Fertilizer is a common household item and is a broad term that can mean either a matter that occurs naturally or a combination of chemicals that is applied to boost the growth of plants.
This component can be applied in many ways, including in liquid or granular form.
Every plant needs a mixture of nutrients in order to grow and produce the yields fully. Most of the store-bought fertilizers already have a balanced quantity of nutrients. All you need to do if to follow the direction on the label as you apply to the soil or leaves of the plant.
Generally, plants require the following major elements to grow and develop:
Of all the above chemical elements, the most important to plants, and required in large amounts are phosphorus, nitrogen, and Potassium. These three form the basic building blocks of the plant’s body. Without them, the plants will not be able to grow since they cannot create the pieces needed.
According to the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), about 85% of the soil on the plant is low on nitrogen, while 73% is low on phosphorus and 55% low in Potassium.
However, despite it being a common chemical, not many people really understand how the fertilizer works.
So what does the fertilizer do?
Fertilizers, either organic or chemical, work by providing important nutrients to plants so that they can develop foliage, flowers, and trunks, and so on, as a type of a meal replacement or multi-vitamin. Some fertilizers can also help the soil function properly, like increasing r reducing water retention or increasing aeration.
The most common chemicals found in fertilizers are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).
Nitrogen provides the plants with the required nutrients to develop flowers, stems, or fruits as well as increasing growth speed and the quality of the leaves.
Phosphorus, on the other hand, enables the plant to produce organic elements like starch and oils, which is essential for forming strong root systems. This compound is also responsible for the formation of Chlorophyll, which, as we know, is responsible for turning the solar energy from the sun into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis.
When combined with another essential element, Potassium, phosphorus also helps plants produce healthy fruits and flowers in large quantities.
Last but not least, Potassium is responsible for building up protein, enhance the process of photosynthesis, and also fighting disease.
Despite the three ingredients having different functions, it is important that they work together for the better of the plant. By working together, the three elements feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plants, which in turn feed people and animals.
As I mentioned somewhere above, there are two main categories of fertilizers, namely chemical or mineral, and organic.
Difference between organic and mineral fertilizers
Nature supplies up to 17 readily available nutrients to plants. However, the crop you grow will determine what type of fertilizer you need. Some plants are known for removing different quantities of nutrients from the soil.
For many centuries, organic fertilizers have been used in farming and are still valuable today as an essential source of organic matter and nutrients needed to boot the soil structure.
However, as the population grows, mineral fertilizers are now needed to meet the ever-increasing food requirements. As a result, organic fertilizers have become less and less effective in terms of meeting this requirement, especially since they have a less concentrated amount of nutrients compared to mineral fertilizers.
Unlike organic, mineral fertilizers can be used in small quantities, which means less carbon produced during transportation.
According to the United Nations, the global population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050, which means we need to have a continuous increase in crop yields in order to be able to sustain the population.
To be on the safe side, we need to have a painstaking planned fertilizing.
Importance of fertilizers
For there to be an easier fertilizer planning process, you must know exactly the quantity of nutrients in the fertilizer. Most mineral fertilizers today comprise of macronutrients, micronutrients, and major, all in one.
Mineral fertilizers are typically made in granular form, thus making it easy to transport and apply to the plants.
Are fertilizer nutrients important to us?
Yes, the nutrients found in fertilizers are important to humans too. The plants we eat contain these nutrients, which are obtained from the soil. We can also receive these nutrients when we eat animals that have eaten plants.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium Ratio in Fertilizers
Luckily, you do not have to calculate the amount of the three major elements (N, P, and K) found in fertilizers. The bag usually displays certain numbers that show the percentage of each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and Potassium in a bag. For instance, you can see the number 12-8-10 written on the bag of a mineral fertilizer, which means it is made of 12% nitrogen, 8% phosphorous, and 10% potassium.