fertilizers for crop production. The debate about the use of these fertilizers is a pressing one today, as many people are realizing the benefits of organic production and seeking growing methods that work with nature. The following list discusses many of the advantages and disadvantages of using agricultural fertilizers.
For the purposes of discussion in this article, the term “fertilizers” refers to synthetic chemical-based fertilizers, not organic fertilizers such as animal manure and compost.
Pros of using agricultural fertilizers
- Support plant growth
These nutrients from fertilizers allow crops to be grown even in depleted soils because the plant’s basic nutritional requirements are being met.
- Provides a predictable and efficient source of nutrients
- Grow crops fast and big
- Increase harvest yields
- Inexpensive and easy to transport
Cons of using agricultural fertilizers
- Fertilizers can actually “burn” people, plants, and the soil
- Fertilizers produce toxicity and pollution
Synthetic fertilizers often contain toxins that can be destructive to the soil, and the chemicals in these fertilizers can be poisonous to humans, wildlife, and marine life if they reach the oceans.
Fertilizers can also leach through soil into groundwater, making it very harmful to the surrounding environment.
- Results in depleted soils
Over the last century, the soil in many regions has become so depleted that most of our food is now significantly deficient in many important nutrients, such as magnesium, because we are failing to replenish the soil with anything but nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium[sc:3].
- Interfere with natural soil ecology
Crop health also suffers because unhealthy soil leads to plants that are more vulnerable to disease and pests. These vulnerable plants are more dependent upon chemical inputs to maintain plant health[sc:4].
- Chemical fertilizers are like steroids for plants
While the biotech industry’s “solution” to crop pests and diseases is to create increasingly toxic pesticide chemicals and genetically altered versions of plants that are supposed to fend off these threats, the common sense solution is to get back to comprehensively nourishing the soil with organic matter that will promote truly healthy plant growth that will allow for greater natural resilience of plants.
The best approach to growing crops is to apply sustainable production methods, such as permaculture, that nourish the soil and its critical ecology that supports all of life. The long-term sustainability of our food production will be dependent upon how we treat the soil.
If we nourish and treat the soil well, it will reward us with delicious, nutrient-dense food that maintains greater resilience in the face of drought, pests, and disease.