Comparing Synthetic vs. Organic Fertilizers
Written by Jerry Gach
Synthetic Fertilizers are “Man made” inorganic compounds - usually derived from by-products of the petroleum industry. Examples are Ammonium Nitrate, Ammonium Phosphate, Superphosphate, and Potassium Sulfate.
The secondary nutrients are; calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). There are usually enough of these nutrients in the soil, so additional fertilization is not always needed. The micronutrients used in small quantities are; boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chloride
(Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo) and zinc (Zn).
Plants cannot distinguish between an organic or synthetic fertilizer – the nutrients are processed in exactly the same way. However, the similarity stops there.
Compost and organic material introduces beneficial microorganisms. Microorganisms commonly found in soil and compost convert organic nitrogen into inorganic nitrogen, a process called mineralization. Plants may then take up the nutrients released by these.
Composts contain an astonishing variety of microbes, many of which may be beneficial in controlling pathogens. Beneficial microbes help to control plant pathogens.
- Organic matter improves soil structure, resulting in a crumb-like structure.
- Organic matter improves water retention and enhances soil fertility.
- Microorganisms can break down contaminants in the soil and water to components that pose less of an environmental hazard.
There are some disadvantages in using organic fertilizers, but the benefits out weigh the limitations. Limitations of organic amendments
- The composition of organic fertilizers may be highly variable.
- Organic materials are a dilute source of nutrients compared to inorganic fertilizers. ·
- Organic fertilizers may be cost prohibitive on a large scale operation.
- Organic fertilizers can be messy, and may require more work to apply.
- The release of nutrients is highly variable, and reflects the number and work of microbiological activity, which generally rises and falls with soil temperature.
- Most chemical fertilizers do not contain micronutrients.
- Synthetic fertilizers do not support microbiological life in the soil.
- Chemicals fertilizers do not add organic content to the soil.
- Synthetic chemicals can easily be over applied, and can "burn" roots, or create toxic concentration of salts.
- Chemical fertilizers can release nutrients too quickly, creating a great deal of top growth before the roots are able to catch up. This kind of growth often leads to weaker and disease prone plants, with less fruiting.
- Synthetic fertilizers often leach, because they dissolve easily, and release nutrients faster than plants use them.
In conclusion, “Dirt” becomes good soil only when you have these other components; Organic matter, Living Organisms, Moisture, and Nutrients for plants and microorganisms. Healthy
plants need healthy soil!
Alan Hanson and Jerry Gach are the owners of Blue Ridge Vermiculture, and the sponsors of the February/March 2008 contest where 5 lucky winners will win Blue Ridge Vermiculture - All Natural Premium Worm Casts. They specialize in Worms and Worm Castings. For more information go to www.TheWormDude.com. Mention that you saw this article on "THE MULCH", and receive a 10% discount on all purchases.