of nutrients reaches the root zone to improve uptake efficiency and minimize waste.

Granular Fertilizer


  • Broadcasting refers to evenly spreading granular fertilizer over an entire field using mechanical spreaders. This fertilization method is appropriate for crops with consistent nutrient requirements and can be accomplished manually or with specialized equipment like broadcast spreaders or fertilizer spreaders mounted on tractors. While broadcasting provides good coverage, it may result in some nutrient wastage.


  • With banding, granular fertilizer is placed in a band near the seed or plant root zone by opening a trench along the crop row and applying the fertilizer in the furrow before covering it with soil. Banding ensures that the nutrients are concentrated in the root zone, minimizing waste and maximizing uptake efficiency. This method is particularly helpful for row crops.


  • Side-dressing refers to applying granular fertilizer alongside developing plants during the growing season. A furrow or trench is made beside the crop row, and the fertilizer is placed in the furrow. Side-dressing is perfect for crops with high nutrient demands or plants that require additional fertilization during specific growth stages. This fertilization method targets the nutrients directly to the active root zone, improving nutrient uptake and minimizing losses.


  • This method involves applying granular fertilizer on the soil surface around the crop plants. Top dressing is meant for established crops that require additional nutrients. Top-dressing can be done by hand or with spreaders and evenly distributes fertilizer around the plants. Avoid direct contact with plant foliage to prevent leaf burn.


  • Fertigation refers to applying fertilizers via irrigation systems. Granular fertilizers are dissolved or suspended in water and applied through drip irrigation, sprinklers, or other irrigation methods. Fertigation allows for precise and controlled application of nutrients and ensures efficient uptake by the plants. 

Seed coating: 

  • Granular fertilizers can also be applied as seed coatings, where the fertilizer particles attach to the seed surface. This technique provides nutrients directly to the emerging seedling, promoting early growth and development. This application method requires specialized seed coating equipment or commercial seed treatments.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate spreader setting and coverage rate.

Which Type of Fertilizer is Best for More Profitable Crop Production?

The type of fertilizer used can make all the difference. When it comes to crop production, farmers need to carefully consider which fertilizer type will provide the most benefit for their specific crops. While liquid and granular fertilizers can offer valuable nutrients, custom-blended granular fertilizers can help farmers improve their overall crop production.

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Our MicroSync® Granular Micronutrients maintain optimum plant health to help young plants ward off invasion by pathogens and insects and include critical components for abiotic stress tolerance. 

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With our advanced products, your fertilizer can play a significant role in helping the success of crop production. Contact us for more information today!