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Differences between organic and inorganic fertilizers

Most of us know what fertilizers are as it is common to see them in advertisements on TV. However, let us begin with the definition of fertilizers that are used for plants. Any material that supplies plants with the essential nutrients required for growth as well as optimal yield is known as a fertilizer. It may be natural or synthetic (artificially manufactured) and at the same time be organic or inorganic.

Organic fertilizers are natural materials that have an origin tracing back to plants or animals. They include green manure, livestock manure, compost, household waste, crop residues, woodland litter etc. On the other hand, inorganic fertilizers, also known as mineral fertilizers usually come from mining of mineral deposits. They need some processing and include phosphate, lime, rock, potash etc. They can also be manufactured industrially through chemical processes, an example of that being urea.

There are some important differences between organic and inorganic fertilizers in terms of their properties, applications and effectiveness. To begin with, organic fertilizers offer a very feasible option as they are available on or near the farm at little or no cost at all. For example, if a farmer has livestock, then livestock manure can also be used as a fertilizer and that is free of cost. As for inorganic fertilizers, the costs of labour, transportation, handling and the opportunity cost of the land being used for producing them make them very costly. Fertilizer use and application is labour intensive for organic but not so for inorganic fertilizers. This makes it possible to devote time and effort to other tasks on the farm provided that an inorganic fertilizer is being used.

Moving on, the timing and the method of the application of the two types of fertilizers also varies. This eventually affects the farming as well as yield. Organic materials are such that the release of nutrients to the crop is affected by the decomposition rate and timing of the use of the fertilizer. They are usually applied by methods known as broadcasting, spot application and banding. The application is usually by hands. In the case of mineral or inorganic fertilizers, hands or specialized equipment can be used. Other than that, the methods used are quite similar but have some slight variations. If organic fertilizers are used for a long time, there is the possibility of increased soil organic matter, higher soil biological activity, reduced erosion, increased yields and better water infiltration and aeration. If handling is proper, the effectiveness is further increased. The inorganic fertilizers immediately release nutrients that are required by the crops. The crops respond best to the fertilizer if the soil has a high, inherent fertility level. However, inorganic fertilizers have been known to reduce the fertility of the land in the future.

There are some limitations that fertilizers generally have. For organic fertilizers, large quantities are needed for the desired effects, large amount of labour is required for harvesting and preparing manure, the quality is not always very good and has to be combined with expensive inorganic fertilizers etc. In contrast to this, inorganic fertilizers themselves are not always the best option as they are not always available and accessible, especially in remote areas where most farms are located, they are very expensive and not affordable for the average farmer, their seasonal application is a must and they have a higher risk in extreme seasons, that is, when rainfall is either too low or too high.

Summary of differences expressed in points

1. Organic fertilizers-natural materials that originate from plants or animals; inorganic fertilizers-also known as mineral fertilizers, come from mining of mineral deposits; need some processing; can also be manufactured industrially through chemical processes, for example urea

2. Organic fertilizer examples- include green manures, livestock manure, compost, household waste, crop residues, woodland litter etc.; inorganic fertilizers include phosphate, lime, rock, potash etc.

3. Organic fertilizers; feasible option, available on or near the farm at little or no cost at all; inorganic very costly due to costs of labour, transportation, handling and the opportunity cost of the land being used for producing them

4. Organic materials-the release of nutrients to the crop is affected by the decomposition rate and timing of the use of the fertilizer; inorganic fertilizers release nutrients immediately

5. Application-organic-by hands; inorganic-by hands or specialized equipment

6. Limitations-organic fertilizers- large quantities needed, large amount of labour required for harvesting and preparing manure, the quality is not always very good; inorganic fertilizers- not always available or accessible, expensive, seasonal application is a must, higher risk if rainfall is either too low or too high


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