The Role of Fertilizers in Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture is the farmers’ ability for producing food without affecting the environment as well as the surrounding ecosystem. There are a few issues which are connected to agriculture and one of them is the biophysical issue. It is linked with activities like fertilizer usage, use of artificial nutrients and crop rotation along with the availability of resources like sunlight, water and wind.
While all these factors are equally important for plant growth, fertilizers are given extra importance, as they are the ones that help plants in the initial stages of growth. Fertilizers are materials of synthetic or natural origin which are applied to the plant tissues or soil for supplying plant nutrients crucial to plant growth. Fertilizers are meant for enhancing plant growth. The objective is met in 2 different ways:
- Additives for providing nutrients,
- And fertilizers for enhancing soil’s effectiveness by modifying aeration and water retention.
When it comes to fertilizers, Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus are the 3 main elements or macronutrients. Nitrogen helps in leaf growth, whereas potassium aids sturdy stem growth, water movement and promotion of fruiting and flowering. The nutrients needed for healthy growth of plants are classified based on the elements.
Fertilizers are applied to plants both as liquids and solids. Almost ninety percent of fertilizers are used as solids that are typically powdered or granulated. Liquid fertilizers consist of anhydrous ammonia, aqueous ammonium nitrate solutions or urea and so on. Such concentrated products can be diluted using water for forming concentrated liquid fertilizers. Also, liquid fertilizers have advantages like easier coverage and rapid effects. To be successful in agriculture, people need to know the basics of different fertilizers and their usage.
Different Elements Used In Fertilizers
Understanding NPK fertilizers is an essential part for deciding whether fertilizers are necessary or not for agriculture. A basic guide to understand what NPK fertilizers comprise of and the levels of its elements appropriate for crop production is crucial for people. In many cases, essential gardening practices like composting and aerating are better for gardens. However, using NPK harmless fertilizers can result in healthier plants.
Organic fertilizers and chemical fertilizers reflect the nutrient content through numbers on packages. Such numbers are meant for representing 3 different compounds: Phosphorous, Potash and Nitrogen, which can also be described as P, K and N which when alternated mean NPK. The 3 numbers found of the labels of fertilizers correspond to the amount of such materials found in fertilizers. Along with other properties, Potassium or K is very important for the plants’ overall health and Nitrogen or N aids the strong growth of plant foliage, whereas Phosphorous plays a vital role in development and growth of flowers and roots. People should know that adding high amounts of nitrogen rich fertilizers may result in weaker plants which are prone to attacks by pests and diseases. Also, showy, fast growth is not really a good thing for plants.
Liquid Fertilizers Give Better Coverage and Faster Effects
Liquid nitrogen fertilizer usually costs less than the granulated ones, as the production cost is low. Liquid nitrogen is acidic in nature; however, it is quite easy to store or handle it and there won’t be any problems in doing it. The efficiency as well as the applicability of commercial liquid nitrogen fertilizers when compared to the granulated ones would not result in scorching provided a few measures are adopted at the time of spraying it.
This is one aspect that makes people prefer liquid nitrogen over the granulated fertilizers. When it comes to fertilization with nitrogen, huge costs may be involved in crop production. Due to the reason that liquid nitrogen production involves low costs, farmers around the continent prefer it over other types of fertilizers. It is also quite easy for distribution on the field in a uniform manner. When people use this fertilizer in large areas, they can expect bigger advantages. Several investigations have been carried out for accessing the potential efficiency and use of liquid nitrogen as fertilizers in comparison with other fertilizer types. The investigations revealed that liquid nitrogen was able to deliver fruitful results.
Different Elements in Fertilizers Serve Different Purposes
The Potassium sulfate fertilizer is another compound fertilizer that is very significant in agriculture. It can be used for growing all types of crops as it has low salt index and no chloride. Potassium sulfate also known as SOP is a great source of both K and S in soluble forms. Moreover, it tends to blend with almost all the trace elements and products. Due to the low salt index and absence of chloride, SOP is ideal for use in areas where the soil is sodic or saline and where the irrigation water has high levels of Cl.
