What are Organic Fertilizers and How it is used in Farms ?
With the increase in population, there is a great demand for food production, but due to the availability of fewer resources, the outcome is not enough to fulfill the demands. To help with the increase in productivity and other factors, Fertilisers are used.
Fertilizers help with soil fertility, loss of soil, pests & diseases, lack of nutrients, etc. These fertilizers are sprayed or added to the crops occasionally for enhancing the crop productivity. These fertilizers include Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus as basic ingredients.
The commercial growers are often confused between the fertilizers as to which one to use – Organic or Inorganic.
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This battle continues as Organic Farming has taken the centre stage in the fight against some of the food related diseases, because it’s well known that many major diseases have something to do with our diets and unhealthy lifestyle.
Organic farming doesn’t allow the use of chemical and synthetic fertilizers on the crops and food products, so there’s a question of what exactly do Organic farmers use to grow their crops organically.
They use Organic fertilizers which ensure health and wellness to the people consuming these products.
Well, we will study all about Organic Fertilizers in this article. But, before that we will learn about the basics of Fertilizers.
Fertilizers & its Importance
Fertilizers are those chemical substances which are added to the crops to increase the productivity of the crops as they contain all the essential nutrients needed by the plants, crops and soils.
They are very important as:
- They increase the tolerance of plants towards pests and reduce the dependence on the insecticides & herbicides, thereby producing a healthier crop.
- They help to improve the depth of root and water retaining capacity of the soil.
- They help to strengthen the straw and the stalks of the plants.
- They help in the faster development of roots and formation of seeds in plants.
- They help in enhancing the growth of plants due to the presence of Nitrogen.
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Types of Fertilisers
There are 2 types of Fertilisers.
- Inorganic fertilizers – These are chemical fertilizers which contain artificial substances and nutrient elements for the growth of crop production with the help of chemicals.
They are of two types:
- Nitrogen fertilizers
- Phosphorus fertilizers
- Organic fertilizers – These are the fertilizers that are obtained from natural sources like plants and animals. They contain nutrients which are released slowly into the soil and they are not chemically processed as other fertilizers.
There are different types of Organic fertilizers which can be used depending on your needs.
Let’s start off by taking a closer look at Organic fertilizers.
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Organic fertilizers are those fertilizers which are obtained from Natural Sources such as animal remains, waste and bedding or plant remains. They are very beneficial as it enriches the soil with carbonic compounds that are essential in the growth of plants.
These organic matter promotes the Reproduction of microorganisms and they also help in changing the physical and chemical properties of the soil.
They can be made from many substances but the main substances in them are:
- Agricultural waste
- Livestock manure
- Industrial waste
- Municipal sledge
Organic fertilizers do not use pesticides and artificial fertilizers. They add structure to the soil and encourage the healthy growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil. The only downside of Organic fertilizers is that they have a lower nutrient content as compared to artificial fertilizers.
However, the plants are less likely to get burned by excess salts when these fertilizers are applied in your farm because a soil without excess salt is more hospitable home for the earthworms and the other beneficial soil organisms.
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Sources of Organic fertilizers
The most important source of Organic fertilizers is Peat, Animal remains, Wastes from slaughterhouses, and Plant wastes from Farms and Sewer sludge.
Some of the Organic compounds containing the most important micronutrients which is very essential for improving the quality of soil are:
- Powdered rocks (such as Lime, Rock phosphate, and Green sand)
- Blood meal
- Bone meal
- wood ash, and
Some of the important nutrients and compounds are also present in Animal excreta and Animal waste which are obtained by various methods and it is used as a fertilizer to ensure the growth of plants, provide fertility to the soil and also help the soil to regain the lost nutrients.
Sewer sludge is another important fertilizer as it contains human excreta which is highly nutritious and is generated after mixing excreta with water and treatment of waste water in the sewage treatment plant.
There are different kinds of nutrients needed for different kinds of plants and for this you need to have a proper research on the needs and requirements of the plants and then use the fertilizer accordingly.
Read more: How to do nutrient management in Organic Farming?
Examples of Organic fertilizers & its Uses
Manures are defined as the wastes and bedding of animals such as chickens, turkeys, cows, horses, pigs, etc. These beddings consist of wood shavings, saw dust, straw or hay. Manures are highly nutritious.
The nutrition value of different manure is different as no two animals can have the same amount of nutrients but the nutritional value can be determined by its source, age and the bedding material. In general, it is composted for 6 months or until fully composted.
The manure should always be allowed to decompose completely before using it in your garden and it allows time for harmful microbes to be killed by the heat in a decomposing pile.
They are slowly released into the soil overtime and help in adding the structure to the soil. They can even be added to a compost pile to get the best crop.
Composts are made from ordinary yard waste and kitchen scraps. Some of the common ingredients include grass clippings, fallen leaves, hay, straw, sawdust, dead plants, or kitchen scraps such as banana peels, orange rinds or coffee grounds.
The compost provides nutrients to the plant and can be used to improve the structure of soil. They help in improving the drainage of clay soils that prevent flooding and it also helps in improving the Water retention of dry or Sandy soils.
