Fertilizer: common sense would indicate that it’s the last thing anyone has to worry about when considering how to farm effectively to avoid environmental pollution. Fertilizer is designed to grow plants, after all, to grow them more quickly, healthily, and effectively: and aren’t plants what all these environmentalist types are clamoring for more of? But recent soil profiling of environmental pollution in some less-developed parts of the world shows the truth. In fact, according to profiling of environmental pollution, the overuse of fertilizer can be more deadly to the environment than any toxic waste spill.
Chemical fertilizers are obviously the worst offenders, since they frequently come equipped with pesticides designed to help prevent crop loss due to insects and other troublesome infestations. But even if you’re not using pesticides, fertilizers can cause serious problems to fields and by extension to the environment at large. Many fertilizers, for example, only fill the soil with the nutrients designed to make plants grow the fastest and with the highest rate of crop yield, as a rule, nitrogen compounds. Over time, however, high crop yields start to deplete the soil of other chemicals that plants need to grow. Ideally, fertilizers should replenish those chemicals, and there are several organic fertilizers designed to do just that. In many cases, however, too much fertilizer is applied, making the plants grow too quickly and too thickly, and not allowing the soil to keep up with their growth. Profiling of environmental pollution shows that the soil in these cases becomes slowly unable to generate the nutrients responsible for allowing plants to grow.
In addition, no fertilizer is one hundred percent efficient, meaning that plants never use all the chemicals in any fertilizer when growing. There’s always some degree of waste that remains in the soil, inert, contributing nothing, except to the growing stock of pollutants and waste in the environment. Countries like Pakistan, projected to become one of the world’s biggest fertilizer users in the coming years, are starting to use fertilizer to the extent that plants can only make use of about 50% of the chemicals implanted in the soil. Thus the country faces the possibility of massive fertilizer waste deposits, the kind of thing that only shows up in profiling of environmental pollution in the soul, but the kind of thing that can quickly leave a field barren for the future.
What’s the solution? For one, a greater use of organic fertilizers. These aren’t perfect and they can sometimes be more expensive to produce and apply, but they can help to prolong the life of the soil while still permitting adequate plant growth for a growing economy. For another, the knowledge that more fertilizer doesn’t necessarily equal a better crop yield, or a better environmental balance. You don’t need to perform any sophisticated profiling of environmental pollution to realize that in all things, there’s a right measure, and we need to find it, even for something as benign as chemicals intended to help the earth grow a bit greener.