Where transplants and seeds are placed in such a way that they are directly exposed to fertilizers, potassium sulfate may not damage the plants. K is known for its stimulating effects towards strong growth of stems and it makes plants resistant to some diseases, whilst helping other plants in terms of thickened outer cell walls. When there is enough K, the moisture loss will be reduced, thus resulting in drought resistance in plants. In addition to these benefits, K plays an important role in enhancing the flavor, storing quality as well as color of several types of fruits as well as vegetables. SOP is obtained either by mining and processing or by reacting sulfuric acid with MOP. Though, SOP is a little expensive, it can be used in agriculture to a great extent. Potassium sulfate fertilizer can be stored in bags, but people should not store it in silos.
Improve the Color and Size of Fruits with SOP Fertilizers
Potassium Nitrate fertilizer or NK fertilizer is water-soluble and it contains nitrate nitrogen & potassium oxide. When compared with other water-soluble fertilizer types, NK fertilizers have higher purity and a lower salt index, higher solubility, lower chlorine levels and lower moisture content. In simple words, potassium nitrate fertilizers manufactured from reputed companies are safe as well as easy for using. This fertilizer may be used for water-soluble fertilizer mixtures, direct application and liquid feeds. When it comes to application, direct application, NK and NPK blending, NK & NPK granulation, foliar sprays, transplant solutions and fertigation are some types.
Fertigation is a process of adding fertilizers to the irrigation water. NK fertilizer can be used for several types of crops such as citrus, cotton, home gardens, tobacco, lawns, potatoes, vegetables, flowers, pineapples, mango, bananas, olives, strawberries and more. NK or potassium nitrate fertilizers from reputed manufacturers can increase the growth of roots, enhance drought resistance, reduce wilting and improve resistance against pest & diseases. Other important effects of this fertilizer can include
- Protein content increase in plants
- Starch content increase in tubers and grains
- Increase in solid soluble content and vitamin C
- Enhanced flavor & color in fruits
- Improved size of fruits
- Enhanced peel thickness
- Extended shelf life
- Enhanced shipping and storage quality
How K helps people in terms of plant growth
Fertilizers that contain K should be applied when the potassium reserves in the soil become inadequate for pasture or crop production. K can either be supplied as a direct fertilizer or combined with other elements as compound fertilizers with phosphorous and nitrogen. All the major sources of K are water-soluble and it can dissolve when there is proper irrigation or rainfall. Unlike nitrogen, K won’t get lost to the atmosphere. Potassium chloride which is widely called as MOP or Muriate of Potash is one of the most common K sources used in crop production. MOP is known to have high levels of nutrient concentration, which is why it is little expensive. The presence of Cl in Muriate of Potash in quite beneficial in regions where the soil has a low chloride level. According to a recent study, chloride has the ability for improving yields by enhancing the diseases resistance capacity of crops. There are possibilities for toxicity when MOP is used in areas where the soil already has high levels of chloride. However, this can never become a problem, since Cl will be removed from soils as a result of leaching.
Potassium Helps Plants When Used Appropriately
K is a macro element which is very essential for plant development and growth. Potassium along with other macro elements such as phosphorous and nitrogen are required as well as consumed in huge amounts for various reasons. This is where people need to know about a few things about potassium fertilizers.
By being needed as well as consumed in huge quantities, available K is likely to be lacking in some circumstances. High concentrations of K can decrease the availability of the roots of plants’ micro elements like magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in the photosynthesis process. While K is leached easily from sandy soils, it gets fixed with the mineral clay in heavy soils. Uncontrolled K applications can result in increased salinity of soils. So, gardeners and farmers have to make sure that they supply the crops and plants with appropriate amounts of potassium along with other elements, without affecting the soil’s salinity or chemical balance. These are only a few important instructions in terms of using potassium and other fertilizers for agriculture and there is a lot more to it.