Chemical fertilizers are predominantly NPK based which sometimes come in the form of granules or powder. They are an easy and well accepted method to deliver fast plant growth in minimal time especially in commercial operations such as Soy, Wheat and vegetable farming.
Lately, chemical fertilizers also have been seen to be widely used in home gardens, indoor pots, small vegetable patches and flower beds.
We have taken this opportunity to compile some of the dangers associated with the usage of chemical fertilizers for your convenience.
REASON 1 : Environmental Pollution
As an avid gardener, plant grower or vegetable planter, the plants that you grow and the methods that you employ to grow them do not just affect your produce, but also the environment around you.
This could be an underground water supply, your local stream, the local water treatment plant, and natural wildlife in the surrounding countryside.
Chemical fertilizers have been proven to cause algae bloom in contaminated waterways
In a publication by the National Wildlife Foundation, contamination due to farmland fertilization caused toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie.
Due to the high phosphorus run-off contributed by chemical fertilizers, these algal blooms are greatly increased in severity and size causing an increase in toxic chemicals such as microcystin – a potent liver toxin – to be detected in the water supply.
This has led to deoxygenation of the lake as well as a tainted water supply for humans and animals.
REASON 2 : Damage to your plants
In an article published by the University of Maryland, damage to plants caused by overuse of chemical fertilizers is clearly described.
Leaf scorch, wilting, yellowing, and stunting are among the issues that you face if chemical fertilizers are not used carefully and with adequate precaution. This can lay to waste months of careful cultivation due to one careless application.
This issue if further aggravated during hot dry weather especially during the summer months. Fertilizer salts get more concentrated at this time and can cause permanent damage to root of your plants.
To avoid this issue, University of Maryland recommended the use of slow-release organic fertilizers.
REASON 3 : Poor Nutrient content and Human Health Issues
Plants will grow on little more than the usual NPK required. When it comes to food production, these same plants lack the organic micronutrients such as calcium, zinc and iron. This is because, chemical fertilizers trade speed and quick growth for health resulting in quick turnaround of poor nutrient quality produce.
Besides the above, it has been quoted in several studies from the University of Wisconsin and many more that chemical fertilizers contribute to the development of cancer in adults and children. High concentrations of Nitrite may compromise the immune systems of children and adults exposed to this chemical through skin, water and food contamination. ( source )
The usage of chemical fertilizers for the purpose of plant growth has severe cumulative effects on our ecosystem, human health, and nutrition. We must implement and advocate alternative, natural and non-invasive methods of plant nutrition.
There are many examples of organic nutrient systems such as aquaponics or humus compost that can be used as alternatives to chemical fertilizers. These systems rely on an age-old symbiotic relationship between plants, organic material, and microbes. The microbes digest and process inorganic NPK in soil to form a bioavailable version of the chemical that does not contaminate the surrounding environment.
Change starts at home and needs to expand to commercial farming to reduce the impact we have on the environment and produce better quality plant produce.