Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Liquid Fertilizer
Name: Gary S.
Status: educator
Age: 60s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 1999-2001 

What is the chemical composition of commercial liquid fertilizer. I am inquiring about liquid nitrogen fertilizer, is it delivered in an insoluble form or is it a part of a more complex compound. Also, is it possible to mix my own for pasture and crop application?

The following may be helpful re. fertilizers in general.

You might want to have your soil tested, and then you can determine what to add based on its requirements. Recommend checking with your local/state agricultural extension service.

Anthony R. Brach, Ph.D

Liquid fertilizer is just a solution of water-soluble compounds. Many compounds can be used for fertilizer. Common nitrogen-containing compounds used are urea, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium phosphate. Some farmers directly apply ammonia to the soil; this is fairly cheap on a per-pound basis, but ammonia tends to evaporate rapidly.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois

The composition of a commercial fertilizer can be found on the label. You will see three numbers, for example: 25-18-6. The first number is the % nitrogen, the second number is the % phosphorus, and the third number is the % potash (potassium). These are the three major substances required by plants, and in different proportions depending upon the plant, the season....

The N,P, and K are obviously not present in their elemental form, but that is how the relative amounts are expressed.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Botany Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory