July 22

Organic Vs Synthetic Fertilizers.

Organic Fertilizers

Are made from dead from plants and animals. Examples of organic fertilizers are: bone meal, vermicompost, compost, and fish hydrolysate.

Synthetic Fertilizers

Are inorganic, they're manufactured in large factories using waste materials from petroleum products. Examples are ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, potassium sulfate, and urea.

Rock powders 

Are also inorganic but are generally permissible in organic food production. Examples are Greensand, Rock Phosphate, Basalt Dust, Azomite and Zeolite.

sprinkling rock dust

Rock dusts can be used to provide trace minerals

Plants need 13 nutrients. Three well known ; nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).  These three nutrients are most used by plants. They must be replaced in our soil to maximize productivity and crop yields.

The secondary nutrients are; calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). Many soils contain enough of these nutrients , so adding more is not always needed. Though calcium is often used to control soil PH.

In small quantities plants need: boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo) and zinc (Zn).

Plants cannot tell the difference between an organic or man made fertilizer. Organic fertilizers need broken down by microbes in soil. Only inorganic compounds being usable by plant roots. Yet this doesn't mean that there's no difference to the health of your plants.

Chemical fertilizers add only quick release nutrients to the soil. They don’t add slow release, long term plant nutrition and seldom add the secondary nutrients.

decadent chocolate cake

Using synthetic fertilizer would be like eating only this for the rest of your life

Plants  need organic matter and microorganisms. Synthetic fertilizers do not support microbiology in the soil. Synthetic fertilizer kills a large percentage of beneficial microbes. because they are salts they remove water from organisms by osmosis.

Microscopic creatures break down organic matter. This is a slower release meal for plants than a chemical fertilizer. Organic material is like a healthy meal in our bodies. Synthetic fertilizers can be compared to us living on desserts.

Microbes are crucial for improving soil fertility in the long term. Our own bodies would become unhealthy surviving on cake. Likewise soil, plants and biology become unhealthy on a chemical diet.

Some microbes convert nitrogen from the air into plant usable forms. Others "mine" for nutrients from surrounding rock. Others break down large, organic molecules into smaller, inorganic compounds. Soluble, inorganic molecules that are absorbed up by plant roots, dissolved in water.

a group of fruiting fungi

Fungi mine rocks for plant minerals

Composted organic matter increases the diversity of beneficial microorganisms in our soil. Nitrifying bacteria found in soil and compost convert organic nitrogen into inorganic nitrogen. In a process called nitrification nitrites and nitrates are formed. Plants then are able to take up the nitrogen released by these bacteria. Compost contains a surprising variety of microbes. Many are beneficial in controlling plant and human pathogens

• Organic matter improves soil structure. Microbes produce sticky "glues"that hold organic materials into particles called aggregates. Sometimes aggregates are called "crumb". Aggregates allow water and air to enter the soil, roots to penetrate deeper, and biology to grow. Diverse and active biological communities help soil resist compaction. They cycle nutrients at a rate that meets plants needs without excess. Soil health and soil quality are terms used to describe soils that are fertile.  Healthy soils have physical and biological properties that sustain long term crop yields. This promotes plant and animal health"

• Organic matter holds water like a sponge and enhances the fertility of soil.

• Diverse microbe populations  break down contaminants in soil and water. They create compounds that pose less of an environmental or health hazard (bioremediation.)

There are some minor downsides to using organic fertilizers. But the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. Cons of organic amendments:

• Organic fertilizers have large variables in nutrient content between batches.

• Organic materials are less dense in macronutrients compared to inorganic fertilizers. They rely on soil biology to work.

• Organic fertilizers can be expensive to use on large scale crop production.

• Organic fertilizers lack consistent shape and size, so they're more difficult to apply. Existing spreaders and equipment are designed for the uniform structure of synthetic fertilizers.

• The release of nutrients relies on microbiological activity. Rises and falls in soil temperature and moisture content makes nutrient availability variable.

spreading manure

Organic fertilizers can be messy and potentially cost prohibitive 

Limitations of chemical fertilizers:

• Synthetic fertilizers rarely provide micronutrients.

• Synthetic fertilizers do not support microbiology in the soil. They actually lower the diversity all biomass.

• Chemicals fertilizers do not add organic matter to the soil. This prevents the production of aggregates and crumb. Leaving the soil vulnerable to compaction. Compaction prevents roots and water from penetrating soil and increases irrigation costs.

• Synthetic chemicals can, damage roots when applied in excess. Or create a concentration of salts that draws water from plants backwards into soil.

• Chemical fertilizers release nutrients quickly. Resulting in a great deal of growth above shallow roots. This type of growth leads to weaker, disease prone plants, with lower crop yields.

• Synthetic fertilizers, dissolve easily, and release nutrients faster than plants use them. Nutrients leach into groundwater and  wetlands. This causes algae blooms and environmental issues. One being the competition for oxygen in aquatic ecosystems.

chemical fertilizer

Synthetics are more uniform in shape and are easier to spread and apply

Healthy plants produce healthy food for healthy people. Organic principles produce healthy soil to grow healthy plants. How we treat our soil suddenly becomes as important as personal hygiene in maintaining our health and living longer lives.


compost, garden, healthy soil, restoring soil health

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