If plants want to grow well, in addition to choosing a suitable medium, they also need basic sunlight and watering. In addition, they also need to fertilize the plants regularly to let them “replenish” it! · There are hundreds of kinds of plant fertilizers, and different fertilizers have different effects.
Fertilizers are the essential nutrients that plants require for healthy growth and development. They provide the necessary nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other trace elements that plants need to carry on photosynthesis, build strong roots, leaves, and stems, and produce fruits or flowers. Fertilizers can come in various forms, including organic and inorganic, chemical and natural, liquid or granular, and applied in different ways.
Fertilizers are a crucial ingredient in the production of crops and are used to add nutrients to the soil, which enriches the soil, increases the yield of crops, and enhances the overall quality of crops. However, using the wrong fertilizer or applying it at the wrong time or in the wrong quantity can have adverse effects on the environment.
Types of fertilizers
1. Organic fertilizers: – are derived from natural sources such as animal, waste compost, or plant residues. They are usually slow-release and provide a range of macronutrients, micronutrients, and organic matter to the soil. One popular organic fertilizer is manure, which is rich in nitrogen, potassium, and other nutrients.
Another organic fertilizer is bone meal, which is made from crushed animal bones and is rich in phosphorus. A third organic fertilizer is compost, which is made from decomposed plants and materials animal and provides a rich source of organic matter that enhances water retention, microbial activity, and soil structure.
2. Inorganic fertilizers: – also known as chemical fertilizers, are made from synthetic compounds that are formulated to provide specific nutrients. They are quickly absorbed by plants and can supply their macronutrient and micronutrient needs. Inorganic fertilizers come in several types such as nitrogen fertilizers, phosphorus fertilizers, and potassium fertilizers.
Nitrogen fertilizers are the most commonly used type of inorganic fertilizer and are applied to crops to promote vegetative growth. Some nitrogen popular fertilizers are ammonium nitrate, urea, and ammonium sulfate. Phosphorus fertilizers are used to stimulate root growth, flower, and fruit formation and are often used to improve crop yield.
3. Liquid fertilizers: are another category of fertilizers and are applied through irrigation spraying,, or injection systems. They are usually expensive and used mainly by commercial farmers for high-value crops. Liquid fertilizers offer the advantage of providing an accurate nutrient dose and can be customized to suit the plant’s requirements. Some forms of liquid fertilizers include fish emulsion, seaweed extract, and liquid bone meal.
4. Granular fertilizers: these are the most common form of fertilizers and come in pellet, powder, or prill form. They can be applied by hand, in spreaders, or as part of a seed treatment. Granular fertilizers offer the advantage of being easy to apply and store, and they release nutrients slowly over time. Some examples of granular fertilizers include urea, ammonium nitrate, and triple superphosphate.
Fertilizers Based on specialty
Slow-release fertilizers, micronutrient fertilizers, and pH-balancing fertilizers are becoming more popular.
Slow-release fertilizers are designed to release nutrients slowly over time, providing a steady or extended release of nutrients to plants. Organic fertilizers are usually slow-acting
Micronutrient fertilizers are used to deliver trace elements to plants in the correct ratios to promote better growth and plant health.
PH-balancing fertilizers are used to adjust the soil’s pH level to a specific range, enabling crops to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients.
Nutrients of fertilizers
The most common ingredients in fertilizers are:
Nitrogen (N): Nitrogen is essential for plant growth. It helps to produce chlorophyll, which is the green pigment that gives plants their color. Nitrogen also helps to produce proteins and other essential compounds.
Phosphorus (P): Phosphorus is essential for plant reproduction. It helps to produce flowers, fruits, and seeds. Phosphorus also helps to strengthen the roots of plants.
Potassium (K): Potassium is essential for plant health. It helps to regulate the water balance of plants and to protect them from disease. Potassium also helps to improve the quality of fruits and vegetables.
In addition to these three main nutrients, fertilizers may also contain other nutrients, such as calcium, Calcium Carbide, magnesium, sulfur, and iron. These nutrients are essential for plant health, but they are needed in smaller amounts than nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Calcium carbide is a source of calcium, which is an important nutrient for plant growth.
Calcium helps to strengthen plant cell walls and improve the uptake of other nutrients. Calcium carbide is a slow-release fertilizer, which means that it releases its nutrients over a long period of time. It is non-caustic, so it is safe to use around plants and animals and effective at controlling weeds and pests.
How to use fertilizers?
The use of fertilizers has come under scrutiny in recent times due to their potential negative impact on the environment. The excess use of chemical fertilizers can have a detrimental effect on the soil, water, and air. To safeguard our planet’s future, it is vital to learn how to use fertilizers the right way and preserve the natural environment.
1. Understand the type of fertilizer required for the particular crop and soil type– Organic fertilizers are made from natural sources, such as animal waste and plant residue. Inorganic fertilizers, also known as chemical fertilizers, are synthetic, and the nutrients are manufactured using chemicals. Organic fertilizers contain essential nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, which help plants grow. However, they have relatively low levels of these nutrients than chemical fertilizers. On the other hand, inorganic fertilizers provide higher amounts of nutrients.
2. Determine the quantity required– Here, it is essential to keep in mind that excess fertilization can have negative consequences, such as leaching and denitrification that can pollute groundwater, lakes, and rivers. Similarly, too little fertilizer can limit plant growth, leading to low crop yields. Farmers can determine the fertilizer requirements for their crops through soil testing. Soil testing helps determine the nutrients present in the soil and the ones needed for optimal growth. Once the tests are done, farmers can use the results to determine the right fertilizer type and quantity.
3. The timing of application-Fertilizers should be applied when the crops need them. The timing of application varies according to the crop and the fertilizer type. For instance, nitrogen fertilizers are best applied during the vegetative stage when the plants are rapidly growing, whereas phosphorus fertilizers are best applied during the early vegetative stage.
4. Application method-Fertilizers can be applied through different methods, such as broadcasting, banding, side-dressing, and fertigation. Broadcasting involves spreading the fertilizer uniformly over the soil, while banding involves placing the fertilizer in narrow bands close to the plants. Side-dressing involves applying fertilizer to the side of the plant, whereas fertigation involves the application of fertilizer through irrigation.
Safety and precautions
While using fertilizers, it is also important to take safety precautions. Farmers and farmworkers need to wear protective clothing and gear, such as gloves and goggles when handling and applying fertilizers to avoid skin or eye irritation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Din Joy