Section#11/ TA- Phuntso ThinleyDate-15th March, 2013
Artificial fertilizer: Curse or Blessing?
Rapid overgrowth of population is the main reason why the amount of agricultural area is decreasing and food availability is declining. To deal with this food problem producer’s focus on artificial fertilizers to increase yield. While fertilizers not only increase the crop growth, it also ensures the most effective use of both land and water. But, redundant usage of artificial fertilizers can cause a lot of problems, such as fatal changes to the soil, strengthens pesticides, pollutes water, release greenhouse gas and harms human body parts. Although, it is necessary for us to keep up with the food production, it is also essential to think about the negative effects of artificial fertilizers and its alternative as they harm more than helping us.
Producers have been using organic fertilizers for thousands of years to increase per unit plant yield. But inorganic or artificial fertilizers started to grow only when the industrial revolution began in early 1800’s. Although organic fertilizers were helpful, inorganic fertilizers were responsible for a huge transformation in agriculture and it increased the yield of crops tremendously. After successful experiments by Theodore de Saussure, Sir Humphrey Davy and Justus Von Liebig, chemical fertilizers were adopted in agriculture broadly. (Cornell, 2010). Chemical Fertilizers are of course manufactured from chemicals, usually from hydrocarbons and from other minerals. Phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium are the most common minerals used for making fertilizers. These types of fertilizers work faster because they are easily soluble in the water, which means they are quickly available to the plants than organic fertilizers. Despite the fact that farmers were able to produce much more crops than ever by using artificial fertilizers, they have their own side effects. Although the producers use chemical fertilizers to increase the fertility of soil, studies showed that in this case plants become more dependent on fertilizers and infertility of soil increases. These fertilizers also caused serious soil, air and water pollution. Agricultural chemicals also affected the immune systems of living organisms and cause serious health problems. By admitting that artificial fertilizers increased the growth of crops, scientists are more concerned about its side effects now then ever before.
Since inorganic fertilizers are made from nitrogen and phosphorus, the foremost environmental conflict affiliated with the usage of fertilizer is contamination of water with nitrates and phosphates. Bacteria from soil help the nitrogen and manures from fertilizers to turn into soil to nitrates. These nitrates often strain into the groundwater or are washed out of the soil surface into the lakes and rivers. Drinking high nitrate level water is considered to be dangerous to human health as it reduces the oxygen carrying capacity in human blood. Again, phosphates from the chemical fertilizers break down into phosphorus and oxygen. Unlike oxygen, phosphorus cannot get into the air or be washed out of the soil readily, it sticks with the soil particles and move along with them. Thus phosphorus can be washed into surface waters and pollute the water. Phosphorus from fertilizers not only pollutes the water but also affects the growth of algae. In his article Jose Manuel Estela, faculty of chemistry department in University of Balearic Islands talks about the phosphorus affects on water, algae and other water living animals. He states, “The phosphorus is not considered to be dangerous, but it stimulates the growth of algae in slow moving water. These algae eventually die and decompose, removing the oxygen from the water causing fish kills. This process is called eutrophication.” (Estela, 2005). Here, Estela is shows how phosphorus interrupts the...