For Long Island potato grower Allan Zilnicki, using controlled-release nitrogen (CRN) fertilizer on 20 acres of his Riverhead, N.Y., farm represents an intangible benefit well worth the cost.
“It’s the right thing to do,” says the third-generation farmer. Zilnicki’s family has grown potatoes on the North Fork of Long Island for more than 80 years. He wholesales and sells his potatoes in 5-pound bags at the Hunts Point Market.
CRN products generally cost more than conventional nitrogen fertilizer, but “the extra cost is not all that important compared to protecting our water and the land we live on and want to pass on to our children,” Zilnicki says.
Water quality conservation is critical on Long Island, as a sole-source aquifer system is its main freshwater drinking supply.
Slow-release products decrease the risk of nutrient leaching into surface and groundwater while encouraging increased uptake efficiency by crops. A polymer coating encases a nitrogen core that releases slowly over time as soil temperature increases to trigger the diffusion.