What You Need to Know About Compound Fertilizer

When determining which types of fertilizers to add to your importation list, compound fertilizer should be one of them. For those unfamiliar, what is compound fertilizer and why is it important?

Compound fertilizer contains at least two types of nutrients, but often more. The specific selection of nutrients can benefit the crops that are fed the fertilizer so they grow healthfully for the season ahead.

If you still have questions about compound fertilizer, this guide will answer them all. Ahead, you’ll learn about what’s in compound fertilizer, the different types, how it’s used, and what its benefits are. 

Let’s begin. 

What Is Compound Fertilizer?

Compound fertilizer is also referred to as multi-nutrient fertilizer. The fertilizer includes a mix of two or more nutrients or fertilizer materials, such as urea, ammonium phosphate, ammonia (or NH3), diammonium phosphate, or potassium chloride. 

The compounds produce nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, three macronutrients that crops need to survive. 

Nitrogen is highly beneficial for crops, as it supports the development of green pigment. This pigment is known as chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is involved in photosynthesis, where a crop or plant absorbs sunlight to make energy. 

Another benefit of nitrogen in compound fertilizer is that it encourages a plant to grow more leaves. Crops will have lush foliage that’s healthy and strong. 

Phosphorus also benefits photosynthesis, as this plant cell material allows the plant to take the energy from sunlight and convert it into usable energy. 

Potassium can trigger enzymes that activate processes like photosynthesis, plant metabolism regulation, sugar transportation, protein synthesis, and more.

According to the 2018 Chemicals Economic Handbook, of all the compound fertilizer production taking place in the world, China produces the most NPK compound fertilizers. The country also uses the most of these fertilizers. 

How Compound Fertilizers Are Made

The production process for compound fertilizers occurs using one of four methods. Let’s discuss each of these processes now.

Nitrophosphate Process

For compound fertilizers containing primarily phosphorus and nitrogen (P and K), the nitrophosphate process is appropriate. With this process, nitric acid and phosphate rocks combine. The resulting compounds have both phosphorus and nitrogen.

Adding potassium during the nitrophosphate process can introduce potassium into the resulting fertilizer, but the texture of the fertilizer is usually more solid. 

Chemical Melting Process

To make a solid fertilizer with micronutrients as well as potassium sources and NH3, pipe-cross reactors can melt the ingredients chemically. Pipe-cross reactors, also known as pipe reactors, are mostly used to make ammoniated phosphate fertilizer. 

Sulfuric or phosphoric acid gets poured into the pipe reactor on one side. Then, the reaction chamber receives liquid or gaseous ammonia. The melted ingredients spray onto a recycled material bed inside the machine’s rotary granulator. 

Slurry Process

Most compound fertilizer is produced via slurry, which requires adding a slurry layer bit by bit and letting it dry in between layers. This allows the manufacturers to control the size of the fertilizer granules. 

Compaction Process

The fourth method for producing compound fertilizer is agglomeration or compaction. The particles of fertilizer start out small and are compacted and thus bound together using a chemical bond or a cementing agent.

Through compacting, fertilizer manufacturers can set the ratio of nutrients. The particle size of compacted compound fertilizer is usually smaller than fertilizer produced using the other three methods outlined above. 

The Types and Uses of Compound Fertilizer

Now that you’re familiar with compound fertilizer and how it’s made, let’s examine the various types of compound fertilizer as well as how this fertilizer is used. 

Classification by Nutrients:

When classified by nutrients, there are usually two types of nutrients, micronutrients, and macronutrients.

 The source is from: https://www.cropnutrition.com/nutrient-knowledge

Macronutrients fertilizer:

  • PK fertilizers: PK compound fertilizers contain potassium and straight phosphate as well as magnesium and boron. The result is a formula that contains at least 18 percent of nutrients as well as five percent of K2O and P2O5.
  • NK fertilizers: NK-based compound fertilizers are recommended for phosphate-rich soil. The percentage of total nutrients is at least 18 percent; this fertilizer also contains five percent of K2O and three percent nitrogen. 
  • NP fertilizers: If a crop only needs potash as a fertilizer or the soil contains potassium already, then NP fertilizer is an ideal choice. The fertilizer has a total nutrient percentage of 18 percent and contains five percent of P2O5 and three percent nitrogen. 
  • NPK fertilizers: The last type of compound fertilizer is NPK, which has an even nutrient ratio of nitrogen to potassium and phosphorus, such as 5:5:5. In some instances, the ratio has extra numbers to denote the quantities of sulfur and magnesium. The amount of total nutrients in NPK compound fertilizer is 20 percent. The fertilizer also contains five percent of K2O, five percent of P2O5, and three percent nitrogen. 

Micronutrients fertilizer:

  • Zinc: When plants and crops experience metabolic reactions, it’s due in part to zinc, as it drives enzymes to cause that reaction. The metabolic reactions allow for crops to grow. 
  • Copper: Encouraging enzymatic reactions in crops as well is the micronutrient copper, which helps seeds develop. Copper also aides in the production of chlorophyll. 
  • Iron: The inclusion of iron in compound fertilizer makes it easier for a crop to transport oxygen through its leaves, roots, and other plant parts. 
  • Boron: To develop reproductive structures and strong plant cell walls, crop fertilizer must have boron. 
  • Manganese: Root growth occurs more in fertilizer with manganese. The micronutrient can help a crop usher in photosynthesis as well. 

Some compound fertilizers include both macronutrients and micronutrients.

Classification by Shape

Besides classifying fertilizers by whether they contain macronutrients, micronutrients, or both, you can also identify compound fertilizer by its shape. The three fertilizer shapes are granular, liquid, and powder. Let’s discuss each shape further.

  • Granular: Granular fertilizer is structured like dry, round pellets. The fertilizer releases its macronutrients and micronutrients more gradually compared to other fertilizer shapes. 
  • Liquid: Liquid fertilizer is easy to apply, as it requires simply dumping the stuff into the soil. The fertilizer can also be poured into a spray bottle and then misted on crops. 
  • Powder: The third shape of compound fertilizer is powder, which starts off dry. It requires massaging into the soil and then an application of water to become active. 

The Uses and Applications of Compound Fertilizer 

Per granule of compound fertilizer, nutrients are contained therein. This changes how compound fertilizer is applied compared to other types of fertilizer. 

To get the most use of compound fertilizer, spread it across a bed of soil where crops will grow. Once the fertilizer granules dissolve, the nutrient mixture is released into the soil. The rootzone of the crop will receive all the micronutrients in a more evenly distributed manner. 

Those farmers who prepare the soil with fertilizer and then plant crops have found great success with compound fertilizer, at least formulas that don’t contain much nitrogen (more on this in the next section). That’s due to how the fertilizer ratio can be customized according to the anticipated condition of the crops as well as the type of soil. 

Outside of farmers, homeowners and turf managers also regularly use compound fertilizer. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Compound Fertilizer

In the right applications, compound fertilizer can be highly advantageous, yet not always. It’s like other types of fertilizer in that regard. This section will outline the pros and cons of compound fertilizer, beginning with the plusses.


  • Lower transportation and storage costs: Compound fertilizer reduces the number of subcomponents compared to other fertilizer types. This requires less packaging to prepare compound fertilizer for importation. Transporting the fertilizer is also less expensive. 
  • Uniformity in structure: The large fertilizer granules that are consistent with compound fertilizer (unless produced via compaction) produce a uniform product that your customers can come to rely on. 
  • Stability: Another added perk of the structural uniformity of compound fertilizer is that the product maintains its stability for quite a while. This is important when importing fertilizer across the world.
  • Greater blend of nutrients: With the various types of compound fertilizers, which nutrients go into the fertilizer will vary, but this customized solution ensures that recipients get the fertilizer nutrients they need to nourish their crops. 


