Fertilizer Runoff

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The Uses and Repercussions of Fertilizers

How does America feed itself? Currently, over 300 million people are living in the United States. This large population can only be sustained through the use of inorganic, or man-made, fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers offer great benefits to the agriculture industry by providing a food source for the crops they grow. However, when these fertilizers are relocated by erosion, they promote unwanted growth and overpopulation of plants in some areas. When these plants grow they negatively affect the ecosystem where they reside. As these algae carry out their lives they produce waste which decreases the amount of dissolved oxygen available for fish. As water’s oxygen content drops fish will start to die from asphyxiation, or suffocation. Unregulated use of inorganic fertilizer negatively impacts the world’s ecosystems and alternatives must be developed in order stop the damage. Inorganic fertilizers are produced by the Haber Process, the process by which hydrogen and nitrogen gas combine to produce ammonia. This ammonia, when introduced to soil, forms various compounds which propel the growth of plant and plant-like organisms. Using chemical fertilizers on crops improves yield as revealed in a recent study examining the benefits of using fertilizer on banana trees in Uganda. According to Africa News Service, the addition of fertilizer to banana farms helps produce more bananas. “The study showed that modest fertilizer use significantly increased the crop’s yield- the crop doubled from 10 tonnes to 20 tonnes per hectacre per year in Central Uganda”(“Moderate”). By doubling its banana yield annually, this act is helping feed hungry Ugandan citizens. The study also concluded by adding fertilizer to the soil plants grow not only bigger, but faster assured Dr. Asten, who led the study said, “Application of fertilizer not only increases bunch weight but also shortens the crop cycle so the plants produce more bunches in a year” (“Moderate”). By generating bountiful and prosperous fields more quickly, fertilizer is a good choice for the farming industry in this area and allows for sufficient food to feed its residents. Using a wide variety of nutrients in fertilizer further maximizes crop yield. Encyclopedia of Food & Culture reports, using a wide variety of fertilizers is the best way to achieve the most growth. “Other nutrients like limestone, phosphorus, and potassium helped achieve the genetic potential of the crop” (“High-Technology”). Furthermore, this text indicates that using the most vital nutrients in unison produces optimal growth because certain nutrients are necessary to carry on essential bodily processes within plants. In today’s world, the use of technology is optimizing what farmers grow on their land. “The ready availability of nitrogen fertilizer, along with better understanding of fertility through soil testing, improved fertilizer application and crop growth has made nitrogen fertilizer a must have for any farmer” (“High-Technology”). Farmers who value their time and money invest in educating themselves and take advantage of these new technologies as they are available. Nitrogen fertilizer is needed in some places to sustain a harvestable crop. Last year an emergency message was sent from farmers in Zimbabwe to their local government requesting nitrogen-rich fertilizer. Lawrence Magwenzi, a native farmer, explains the only way to salvage the seasons’ crops after a drought was to add fertilizer. “The rains have been consistent this season, but most crops were planted without fertilizers and if we don’t get ammonium nitrate in the next two weeks the crop would be a total failure” (We). The ammonium nitrate delivered by fertilizer is used to spark the growth of failing crops. A professional from China comments plants are experiencing deficiency of a certain nutrient, a color change is noticeable. “Farmers...
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