Whether you are a farmer who grows crops to feed others or a backyard scientist who likes to grow their own crops from organic materials, or maybe you are a person who has a hobby to grow plants in their apartment balcony just for the aesthetic. One thing that is definitely common among all of them is that they like to see their plants healthy and as green as blissful Eden does. However, like all living things, even plants need some very essential nutrients, to survive and retain their health and beauty. Soil is the primary source of all such nutrients that can help the plants grow. Nevertheless, many times it happens that the soil either contains these essentials in scarce quantities or is completely devoid of all. In such a situation, fertilizers are, used as a secondary or artificial source to provide the plants all that they need.
Today in this article, we are going to dive in-depth and understand what fertilizer is. Understand the different types of fertilizers, moreover what organic options are available over their chemical counterparts and how do fertilizers exactly enrich the soil and help the plants grow. Now let us discuss What is a fertilizer?
What is fertilizer? In addition, how does it work?
So, what is a fertilizer? Well if we go by the textbook definition then fertilizer is a chemical substance which when added to the soil supplies it with essential nutrients, which in turn help the plants to grow, remain healthy and increase their productivity.
However, how does that exactly work? To answer this question we will have to understand some basic chemistry and biology of plants. Let us start with the plant’s interaction with the air first. Elements such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen are present in abundance in the air. The plants extract the carbon from the carbon dioxide in the air and with the help of the hydrogen; they produce the starch and sugars through the process of photosynthesis while releasing oxygen. The animals then consume these sugars and starch, which in turn helps them to convert the oxygen that they breathe back into carbon dioxide to release in the air.
Nevertheless, these are not the only nutrients that the plants need to survive and grow. Apart from this, the macronutrient potash which is composed of potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous is extremely important too. Along with these secondary nutrients such as sulphur, cobalt, magnesium and micronutrients such as boron, cobalt, copper, zinc, etc. are also important.
From all of the above essential nutrients, potash is certainly the most important. Nitrogen is important, as it is the primary component of amino acids. What is the role of amino acids you ask? Well, amino acids are the basic building blocks of proteins. For any living organism, proteins are one of the most important components for survival and proteins are nothing but sequences of amino acids. Therefore, if there is no nitrogen then no proteins and hence, the plant growth will be stunted.
Phosphorous, on the other hand, is present in the form of phospholipids, which are the membrane molecules on any plant cell, and potassium in the form of ions constitutes about 1-2 per cent of the entire weight of the plant. All of these nutrients together are important in producing the primary source of energy known as ATP, which is essential for the survival as well as the growth of not just plants, but any other organism too.
The catch here however is that these nutrients are very difficult to acquire for the plants. For example, nitrogen can only be, found in any decaying matter present in the soil. Hence, the growth of plants in an environment where the soil is not rich in such contents is very difficult. This is where the fertilizer steps in.
If you do a bit of research then you may find that most of the fertilizers being, sold on the market contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium as their primary contents. The entire purpose of fertilizer is to provide these essential nutrients to the plants in abundance in an artificial manner to accelerate their growth and yield.
Now, that you have a brief enough understanding about what is a fertilizer and how does it work? In the next section, we will briefly discuss the different types of fertilizers and more importantly, we will be focusing on organic fertilizers than inorganic fertilizers.
Types of fertilizers
Depending on the amount of nutrients present, safety, acceleration in the growth rate of plants, and the method of production. The different types of fertilizers can be, categorized into two types: Inorganic and Organic fertilizers.
Inorganic fertilizers are, mainly chemically produced. They can be, further divided into nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and mixed fertilizers. Most of the nitrogen fertilizers are, synthesized from synthetic ammonia (NH3) used in gas or liquid solution. Phosphorous and potassium fertilizers are also synthesized chemically using phosphoric acid and potassium chloride respectively along with other chemical treatments.
Organic fertilizers on the other hand are, completely naturally made. In fact, as they are, obtained from completely organic matter such as animal and plant waste, they actually enrich the soil with carbonic compounds. They also increase the organic content of the soil by actually promoting the reproduction of the much-needed microorganisms by creating an environment, which is suitable for their survival. Some of the main sources of organic fertilizers can be an agricultural waste, animal waste, industrial squander, garbage, sewage etc.
There are many different types of organic fertilizers available on the market. Some of the most, common and useful ones are as follows:
- Manure: Manure is the most commonly available type of organic fertilizer. It is simply the “complete” fertilizer. It has all the organic matter that might be, needed by the plants. Although, it does fall short of nutrients.
- Blood meal: It is powdered, dried blood, which is, collected from slaughterhouses. It is a very rich source of nitrogen. The important thing to consider before using it is that using it in excess can cause the roots of the plants to burn. Hence, it is, advised to use it before plantation so that the leaf growth can be stimulated.
