Plant Nutrients Minerals N-P-K + Ca-Mg-S + Fe-Cu-B-Mn Plants use carbon dioxide + sunlight to make sugar for energy. This happens in their leaves
Understanding Fertilizer Why is there so much confusion about fertilizers? Because chemical fertilizer and organic fertilizer work in different ways
How Plants Eat Through evolution plants have developed an organic relationship with soil that benefits plants This relationship requires living microbes in the soil that convert the nutrients into the active form that plants can use and also protect the plants from disease. This has been going on since plants have been on earth. This is the natural way the plants have evolved to survive
Understanding Organic Soil needs to use organic matter and microbes to change the natural nutrients in the soil before they can be used by the plant. The microbes live in the organic matter and they make the minerals in the soil become available to the plants. All organic fertilizers must rely on the availability of the organic matter and microbes Nutrients N-P-K Ca-Mg-S Fe-Cu-B-Zn-Mn
Understanding Chemical Fertilizer Chemical fertilizer does not need to be changed by the soil microbes because it is already in the form that plants can use Nitrients N-P-K
Differences Between Organic and Chemical Organic fertilizer is the natural source of all of the nutrients for all plants Organic fertilizer will adhere to soil particles so it does not leach away Organic fertilizer is long acting because it stays in the soil Organic fertilizer will reduce acid in soil Organic fertilizer use will decrease pest attacks on plants Organic farming is sustainable year after year Organic fertilizer use decreases water pollution. Organic farming requires less water use
Differences Between Organic And Chemical Chemical fertilizer is not a natural source of fertilizer Chemical fertilizer only contains N-P-K so it is not a complete fertilizer Chemical N will not adhere to soil particles so it will leach away Chemical N is not long lasting because it leaches away Chemical fertilizer use causes acid soil Acid soil causes sick plants and then pests attack them Chemical farming is not sustainable because the soil becomes polluted with excess chemicals and salt and acid Chemical farming causes water pollution Chemical farming requires more water use
Why Use Organic Fertilizer? Before commercial farming there was only subsistence farming so large crop size was not important. During this time the natural soil could always provide the necessary nutrients to the plants that were being grown. During this time the crops and soil were in balance. All fertilizers were organic. Then when commercial farming began, a greater number of plants were grown on small areas of crop land. This caused a sudden increase in the use of the nutrients that were stored in the soil. To meet this increased nutrient demand fertilizers are used When chemical fertilizer is used there is an immediate plant growth response seen. This is because the N in chemical fertilizer is fast acting. The plants grown this way have good growth for 2-3 years and then problems start to show up. The reason this happens is because the chemicals kill all of the microbes in the soil and the microbes are the most important part of soil. The chemicals also cause the soil to become acid. Also chemical fertilizers are not complete fertilizers because they only contain N-P-K. When organic fertilizer is used the plant growth response is slower. This is because organic N is slow acting. This means that it is slow to start but it does not mean that it grows smaller crops. The organic crop will catch up to the fast starting chemical crop and then it will also produce a superior crop. The reason is organic fertilizers are complete fertilizers that contain all of the nutrients plants need. Organic fertilizer will rebuild your soil to it’s natural organic condition. Chemical fertilizer will create mineral imbalances and acid soil
Are all organic fertilizers equal? The most common method uses heat to cook the organic ingredients to break them down. The heat used in this process kills all of the microbes so they are not available to the plants. This is a problem because the microbes are very important for good quality soil. Also the manufacturers remove the natural oils and protein to sell and then they make the fertilizer from the waste that is left from this process. These oils and proteins are beneficial to plants and soil. These products are always a dry product because of the manufacturing process. This is a simple process that anyone can do. No Organic fertilizer can be made using different methods This method that produces the best quality organic fertilizer is called “Hydrolysis”. Hydrolysis means to change the organic ingredients that are used to make the fertilizer into a liquid. This process does not use heat so the microbes are kept alive in the fertilizer for the soil and plants to use. This process does not remove the oils and protein, it keeps them in the fertilizer for the soil and plants to benefit from. This process is more difficult to make fertilizer and it is a more expensive method than the process that uses heat to cook the ingredients. This process is complicated and requires a strong understanding of chemistry so not many companies can use this process.
corn growing in poor quality soilCorn growing in good quality soil
Pepper grown in poor quality soil Pepper grown in good quality soil
Bitter melon grown in poor quality soil Bitter melon grown in good quality soil
What does good quality soil look like? “dead” soil without organic matter and microbes after long time chemical fertilizer use poor crop from soil without organic matter and microbes soil after using organic fertilizer for 1 year soil after using organic fertilizer for 3 years It is easy to see that the results of using organic fertilizer creates a rich organic soil that is alive with microbes and other beneficial life forms such as earth worms. This soil will provide nutrients to the plants as nature intended and also prevent plant disease and pest attacks. It can take up to 3 years to change the “dead” soil to rich organic soil
Common Problems Seen in Soil Tests 4 common problem were found when testing soil 1) Low N. This is caused by the chemical N leaching away in 1-2 months after it was applied. Also the organic fertilizer that was used was made by using heat and this killed all of the microbes. 2) Excess mineral buildup creating salt in the soil. With chemical fertilizer N-P-K the N can leach away. But the P-K cannot leach away so it stays in the soil and builds up the concentration of P-K in the soil. This causes some other nutrients to not be able to be used by the plant because the P-K is not balanced with the other nutrients. 3) Acid Soil. Acid soil is caused by the long time use of chemical fertilizer. 4) Unbalanced fertilizer was used. The nutrients in fertilizer must be made in a balanced formula. When the farmers used chemical P-K they did not calculate the correct amount to use. The test results show that they used to much P-K and this caused the soil to have unbalanced ratios of P-K. Farmers are causing problems by using chemical fertilizer this way.
