Plant fertilizer is one of the most important items in making sure you get the best crop. It adds nutrients to the soil, as well as changes the soil’s property, which in turn increases the crop’s growth.
Different types of fertilizers provide different nutrients with different uses. So let’s take a look at the types of fertilizers and their uses.
Types of nutrients supplied to plants from fertilizers
Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the 3 primary nutrients used in most fertilizers for plants. Each nutrient has its own important role in plant nutrition.
Nitrogen is the most crucial nutrient, and plants absorb it more than any other element.
Nitrogen makes sure the plants grow healthily and nutritious after being harvested. It is essential in forming protein, which makes up most of living things’ tissues.
Phosphorus contributes to how well the plants can use and store energy, including the photosynthesis process. It is also what plants need to grow and develop normally.
Potassium helps the plants resist disease and increase crop yields and overall quality. It also protects the plant from extreme weather conditions, makes the root system stronger, and prevents wilt.
You can also find some other nutrients in different types of fertilizer for plants. They include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Micronutrients or trace minerals
Micronutrients play a supporting role in plants’ health and development.
They include boron, iron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. In some certain types of fertilizer for plants, there are also silicon, vanadium, and cobalt.
Organic fertilizer derived from vegetable matter, animal matter, animal excreta, and human excreta. Animal wastes from meat processing, manure, peat, guano, and slurry can become natural fertilizers.
Animal-based fertilizer derives from residue from animal slaughter or animal manures.
Animal manures come from egg-producing poultry, animals raised for meat, and milk-producing animals. While residue from animal slaughter is mostly blood, feathers, bones hides, horns, and hoofs.
For example, chicken litter consists of chicken manure and sawdust is considered superior for conditioning soil to harvest, urine comes from humans and animals and is rich in phosphorus and nitrogen.
Plant-based fertilizers include amino acids, compost, humic acid, and seaweed extracts. There are also enzyme-digested proteins or crop residue.
Compared to animal-based fertilizers, plant-based fertilizers break down quicker, but they affect the soil more than providing nutrients. The alfalfa, for example, makes the soil more resistant to drainage and moisture retention.
Mineral fertilizers add nutrients to the soil and change the pH level to the needed figure for healthy plant growth. Some mineral fertilizer include guano, peat, greensand, limestones, phosphate rocks
In those fertilizers, peat doesn’t offer nutrients to the plants, but instead improves the soil by water drainage, aeration, and helps with soil microbial health.
Inorganic fertilizers are manufactured artificially and are intended to quickly provide nutrients how and when the users want. The nutrient ratios are printed on the bag to indicate what it is used for.
Although inorganic fertilizers provide great amounts of nutrients for plants, they did nothing to the soil. There are also chances of toxic overdose which affects the soil badly by leaching cadmium, arsenic, and uranium.
Nitrogen fertilizers are made using the Haber-Bosch process and ammonia (NH3). In this process, nitrogen gas comes from the air and the hydrogen comes from methane (CH4)
Ammonia is used as a base for other fertilizers like urea (CO(NH2)2), anhydrous ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), ammonium carbamate (NH2COONH4), and more.
Phosphorus fertilizers are collected by extracting phosphate rocks that contain fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F) and hydroxyapatite (Ca5(PO4)3OH).
Those compounds are converted to water-soluble phosphate salts by combining them with sulfuric acid or phosphoric acids.
There are also some phosphorus sources that may contain many other minerals, including heavy metals, so contamination could be an issue.
Potash is the common name for a mixture of potassium salts used to make potassium fertilizers. In those salts, potassium chloride (KCl) is used the most in world agriculture.
Other popular potassium products include potassium nitrate, potassium nitrate, and potassium-magnesium salts.
The production of potash involves steps like removing clay, separating potash from salt, dewatering and drying, etc.
Mixed fertilizer (or compound fertilizer)
Mixed fertilizers are those with mixtures of straight fertilizers, like ammonium sulfate and single super phosphate. They are usually mixed so that they contain 2 or more from the 3 primary nutrients N, P, K.
Sometimes, 2 or more components react to each other. For example, ammonia reacts with phosphoric acid to create diammonium and monoammonium.
Micronutrient fertilizers are fertilizers that contain micronutrients. The sources for this type of fertilizer are mostly sulfate compounds with zinc, copper, and manganese, chelates for iron, borax for boron, and more.
Caution while using fertilizer
Here is what users should look out for when using fertilizers:
- Store properly: Store the fertilizer safely away from children and pets’ reach, try to keep it locked in places like a shed or garage, at high shelves if necessary.
- Wear gloves: Nitrogen in fertilizers can cause chemical burns on the skin
- Protect the eyes: Wear eye-protective gears like protective glasses or goggles while working with the plants.
- Clean up excessive fertilizer: Clean up the fertilizers on the patio, driveway, and sidewalk to ensure safety for children and pets, as well as preventing fertilizers from washing into the local water system by the rain.
More is not always better. Joe Lamp’l explains the negative consequences to plants and our environment:
By this point, you should have a good idea about different types of fertilizer, as well as what kind of fertilizer to use and how to keep yourself safe while using fertilizer.
In summary, depending on the plants you are growing and the nutritional need of the plants and the soil, you should pick the right type of fertilizer to use.