- Fish emulsion: Fish emulsion is, made by partially decomposing finely crushed fish. The upside to using this fertilizer is that like blood meal it is also rich in nitrogen content along with potassium, phosphorous and other micronutrients discussed earlier. It is also one of the fast-acting organic fertilizers. The downside is that this fertilizer can have an unbearable smell although some scented versions of the same are also available.
- Cottonseed meal: It is, obtained as a by-product during cotton manufacturing. Unlike the other fertilizers, it is a slow-acting and acidic fertilizer. Even though the nutrient contents in the fertilizer may vary, generally it has about 7% Nitrogen, 3% Phosphorous and 2% Potassium content. The benefit of using this fertilizer is that it helps in retaining the moisture in sandy soil and aerating the tight dense soil.
- Compost tea: As the name suggests it is just compost mixed with water and brewed over a long time. This fertilizer is a very useful way to fertilize and improve the health of the plants in general. The best part of this fertilizer is that anyone who does not wish to spend a lot of money on fertilizers can make it very simply. There are two different recipes of this fertilizer the traditional one called as Passive compost tea which can be simply made by soaking compost bags in water in 5:1 (compost to water) ratio for a couple of weeks. After the brewing period is completed, the liquid can then be, directly used in controlled quantities. Aerated compost tea recipe is a comparatively costly option and requires commercial brewers, pumps, and ingredients such as kelp, humic acid, etc.
- Corn gluten meal: Similar to cottonseed meal, this potent fertilizer is also a by-product in this case it is, a residue left during the process of wet milling. It is a very good nitrogen source, apart from that it also provides proteins up to 20-60%. Although some might confuse it with the cornmeal which is used for making cornbread it should be noted that cornmeal is ground dried corn which contains the endosperm but lowers in protein. However, corn gluten means is for the most part the only endosperm, which is, used by corn plants to germinate.These were just some examples of organic fertilizers. There are still tons of organic fertilizers available on the market. In the next section, we will be discussing why to use organic fertilizers over inorganic fertilizers.
Organic vs Inorganic
Organic and inorganic fertilizers, although the purpose of both types is to supply the essential nutrients needed for the plant’s growth, there are still some very noticeable differences between them. These differences in turn affect the various factors that are directly or indirectly affect the plants and the surroundings in which they grow.
Organic fertilizers are, strictly made using the materials found in nature either in the form of animal or plant waste. They do not contain any kind of synthetic materials. Due to this reason, when used, the organic components of the fertilizers actually help in maintaining the pH level of the soil, keeping it under 6-7, which is neutral most of the time. These conditions are in fact ideal for the plants as well as the different microorganisms in the soil. Although due to being, made using completely organic materials, these type of fertilizers is slow in working and may not provide all the macronutrients at the same time in large quantities.
Inorganic fertilizers are, synthetically made. Most of the inorganic fertilizers are, made from petroleum. The nutrients or minerals found in these type of fertilizers are, mined directly from the earth; this is the reason why most inorganic fertilizers can provide all the macronutrients at once, sometimes in large quantities too. Although these fertilizers may not be so good for the soil decreasing their pH level almost making it very acidic and making it difficult for the microorganisms to survive. Unlike their organic counterparts, they work fast and even with more effect.It can be, clearly seen that while inorganic fertilizers can provide more nutrients, work faster, and improve the growth of the plants drastically. The risk that they pose to the environment cannot be, ignored. They can also be very harmful to the user if not used properly posing various health hazards even leading to death. Organic fertilizers on the other hand cannot provide extreme growth but the environmental and human risk is almost none. The toxicity levels in them are close to none. In fact, as the organic fertilizers release and break down their nutrients very slowly, they actually make the soil suitable for the microorganisms to thrive which then help to retain the fertility in the soil too.
To conclude, we can say that in order to keep the crops in the farm or the plants in the garden healthy enough and keep their growth steady, while also increasing their yield, fertilizers turn out to be a very efficient and effective solution. We have also discussed the working of fertilizer and the important chemistry behind their interaction with the soil and plants. In addition, we have discussed the different type of fertilizers, their merits and demerits we can safely assume that while inorganic fertilizers do have the same purpose as that of organic fertilizers they surely pose many hazards that if left unchecked and treated incautiously can yield catastrophic results. If you ever need any, further assistance with your garden or farm. Feel free to contact us. NivShakti Bioenergy is an organic fertilizer company established solely for helping farmers and in general everyone who is interested in practising horticulture.
NivShakti BioenergyPvt. Ltd. was, established in 2003 when Mr Sandeep Jalan first started out his passion for making the world Poison free. This drove him to do intense research and gave him the impetus to turn hard work and inspiration into a blooming Bioenergy Company. NivShakti BioenergyPvt. Ltd. has come a long way into this field. Our agrochemicals products are present across the country; the majority being in UP and northeast India and our team is always, geared up to provide E3 Solutions.
With these final notes, we wish you a lush green garden or a farm alike and as always happy cultivating.