Making a plan to correct poor soil quality I have tested soil on many farms in Cambodia. From these test results I have identified some common problems in the soil that most of the Cambodian farms have.
The plan must consider the problems that were found in the soil tests 1) Low N. This problem can be solved by using slow release N like organic N. The organic N will not leach away so the N will remain in the soil. 2) Excess mineral buildup that increases the salt in the soil can be solved by using a balanced fertilizer such as organic fertilizer because unbalanced P-K will cause some of the other nutrients to inactivate the P-K. You see, excess P-K will give the same result as too little P-K for this reason. 3) Acid soil. Acid soil is caused by chemical fertilizer use so it is easily solved by stopping chemical fertilizer use. Organic fertilizer will reduce the acid in the soil. 4) Unbalanced fertilizer. This can be solved by only using a balanced fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is already balanced because it contains all 11 nutrients in the proper amounts. Organic fertilizer will balance the nutrients in the soil so plants can use them.
Rebuilding the soil How to change the soil quality How to change “dead” soil to “live soil” To change “dead” soil to “live” soil the things that make soil alive must be replaced. To do this you must replace the organic matter and microbes and reduce the acid in the soil.
Soil Supplements Used to Rebuild Soil Organic matter must be returned to the soil. Humic is a common soil supplement that is used to increase the organic matter in soil. Manure and compost are also used for this purpose Microbes must be returned to the soil. Organic fertilizer that was made by the liquid process will have the microbes that are necessary because they were not killed by the heat that is used for the dry process. Mycorrhizzae are a type of microbe that are fungi. These fungi have developed a organic relationship with the plant roots and the soil. They Help the plant roots get the nutrients from the soil and they are very good at this. The yellow areas are the plant roots. The grey area is the Mycorrhizzae. You can see that the Mycorrhizzae increase the area for root absorption of nutrients bringing more nutrients to the roots
Foliar Feeding of Plants Plants can take in water and nutrients from the leaf stomata Plants can take in nutrients from the leaf because the leaf has stomata
Foliar Feeding of Plants Plants can take in nutrients from the plant root system and also from the leaf stomata which is a small mouth on the leaf. The foliar feeding method is done by spraying the organic fertilizer directly onto the plant leaves where the leaf stomata are located to take in the nutrients directly into the plants. This method does not need the plant root so if the soil is acid and poor quality the plants can still get the nutrients this way. This is the fastest way to get nutrients into the plants The benefits of this method are immediate uptake of the nutrients by the plant leaf. The leaf is where the nutrients must be delivered for the plant to make energy because the leaf is the part of the plant where the sun energy is changed to sugar energy that the plant can use. Plants must change sun energy to sugar before the energy can be used by the plants.
Don’t Be Fooled By the Numbers Chemical fertilizers have high numbers Organic fertilizers have small numbers Plants do not need high N-P-K fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers have high numbers for the N-P-K. The reason for this is that chemical fertilizers leach away from soil by runoff and evaporation. Also chemical fertilizers cause acid soil and acid soil interferes with the ability of the plant roots to take in nutrients. Because of these problems the chemical fertilizer companies sell fertilizer with high numbers to compensate for these problems. This is the only reason that chemical fertilizer has high numbers. Organic fertilizers do not have high numbers like chemical fertilizer has. Real 100% organic fertilizer cannot be made with N higher than 3. Organic fertilizers that have N higher than 3 have added chemical additives. This is confirmed by OMRI which is the largest organic certification organization in the world. Organic fertilizers with low numbers will provide all of the nutrients that plants need to grow strong healthy crops. The reason is that organic fertilizer does not leach away and organic fertilizer has the microbes to help the plant roots take in nutrients. These microbes provide a steady supply of nutrients for the plants. The numbers cannot be compared
Summary Soil and plant problems can be solved by using science. These problems cannot be solved by blindly putting fertilizer onto the soil. The nutrients in the soil must be in a balanced formulae because if they are not balanced they cannot be used by the plants. Chemical fertilization of crops is not sustainable because the chemicals destroy the soil quality after a few years of using it. Organic fertilization of plants is sustainable and it can go on forever. Use of organic fertilizer will produce better, healthier crops and reduce the cost that farmers are paying for the increased amount of chemical fertilizer that must be used. Organic fertilizer use will decrease the pest attacks on the crop so pesticide is not necessary.