Much is said about the importance of caring for plants and crops: irrigation, pruning, fertilization… But what exactly is a fertilizer? What is it for? If you are not completely clear, I recommend that you continue reading, as we will answer both questions.
In this article we will explain what a fertilizer is and what it is used for. Also, We will discuss the different types and what are its main advantages. I hope you find this information useful and interesting!
What is a fertilizer and what is it used for?
Let’s start by answering the main question: What is a fertilizer? It is any substance, whether organic or inorganic, that contains the necessary nutrients for vegetables in a form that can be assimilated by them. In addition, they can have more effects, such as increasing or at least maintaining the content of nutrients in the soil, increasing the quality of the substrate or helping plant growth, among others. Some examples of ecological or natural fertilizers are the popular manure, mixed and processed with various agricultural waste, such as fodder, and guano, which is formed by the droppings of various birds.
It should be said that vegetables do not need complex compounds, such as amino acids or vitamins that are essential for humans, but they themselves synthesize what they require. There are a total of 17 chemical elements that have to be presented in a way that plants are able to absorb them, such as nitrogen. This can be administered in the form of ammonium compounds, pure ammonia, urea or nitrates. All these ways have the same efficiency.
There is a definition of fertilizer established by the EU fertilizer regulations, and it is as follows: «Material whose main function is to provide nutrient elements to plants». When we add fertilizer to the land, this action is called “fertilization. Together with the amendments, the fertilizers are part of the so-called fertilizer products. At this point it should be noted that fertilizer is not the same as manure. If you want to know the subtle difference between both concepts, take a look at this article: Differences between compost and fertilizer.
Fertilizers have been used since ancient times. In the past, different elements were added to the soil:
- The phosphates of the bones, which could be calcined or not.
- The potassium of the ashes.
- Nitrogen from animal and human droppings.
What are the three types of fertilizers?
Now that we know what a fertilizer is, it can be said that, generally, three different types are distinguished above all. Nevertheless, Fertilizers can be classified into four groups, even five if we count biofertilizers. Let’s see what they are:
- Inorganic fertilizers: As their name indicates, these fertilizers are not made from organic matter. Its production is carried out industrially. To do this, certain components are transformed into a type of nutrient solution for vegetables, all through a chemical process. This type of fertilizer has a great advantage, and that is that the nutrients they provide can be used immediately by the plants. Some of them are made directly from the main nutrients of the earth: phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen.
- Organic fertilizers: Unlike the previous ones, these are made from organic matter. These derive above all from plant and/or animal remains. The participation of the human being when creating this type of fertilizer is very little, if not null. There are many advantages offered by organic fertilizers, the main one being the positive effect they have on both the structure and composition of the soil. An example widely used in agriculture is manure.
- Organic-mineral fertilizers: These fertilizers are produced from organic matter, but nutrients of mineral origin are also added during manufacture. Its main advantage is that it brings together nutrients and organic matter for cultivation in a single product.
- Marine algae, humic extracts and amino acids: Algae are a type of organic fertilizer that not only improves the soil, but also stimulates cultivation in a sustainable way. As for the humic extracts, they are also organic and stimulate the fertility of the soil. Finally, amino acids help improve those crops that are under stress, as they make it easier for plants to nourish themselves using less energy.
What are biofertilizers?
We have already discussed what a fertilizer is and what types exist, but more recently biofertilizers have begun to be widely used in agriculture. But what exactly are they? Well, basically it is about products composed of certain microorganisms, among which are above all bacteria and fungi. These compounds help improve soil quality and increase the amount of nutrients for the plant. Definitely: The application of biofertilizers makes it possible to increase crop yields.
There are several and advantages offered by this type of fertilizer, but the most notable are the following:
- Increases soil fertility and biodiversity.
- Help protect the environment.
- It contributes to the fixation of carbon in the soil and the absorption of water.
- It makes agricultural crops more sustainable.
- It favors the organic matter found in the earth.
However, there is another product through which we can achieve the same objectives: Soil activators. Despite not contributing living organisms to the soil, they do increase the presence of both fungi and bacteria that are already naturally found in the soil.
As you can see, the world of fertilizers is quite wide and the market gives us several options to choose from. These mixtures or compounds are of great help to enrich the soil and achieve a better development of the plants. Although it is true that each case is particular, the most advisable thing is to always opt for sustainable solutions to contribute to the protection of the environment and our planet.