  • Expensive: Manually combining the nutrients is a less expensive venture than purchasing compound fertilizer. This is for two reasons. For one, compound fertilizer requires more processing. Second, compound fertilizer is higher quality. 
  • Usually have to reapply: Compound fertilizer is not a one-and-done solution for crops, especially if the fertilizer is nitrogen-based. When applying compound fertilizer ahead of planting crops, it’s recommended to choose a fertilizer without nitrogen and then add the nitrogen in later during the growing season. 

The Difference Between Compound and Mixed Fertilizers

In this section and the next, we want to take the time to clarify the differences between compound fertilizer and mixed fertilizer as well as straight fertilizer. 

Starting with mixed fertilizer, this product is produced with a combination of fertilizer materials. These materials aren’t solely macronutrients or micronutrients but can include pesticides as well. Mixed fertilizer is touted as being beneficial for plant growth. 

Although mixed fertilizer and compound fertilizer might sound alike, there are key differences between them. To produce mixed fertilizer, the fertilizer materials are mixed mechanically or manually. 

Manual application is less likely to occur when making compound fertilizer. This is part of what produces the uniform granules that compound fertilizer is known for. 

The main difference between compound fertilizer and mixed fertilizer lies in its application. 

Mixed fertilizer does not contain a variety of nutrients per granule as compound fertilizer does, so you can’t use it the same way. As we talked about before, you can spread compound fertilizer to allow it to dissolve and release its nutrients. 

As you apply the fertilizer or transport it, nutrient source segregation is not an issue. The same could not be said for mixed fertilizer. If the rootzone of the crops does not receive an even mix of macronutrients, micronutrients, or nutrient materials, then deficiencies could develop.

Nutrient deficiencies can lead to negative symptoms in crops such as wilting, sagging, discoloration, and sometimes even crop death. 

The Difference Between Compound and Straight Fertilizers

Next, let’s discuss straight fertilizer and how it’s different than compound fertilizer. Straight fertilizer introduces macronutrients or micronutrients one at a time. That’s why another nickname for straight fertilizer is single fertilizer.

The fertilizer might include potassium sulphate, potassium chloride, ammonium sulphate, potassium, phosphorus, or nitrogen, but not all in tandem with one another. 

What separates compound fertilizer from straight fertilizer is that the former includes a greater number of nutrients. 

There are certainly instances in which a straight fertilizer might be the recommended choice for farmers, homeowners, or gardeners, though. For instance, in the example mentioned above of adding fertilizer before planting crops and then having to supplement with nitrogen later, a straight nitrogen-based fertilizer would be the ideal solution.

Then again, you can also use a compound fertilizer that doesn’t contain nitrogen, especially if the crop is becoming deficient in other nutrients outside of nitrogen. 

The Importance of Compound Fertilizer

Importing compound fertilizer is a wise choice, as more and more customers worldwide have become aware of the value of this type of fertilizer. 

Compound fertilizer can be customized according to regional demand, which is something that’s simply not true of straight fertilizer. Mixed fertilizer could achieve a similar result, but with more manual effort. Plus, mixed fertilizer rarely has the granule uniformity that allows compound fertilizer importers to ship the fertilizer at a lower cost.

Farmers and gardeners who use compound fertilizer can apply it to their current crops or add the fertilizer to the soil and then plant new crops later. They can trust in the product you import due to the size uniformity of the granules, as we discussed earlier, and expect a reliable result each time they apply compound fertilizer. 

It’s for all these reasons that compound fertilizer is very important!  


Compound fertilizer is a type of multi-nutrient fertilizer that’s produced in similarly-sized granules. The granules release macronutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen as well as micronutrients in predetermined quantities after dissolving in the soil. 

OFertilizer is a fertilizer factory in China that specializes in fertilizers infused with boron, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, and other micronutrients. Our fertilizers can increase crop and fruit tree yields, help vegetable gardens grow, and improve the look and feel of garden grass and golf turf.

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