why do we use fertilizer for plants

Question : IБve heard that fertilizers can have negative effects. Why do farmers use fertilizers? Answer : All the nutrients in our food originally come from the soil. In order to create healthy crops full of nutrients, farmers need to work with healthy soil. Soils naturally contain many nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium, and potassium. These nutrients allow plants to grow. When soil nutrients are missing or in short supply, plants suffer from nutrient deficiency and stop growing. When the nutrient level is too low, the plant cannot function properly and produce the food necessary to feed the worldsБ population. Once crops are harvested for human consumption, the natural supply of nutrients in the soil must be Бre-filledБ. This is why farmers add nutrients to their soils. Nutrients can be added from a variety of sourcesБorganic matter, chemical fertilizers, and even by some plants. This maintains the soil fertility, so the farmer can continue to grow nutritious crops and healthy crops.

Farmers turn to fertilizers because these substances contain plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers are simply plant nutrients applied to agricultural fields to supplement required elements found naturally in the soil. Fertilizers have been used since the start of agriculture. Native American people used crude fertilizers, such as burying a fish in their corn plots, and organic farmers use fertilizer from natural source, such as compost. Most farmers today use fertilizers that are either mined or manufactured. Regardless of the source of the fertilizer, all plants use the same inorganic forms of fertilizer in the soil. Sometimes the source of nitrogen can be plants called Бnitrogen fixers. Б Many farmers use crops, such as soybeans and alfalfa (called legumes), that can remove naturally occurring nitrogen in the atmosphere, and place (БfixБ) it in the soil for future crops to use. Fertilizer use is very expensive and can harm the environment if not used correctly.

Therefore, before adding fertilizer, farmers send a soil sample to a laboratory for baseline testing. By testing their soil, farmers know which nutrientsБand how muchБto apply to the soil. If too little is added, crops will not produce as much as they should. If too much is added, or at the wrong time, excess nutrients will run off the fields and pollute streams and groundwater. So, while fertilizers serve an important purpose, farmers must be careful to use the right amount, at the right time, to avoid potential negative effects to the environment. To stay healthy, humans need to acquire essential nutrients from many different food sources. The demand for food and other products from agricultural systems will increase over the next few decades. This means that we need to keep our soils healthy and full of nutrients in order to feed the growing population. To explore more about fertilizer use, sustainability and food security, visit our sister blog
To view SSSA s Soils Support Agriculture video, visit More educational materials can be found on various SSSA websites: (K-12 Lesson Plans and Activities) (Just for kids! ) (International Year of Soils, with a coloring book and monthly ideas for teachers and scientists! ) Subscribe to SSSAБs Soils Matter blog posts to get monthly answers to common soils-related questions: Become a Friend of Soil Science (no charge) at: Dig in further with a free trial membership at Why do we need to use fertiliser?

Fertiliser replaces the nutrients removed when produce from the land is harvested. Fertiliser allows soils to maintain or increase plant growth and provides essential nutrients for animal health. It is a vital part of New Zealand's agricultural and forestry industries. These industries are a major source of income for New Zealand through the export of meat, wool, timber and horticultural produce to offshore markets. It is estimated that without fertiliser use, New Zealand's soils would be capable of supporting less than half, and possibly as low as 25% of the animals grazed or crops grown.

Such a drop in agricultural production would have a devastating effect on the country's economy. New Zealand soils in their natural state are typically acidic, and low in phosphate, sulphur and some trace elements. Since modern agricultural practice began, New Zealand farmers have been supplementing the soil's natural nutrient level with fertiliser, to improve the landвs production potential. The most common fertiliser used has been superphosphate but in more recent times this has been blended with potash, sulphur and trace elements. The gradual enhancing of New Zealand's soils has transformed their stock grazing and crop growing capacity. Generally, New Zealand's soils have reached a state where it is possible for farmers to maintain current nutrient levels. However, if fertiliser application was lower than the requirements of crops or pasture, the soil would revert to a lower animal or crop carrying state.

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