Plant and Soil Science
What is fertilizer and how does it impact plant and soil health? Fertilizers are derived from natural elements, which are found in the ground or atmosphere. Fertilizer is a vital component added to the soil in order to grow strong and healthy plants, both in farm fields and the home garden.
Not sure what to believe about fertilizer? Review the facts, the truth just might surprise you.
It’s hard to get much more “natural” than elements found in nature. Take, for example, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium: N, P and K. So it’s odd that these elements-the three most common crop nutrients are so often deemed as unnatural or inorganic. Fact is N, P and K exist naturally. The only problem is they are seldom in a place, or a form, that’s readily consumable for crops. What crop nutrient suppliers do is harvest these nutrients from nature and make them absorbable for plants.
What happens when you eat all the food in your pantry? You restock by going to the grocery store, right? Well, when plants eat all the food in the soil, the earth needs to be re-stocked too. That’s what fertilizer accomplishes. It replenishes nutrient-deficient soil with a new supply of “food” so crops can grow healthy and strong next season.
By the year 2025, the population of the world will be a little over 8 billion people. That’s 100,000,000 a year. 273,972 a day. 4,566 a minute. 76 every second! Unfortunately, if we were to try to feed the world without the aid of fertilizer, billions of people would starve. As Nobel Peace Prize winner and “Father of the Green Revolution” Dr. Norman Borlaug explains it, a life without fertilizer isn’t really much of a life at all. To listen to his important message click here.
If farmers weren’t able to restore the fertility of their soil after each harvest, most of the world’s land would have to be devoted to farming simply to keep up with the growing population. But thanks to science, modern fertilizing techniques and best management practices, today’s farmers are using significantly less land while feeding twice the number of people as they did 50 years ago, leaving more room for our cities, neighborhoods, parks and wildlife habitats. Now that’s something all of us can appreciate.
You’ll find them all across America. People who not only love the land, but rely on it for their living. Farmers who care about wildlife, forests, parks and sensitive ecosystems have managed to feed a growing America using less land than 50 years ago. They are more than farmers. They are everything from chemists to geologists. With so many different hats, they might as well be wearing capes. They are the heroes of the plains. They are the world’s original environmentalists.
Watch these videos to see where phosphate, potash, and nitrogen come from:
Test your knowledge as you help Tom or Jamie work their way through the nitrogen cycle. Explore two different scenarios, answering questions about the nitrogen cycle in corn fields or a tomato garden.
Test your knowledge as you help Jake or Ann work their way through the phosphorus cycle. Explore two different scenarios, answering questions about the phosphorus cycle in soybean fields or a lettuce garden.
Test your knowledge as you help Sarah or Ana and Marc work their way through the potassium cycle. Explore two different scenarios, answering questions about the potassium cycle in soybean fields or a lettuce garden.