What does fertilizer mean? Well, the official definition from Oxford languages is: “a chemical or natural substance added to soil or land to increase its fertility.” – There’s the short answer. But, what does that actually mean? And what are the different types of fertilizer? Let’s take a closer look…
What is fertilizer?
A fertilizer (of fertiliser) is any form of material whether natural or synthetic in origin, that can be applied to soil or plant tissues in order to supply them with the necessary nutrients to facilitate healthy growth.
Fertilizers can be distinct from liming materials, or other non-nutrient soil amendments. That, and there are countless sources of fertilizer that exist, both organic, and industrially produced.
The type of fertilizer that you will need, largely depends on what it is that you are growing, where you are based, what soil type you have, and what your desired outcome is.
Fun fertilizer facts:
OK, perhaps they’re not so much fun, as they are informative…
1 – Mineral fertilizers can also be organic too
There is a distinction between organic and mineral, and natural and synthetic. Organic fertilizers contain carbon. These can be in the form of manure (that’s right! Poop!) and others are synthetic (man-made), such as compost.
Mineral fertilizers are most typically inorganic and synthetic, such as urea. However, mineral fertilizers can occur naturally in the right environment (i.e., potassium chloride and phosphate rock).
2 – Mineral fertilizers do not poison the soil (contrary to popular belief)
When applied at the correct rates, neither mineral nor organic fertilizers will poison the soil. It’s all about timing, placement, the right sources, and again, the amount applied.
That being said, when you apply excessive amounts of fertilizer (whether organic or mineral), they can indeed cause some serious environmental damage.
3 – Nitrogen isn’t lost when fertilizer is applied to crops
The common believe that that crops retain between 30% and 70% of fertilizers applied, while the rest is lost to leaching and denitrification. However, that is not actually the case. The N20 doesn’t disappear, but is actually absorbed by the microbes in the soil before the roots can take it. This is then converted into organic matter, thus making the soil richer, as opposed to being “lost”.
4 – Organic matter in soil is not depleted by fertilizer
Mineral fertilizers can actually increase crop biomass, provided the residues are incorporated into the soil itself. There will be more residue from crops and roots to decompose if the mineral fertilizer applied actually boosts your yield. In turn, this creates more organic soil matter. With a combination of both mineral and organic, you can increase these organic matters even further!
5 – Organic fertilizer isn’t the only means of plant nutrition
Fertilizers are important, however, the plant doesn’t really care where the nutrients are coming from (whether it be organic matter, the decomposition of poop, or through roots and crop residues. However, the soil does care! Thus, combining both organic and mineral fertilizers can be extremely beneficial to your plants and soil.
6 – Human poop can be properly composted
Ugghh! Yes, it’s disgusting, however, human poop can indeed be composted. Obviously, we wouldn’t recommend trying to grow your own crops with your own human waste. However, if ever you find yourself stranded on an island and feeling as though you might be there for a while, human waste can be used to grow plants and vegetables. You can even get composting toilets that can turn your poop (and other organic material) into a ready-to-use compost for fertilizing your plants and soils! That being said…you are probably better off contacting a fertilizer supplier instead.
So, what is fertilizer? In short, fertilizer is a substance, whether organic or synthetic, that is used to help your crops and plant yields be stronger and healthier. It is also useful for enriching your soil and essentially making the habitat better suited for growth and longevity. If you’d like to explore the various types of fertilizer in greater depth, and perhaps purchase some for your garden, then check out a reputable supplier like Tkkfer for more information!