In contemporary society, scarce are the plantations that do not use of fertilizers to maximize plant growth. An estimated 30% to 50% of crop yields in the world come from fertilizers. That means that a much greater yield is available to the farmers and the general population; a necessary development given the exponential population growth and the obviously inversely proportional availability of natural resources.
The fertilizers vary a lot in composition and aims. They can be either organic or inorganic, and can be either natural or chemically synthesized. In general terms, fertilizers serve the purpose of supplying plants with unavailable and required nutrients, in order to provide a healthier and faster growth.
The most vital elements used in fertilizers are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium K – commonly referred to as NPK. Besides these three macronutrients, secondary and micronutrients are also used to attain the desired growth.
Nitrogen is important for the plants due to its building of amino acids. Consequently, enzymes and proteins are also made from Nitrogen, so plants depend on Nitrogen to survive. Phosphorous is essential in cell membranes and phospholipids, so plant cells also depend on Phosphorous. Finally, Potassium is essential for the roots of the crop and its metabolism, so it is necessary for the healthy development of the harvest.
A study of the soil in which the plants are to be planted is advised to maximize the effects of the fertilizers. It is only by verifying the ratio of nutrients, and possible lack thereof, that the correct fertilizer can be applied to the land. For this reason, the fertilizer bags contain the ratio of said elements. This way, the agrarian can complement the soil so that the plants can usurp all required nutrients.
However, fertilizing has to be done with care. If too much fertilizer is used, leaf scorch, or fertilizer burn, might occur. This means that plants start to gain a yellow coloring on its extremities, due to a destruction of the cell walls of microbes The excess product used causes an excess of undesired nutrients, especially nitrogen salts, which can be treated by using water to wash away excess salts.
Inorganic fertilizers can be either synthetic or artificial. They serve mainly as a resource to save plants, and immediately produce ammonia, which is essential for the dying plants. On the other hand, organic fertilizers are not created; instead, natural ingredients containing nutrients important for plant growth are used. However, though plants generally tend to accept organic fertilizers better, it is hard to pinpoint the nutrient ration, which can thus lead to the usage of an inappropriate fertilizer. Some other types of fertilizers include: plant-specific fertilizers, liquid fertilizers, time release fertilizers, and fertilizers with pesticides.
For lettuce plantations, the best fertilizer is generally one with equal parts of Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphate. The most widely used ones are the 10-10-10 granular fertilizers, and is typically spread at a proportion of 4 pounds per 100 square feet. Untested farms typically opt for a 5-10-10 fertilizer. Furthermore, lettuce generally grows best in environments abundant with Nitrogen.
In Brazil, the use of fertilizers, because of the rapid growth of the agrarian sector, has augmented steeply. However, the country could be using composts in a more efficient manner. Countries using less fertilizing products produce higher yields than Brazil. Mainly, this occurs because the country is not completely developed, especially in areas such as the Northeast, so many of the farms do not have access to the adequate fertilizers.
The country started producing fertilizers nationally in 1940, with phosphate minerals. With the increasing demand international demand for agricultural goods, cultivators adopted the usage of other fertilizers. However, Brazil began to use fertilizers later than most countries. Therefore, the Brazilian soil will take much longer to be depleted of nutrients of organic origin.
Until today, phosphate minerals are the most widely used fertilizer in the country. It is one of the most expensive ones due to its costly treatment, but is also one of the most effective ones, making it a viable option – especially for large producers. Yet, it has a negative side. It encourages the growth of algae, which cause Eutrophication. Basically, this means that the algae need a lot of oxygen to decompose, thus suffocating other aquatic living creatures.
The use of fertilizers has undeniably revolutionized the agricultural aspect of society. Much greater yields of much better developed plants can be attained; which benefit the harvester and the consumer. Nevertheless, these fertilizers have to be used correctly and with care. Different soils call for different nutrients, as do different crops. Also, the abusive and incorrect usage might affect the soil an the consumer. Fertilizers are an irrefutably an aid for the growing modern society. However, as with any other technological advance, they should be used carefully and with scientific backing to provide us with the best of their capacities.