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It is a very sustainable method as it provides nutrients to the plants as well as recycles the wastes and scraps from your household products at the same time.
In this method the ingredients are directly added to the soil, letting the microbes feed on it and boost the fertility of the soil and water holding capacity. This method improves the soil health and supplies micro nutrients to the plants.
- Liquid Kelp
It is made by plucking the aquatic plant and cold processing it. The resultant product (liquid) is mixed with water and then sprayed on plants or made to reach the plants by soil drenching method.
This fertilizer helps in growing the plants very quickly, although it contains a small amount of Potassium and Nitrogen. Also, there is a hormone present in this fertilizer which helps in flowering the plant quickly. It also helps in long term health improvement of the soil.
- Fish or Fish by products
This fertilizer is made by treating the fish and its by-products with an acid, enzyme or heat treatment, which result in the formation of fish emulsion. This fertilizer has a very strong, powerful and revolting odour except when it is treated with enzymes.
Read more: Water management in Organic Agriculture.
- Green Manures
Green manures are the remains of plants which are planted in the garden and allowed to die which are then tilled underground and their remains are restored as nutrients to the soil. For example – Alfalfa is a legume that is often used as a Green Manure crop.
Its root reaches deep down into the soil and pulls up the nutrients that are unavailable to other plants and when this legume is dead, it is tilled into the soil and then these nutrients become available for those plants that are planted in the same area.
Green Manures can also be used as an animal feed and then it acts as an actual manure which you can use in your garden as an animal waste or animal excreta. Some other green manure crops include beans, clover, peas, and vetch.
The green manure crops should be sown in the fall and tilled into the earth during the Early Spring season which allows plenty of time for the nutrients to start being released into the soil.
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- Animal Products
There are some animal products which can be used as an organic fertilizer which includes:
- Earthworm casting – The worms that come to your garden and help in processing the plant matter, leave behind some wastes which are very rich in nutrients and are very good for building soil structure.
- Blood meal – It is a powder that is made from slaughterhouse leftovers and is very high in Nitrogen.
- Bone meal – It is a powder that is made from slaughterhouse leftovers which is very high in Phosphorus.
- Fish meal – It is made from ground up remains of the fishes and is very high in Nitrogen and Phosphorus content.
Benefits of Organic fertilizers
Organic fertilizers are carbon based compounds and they help in increasing the productivity and growth of plants.
They have various benefits which are as follows:
- They improve the texture of soil.
- The leaves of the plants are green and retain their actual colour.
- The nutrients are retained and bring back the lost ones from the plants.
- They like synthetic fertilizers help in the thriving of microbes.
- They are user friendly and human safe.
- They ensure environment safety by being economic and environment friendly.
- Then can be prepared locally or on the farm itself, thereby reducing the cost of fertilizers.
- Then ensure the fertility of soil.
- They lead to employment opportunities especially in rural areas.
Read more: How To Do Crop planning in Organic Agriculture?
How to use Fertilizers ?
There is a misconception that adding large quantities of fertilizers in the farms can only bring benefits to the plants. However, fertilizers are meant to be added in small quantities and in proper time. Some of the important points regarding the application of fertilizer are as follows:
Here, we are giving a table for the content of NPK in organic matter which would help you in selecting a better option for your crop.
|Organic Matter||% Nitrogen||%Phosphorus||% Potassium||Availability of Nutrients|
|Pine needles manure||0.5||0||1||Slow|
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- Soil analysis – Before you plant the crops, you need to thoroughly analyse your soil. You need to find out the existing nutrient content of your soil and find the nutrient requirement of the plants that you want to grow and then add the fertilizers based on the nutrient deficiency The soil analysis test determines the soil texture, organic matter content and pH. It also gives the content of different minerals such as Phosphorus, Magnesium and Potassium. Some labs also determine the microorganic activity in your soil.
- Time of application – To apply the fertilizers, time is a very crucial element. In cold climates, the fertilizer should not be applied during winter and autumn as they can favour young growth and since the weather is very harsh during this time, the plants won’t be able to survive for long. Therefore fertilizers should only be applied during the spring season. In general, the timing for crop preparation and the fertilizer application should be quite close.
- Quantity of fertilizers – The fertilizers should always be added in less amount if you have a doubt about the quantity to be added or you can contact your Agriculture Department for better preferences. It is always better to understand the crop requirements and then add the fertilizers
Quality of Organic fertilizers
During the preparation of compost or organic fertilizers, a variety of organic matter can be added and the quality or nutrient value of the fertilizer depends on what organic matter you have added to it. It is always recommended to know the nutrient content of the fertilizers before using them.
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Just like chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers also have an NPK value and so it is very important to understand which fertilizer to use on your plants. The NPK value for the organic fertilizer depends on the organic matter that is used in their preparation.
For example – Dried blood and fish meal are rich in Nitrogen. Liquid kelp is rich in potassium. Also the ability of different types of organic matter to release the nutrients is not the same, therefore, the availability of nutrients is also a very important factor while selecting the type of organic fertilizer.