Soil quality plays a central role in growing a variety of crops. Its quality could spell the success of your yield every harvesting season! You have to make sure that the soil has enough nutrients to support plant life. Adding fertilizer is one of the best ways to improve the soil’s nutrient profile. Amending the soil with fertilizers is an important step because it gives your crops a strong start during the growing season.
For growers, there are two types of fertilizers to choose from and each one has its own pros and cons: organic and chemical fertilizers. The benefits and drawbacks of organic and chemical fertilizers are still a subject of a heated debate among growers; some prefer the former while others prefer the latter, all for various reasons. In this guide, let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of organic and chemical fertilizers to see which product suits your needs:
When it comes to fertilizers, the term "organic" is different from the term associated with food processing standards. As the name implies, organic fertilizer is made from natural substances. Unlike chemical fertilizer, organic fertilizer is minimally processed to retain its "natural" form. Generally, organic fertilizers are made from plant and/or animal wastes as well as powdered minerals.
Manure, fish emulsion, cow manure, chicken manure, cottonseed meal, compost, and bone meal are just a few of the many different types of organic fertilizers. Some types of organic fertilizers are made purely from a single natural substance (all chicken litter and ground up feathers) while others are made from a combination of natural substances. Sometimes organic fertilizers are made from farms, others are processed in a factory.
The Benefits of Using Organic Fertilizers
Better Soil Structure
Organic fertilizers enrich the soil by breaking down and releasing nutrients. This process improves the overall nutrient profile of the soil while also enhancing its structure. Using organic fertilizers, the soil is able to retain water and nutrients better.
Slow Release of Nutrients
Organic fertilizers release nutrients into the soil slowly. Synthetic fertilizers tend to release nutrients too quickly, which leads to fertilizer burns. By slowly releasing nutrients into the soil, the plants could absorb all the nutrients they need to grow without stressing out or over-fertilizing the crops.
No Toxin Buildup
As we mentioned previously in this guide, synthetic fertilizers tend to release harmful acids and toxic chemicals into the soil, which may harm the plants. Since organic fertilizers are made from biodegradable matter, these products do not release harmful chemicals or salts that are deadly to plants.
You don’t have to worry about polluting the waters or the soil if you use organic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are not only biodegradable; these products are also environmentally friendly, sustainable, and renewable.
DIY Organic Fertilizers
Store-bought organic fertilizers may be more expensive than chemical fertilizers simply because the way these products were processed is a long, complex one. However, you can save more money on organic fertilizers by making some at home. Composting is a great way to save more money on fertilizers. You can also buy organic fertilizers from local sellers, such as nearby dairy farms that sell composted manure!
The Drawbacks of Using Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers release nutrients into the soil with the help of microorganisms that break down the fertilizers slowly. And for the microorganisms to break down the organic fertilizers effectively, they need warmth and moisture. If the soil is not warm or moist enough, the breakdown of the organic fertilizer will take time and its effects will be limited. Thankfully, these microorganisms use the energy from decaying plants and animal matter so they are able to do their job.
A Slow Start
Organic fertilizers have to break down into the soil first before you can see the results. It’s not unusual to see the results within a few months after the first application has broken down completely. So do not expect results overnight, you have to be patient.
Yes, organic fertilizer is more expensive than chemical fertilizer simply because of the way it is processed. But again, this product can be made on your own using compost or you can always find a seller that offers organic fertilizers at a much lower price.
Chemical fertilizers, also known as inorganic, synthetic, or artificial fertilizer, are made from refined fertilizer substances along with chemical fillers. Generally, chemical fertilizers are made synthetically from inorganic materials including petroleum products and rocks. Ammonium sulphate, ammonium phosphate, ammonium nitrate, urea, ammonium chloride are just a few of the many different types of chemical fertilizers.
Some growers prefer chemical fertilizers because these products are a rich source of 3 important chemicals: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, chemical fertilizers do contain toxic compounds and acids that could affect plant growth.
The Benefits of Using Chemical Fertilizers
The price is one of the reasons why some growers prefer chemical fertilizers to organic fertilizers; synthetic fertilizers are cheap. Apart from being affordable, chemical fertilizers are more accessible too. These products are available in places that sell garden supplies.
You don't have to wait for weeks or months before you can see the results once you've applied chemical fertilizers to the soil. You will see the improvements in your plants within days. Chemical fertilizers release nutrients at a much faster rate compared to organic fertilizer. This isn’t a good thing when you have sensitive plants as the quick release of nutrients may lead to fertilizer burns. But as far as the amount of time it takes for fertilizers to show results is concerned, this is the faster option.
Organic fertilizers' nutrient ratios aren't as defined as chemical fertilizer. The latter's nutrient ratios are clearly defined on the label, which minimizes the risk of over-fertilizing.
The Drawbacks of Using Chemical Fertilizer
Unlike organic fertilizer, chemical fertilizer is not eco-friendly at all. For one thing, it’s made from petroleum products, which are not sustainable. In addition, chemical fertilizer leaches into water sources, causing water pollution. Manufacturing chemical fertilizer consumes enormous amounts of energy too.
Doesn't Improve Soil Structure
While chemical fertilizers support plant growth, they do nothing when it comes to improving the soil structure. Chemical fertilizers won’t enhance the soil’s health nor will it support the life within the garden because these products do not contain organic matter.
Frequent Application and Over-Fertilization
You have to be careful in terms of the amount of chemical fertilizer you use to amend the soil. For one thing, the quick release of nutrients means that it is easy to over-fertilize the plants. Over-fertilization can kill plant life and upset the garden’s entire ecosystem! Unfortunately, since this product tends to filter away from plants, you’d have to apply more of it.
Toxic BuildupChemical fertilizers aren’t recommended for repeated applications and long-term use. These products could cause the buildup of dangerous chemicals including as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium. In addition, long-term use of chemical fertilizers may alter the soil’s pH permanently, contributing to the release of greenhouse gases and killing off entire microbial ecosystems.
Which Type of Fertilizer is better?
Chemical and organic fertilizers support plant growth but which one is the better choice? When it comes to deciding which product is better, everything will depend on the needs of your plants. Both products enrich the soil with nutrients that plants need and each one has their own benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, your preferences in terms of the cost, availability, and environmental impact will affect your buying decision.