The U.S. Department of Agriculture sets the regulations by which fertilizer products obtain certification as “organic”.
The use of organic fertilizers is currently the topic of hot debates in most gardening, lawn care, and commercial recreation circles. Many who support the use of synthetic fertilizers exclusively believe that while organic fertilizers may be naturally derived they do not have enough advantages to use over chemical fertilizers. On the contrary, we believe that organic fertilizers do have many advantages.
1) Plant Growth
Organic fertilizers provide nutrients necessary for plant growth, with the benefit of being slower-acting and gentler than chemical fertilizers, so that you are less likely to overfeed and chemically burn your plants. Organic fertilizers are not in a form that is immediately absorbed by plants, but rather must be first broken down by soil bacteria and fungi into forms that plants can absorb. This means that, unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers are not easily washed away in a heavy rainstorm or irrigation session, and that the plants get the benefit of nutrients for growth more evenly over a longer period of time rather than all at once.
2) Soil Improvement
Organic fertilizers help improve soil structure and nutrient content over time. While chemical fertilizers simply add water-soluble chemicals which are either absorbed by the plant roots or leach away, potentially polluting water resources, organic fertilizers add organic matter that helps the soil to retain moisture and nutrients. Sandy soils in particular can benefit from the addition of organic fertilizers, or from the use of organic matter like well-rotted compost and manure used as a soil fertility additive or mulch. These latter organic matter fertilizers have the added advantage of often being free from livestock farms, poultry farms or wood-processing facilities which compost their discarded bedding and wood chips.
Some Additional Benefits of Organic Fertilizers
Slow Release of Nutrients
When fertilizers are mixed into the soil, the nutrients are absorbed from the soil by the roots of the plant. In synthetic fertilizers, these nutrients are in ready to use form and when mixed into the soil, can be immediately absorbed by the roots and hence, the plant. There is however a real danger that the roots absorb more nutrients than necessary, causing the roots and plant to burn up. On the other hand, organic fertilizers do not contain nutrients in an easily usable form. When they are mixed into the soil, the microorganisms like bacteria that are in the soil, have to work on the fertilizer, break it up and release the nutrients. This is a slow process and so there is no danger that too many nutrients are ever available to the plant. As such there is low chance for a ‘plant burn’ when organic fertilizers are used.
Long-term Benefits to the Soil
Chemical fertilizers are manufactured with the sole purpose of helping the growth of a plant. As a result while they may contain a better balance of all the major nutrients that a plant needs, they also contain certain harmful elements that can cause acidity in the soil. This can kill the helpful microbes that live in the soil and studies indicate that long-term use of chemical fertilizers can cause great damageto the soil. On the other hand, since organic fertilizers need these microbes to work on them to release the nutrients, they end up stimulating the growth of these microorganisms, ensuring long-term fertility of the soil.
Long-term Benefits to the Environment
Synthetic fertilizers also tend to release many chemicals into the soil that contain nutrients helpful to soil but may also contain elements that are not easily biodegradable. These may go on to contaminate our lands and our water. On the other hand, by definition, organic fertilizers almost always have only biodegradable contents.
When lawns and gardens are sprayed with chemical fertilizers, one has to be careful that the family members, especially kids and pets who often play on lawns, do not ingest the harmful chemicals. However, there is no preventing from local wildlife from being affected. Organic fertilizers can be a safer alternative.