As the world is increasingly fretting over pollution, deforestation and degradation of the environment and essentially the earth our habitat, food shortages and the fear of famine is also a major concern not to be overlooked. Are there any myths about fertilizers?
According to the Global Network Against Food Crisis, an estimated 161 million people experienced crisis levels of acute food insecurity in 2021, representing nearly four percent increase from 2020. Numerous studies over the years have shown that farm lands lose their soil fertility after continuous usage and thus fertilizer usage became a necessity to manage food shortages and hunger.
The role of fertilizers is to increase and ensure healthy crop yield by enriching the soil with nutrients, without which the soil will be depleted. Fertilizers provide crops with potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, zinc, calcium, boron and other nutrients necessary for plant growth and development.
But there are lots of myths and misconception surrounding fertilizer use. Some individuals even attribute chronic and some lifestyle diseases like cancer to the prevalent use of fertilizer in farming.
Related media: Organic Gardening Myths – Fertilizers
#1. Fertilizers Do Not Deplete The Soil
Fertilizers increase soil nutrient and not deplete it. Constant farming of same land decreases the soil’s nutrients, though the soil can replenish itself naturally, it is sometimes not enough. To keep up with the world’s rising population that needs to be fed, higher crop yields are now a necessity.
#2. Fertilizers Are Not Pesticides
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances usually chemicals, that is used to prevent and destroy pests that impede plant growth. Fertilizers are used to improve plant growth not destroy or prevent the growth of plants. Like humans, plants cannot survive on water alone. Just as humans need nutritious food, plants need enough nutrients to grow and grow well.
#3. Fertilizers Are Natural Products
Very similar to supplements, fertilizers are natural supplements for plants. They are made up of natural elements. Plants take in nutrients from the soil through the roots, nitrogen (78 percent of natural air) is a very key nutrient that cannot be absorbed from the air by plants, likewise phosphates that are naturally in rock form is not easily absorbed by plants. Though potassium chloride is a natural element in the soil, it is located one to two kilometers below the soil surface, making it necessary for potassium fertilizers to be used. Potassium can also be obtained from burning wood ash or straw.
#4. Fertilizers Cannot Make You Sick
The nutrients in fertilizers are also essential for human growth, therefore consuming fertilized food products on its own cannot make you sick. Fertilizers do not change the plant Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The genetics of a crop plant or plants in general can be altered for higher crop production and an increase in health benefits of food crops. This though is not the work of fertilizers.
#5. Fertilizers Impact The Environment
To augment the production of mineral fertilizers (nitrogen, potassium, phosphates), industrial fertilizers like urea, ammonium phosphate and ammonium nitrate are produced through a chemical reaction known as the Haber-Bosch process. The emissions of methane, nitrate, ammonia and carbon dioxide present in fertilizers especially industrially produced ones contribute to greenhouse gases responsible for global warming and deteriorating weather changes.
What Is Eutrophication?
Eutrophication is the process by which water bodies gradually is enriched with minerals and nutrients especially nitrogen and phosphorus, and these are integral minerals in fertilizers. Nutrient pollution, a form of water pollution, is a primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters, in which excess nutrients, usually nitrogen or phosphorus, stimulate algal and aquatic plant growth.
The alternative to mineral fertilizers is organic fertilizers which are based on materials with a biological origin. These include animal wastes, crop residues, compost, bio solids and other organic waste. Both organic and mineral fertilizers can be used to replenish the soil. The nutritional content of organic fertilizers is low compared to mineral fertilizers, which are concentrated and have a strictly controlled nutrient content.
Fertilizers are simply fertility boosters and so the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulphur, magnesium, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and the micronutrients iron, boron, chlorine, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum and nickel used in the production of fertilizers are not particularly harmful but its continuous use definitely has its side effects.
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Written by: Phoebe Addo, Thu, Mar 11, 2022.