Food production has been through much advancement since the introduction of the Green Revolution. It has impacted the food supply and increased farmers’ income worldwide.
Though it helped enhance agricultural production, increased crop yield, helped combat unemployment and provided relief to farmers, it has had many drawbacks as well.
Not only it introduced genetically modified GMOs and high-yielding seeds that were disease and drought-resistant but pest resistant as well. While this may sound like an advantage, it had some adverse effects too. The use of non-sustainable agricultural practices and repetitive production of the same crops has stripped the soil of its nutrients, not to mention the side effects it had on other species as well.
To combat this issue, several alternate solutions have been introduced. Like crop rotation, reintroducing livestock grazing, sowing open-pollinated and non-GMO seeds, reducing tillage, adding organic and inorganic amendments, and adding fertilisers for the most part.
Why Do Plants Need Fertilisers
Plants need nutrients in varying amounts for healthy growth. When crops are harvested, a sufficient amount of nutrients are lost from the soil. If they are not replenished on time, the overall crop yields deteriorate over time. Fertilising is an excellent way of adding nutrients back to the soil.
For plants to grow and thrive, they need adequate amounts of:
- Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are available in abundance.
- NPK. The macronutrients that you will find in most packaged fertilisers.
- Secondary nutrients like sulfur, calcium and magnesium.
- Micronutrients like boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, etc.
While each of these is important, plants require nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in large quantities. Farmers usually use NPK-rich poultry and animal manure, UREA, or mono ammonium phosphate, a rich source of phosphorus and nitrogen.
While manure is obtained naturally from decayed plant and animal matter, fertilizers are chemical compounds that are synthetically manufactured in factories and enhance crop yield on application.
Benefits of Applying Fertilisers
Adding fertilisers guarantees that the plants are receiving proper nutrition during their development. Fertilisers essentially:
- Support plant growth.
- Are predictable and efficient sources of plant nutrition.
- Increase crop yields.
- Are beneficial for large crops.
- Enhance plant metabolism.
- Optimise the PH level of the soil.
Types of Fertilisers
With the number of fertilisers available in the market, it becomes difficult to choose one that suits your plant’s needs. A good place to start is by considering two main categories – organic and synthetic.
While most gardeners and farmers think organic is the best source of nutrients, some synthetic fertilisers might be a better choice for your plants.
Organic fertilisers are entirely made of natural organic matter. Common examples are manure, seaweed, slurry, worm casting, coco peat etc.
Synthetics, on the other hand, are made from inorganic compounds that provide the macronutrients your plants need to grow. The most common examples of synthetic fertilisers are UREA, mono potassium phosphate and mono ammonium phosphate. Synthetic fertilisers generally come in granules (slow release) and liquid (water soluble) forms.
Dry or granular fertilisers are created by mixing individual granular fertilisers, namely N, P, and K, in a ratio to create a desired blend.
Water-soluble fertilisers are easily dissolvable and allow plants to instantly intake nutrients after application.
Common Ways to Apply Fertilisers
Understanding the most common practices of applying fertilisers ensures that plants receive nutrients more efficiently.
- Direct soil application allows the soil to take up nutrients and supply them to the plants as per their requirements.
- Evenly spreading dry fertiliser onto the top layer of the soil is a method known as broadcasting. It is mostly used on large farms.
- Foliar application refers to the practice of spraying fertilisers diluted in water directly onto the plant’s leaves. This direct method provides nutrients to the plant tissues during their growth stages.
- Solubilising dry fertilisers in water and applying them to the soil through a drip irrigation system. A process called Fertigation.
How Much Fertiliser is Too Much Fertiliser?
Visible crusts of fertiliser on the soil surface, yellow and wilting leaves, browning leaf tips, unseasonal leaf drops, slow or no growth, and rotting roots may be signs of over-fertilisation.
Excessive use, poor drainage, and improper application of fertilisers can lead to plant damage.
Below are different ways you can manage the application process:
- Figure out the current nutrient requirements of your soil.
- Add organic matter like compost or mulch to your soil to make it organically rich.
- Identify the feeding habits of your plants.
If you are unsure about the amount of fertiliser to use and wondering if you are applying too much, it is best to apply less rather than more and observe.
The crops we grow provide essential nutrition for all living things. Although every plant is different and has various needs, decent soil with the right nutrients is an excellent place to start. Utilising usage of fertilisers is crucial, and the best rule to follow is to read and obey the instruction panel on the packets. With the right amount of care and nutrients, plants can thrive and provide abundant harvest. However, it is best to choose a reputable company to buy fertilisers.