Evils of Synthetic Fertilizer


Synthetic Fertilizers

Throughout human history, we have been using fertilizers in agriculture to increase the nutrition level of the soil and hence get healthy and productive plants.

But only in the last few decades we have been rusing synthetic fertilizers. The use of synthetic fertilizer has increased crop yields and brought in the so called "green revolution". But that is not all - they also bring with them a bag full of unintended consequences as well.  There are far reaching negative consequence of multiplying crop yields by using more and more synthetic fertilizers.

Before getting to see those ill-effects of synthetic fertilizers, lets see the difference between organic fertilizers and synthetic fertilizers.

Picture courtesy: Milorganite

Organic fertilizers - naturally occurring substances such as  green manure, organic manure and compost- increases the organic matter in the soil that stimulate beneficial soil microorganisms and improve the structure of the soil. Soil microbes play an important role in converting organic fertilizers into soluble nutrients that can be absorbed by plants. 

Synthetic fertilizers - man-made combinations of chemicals and inorganic substances- typically combine nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements in different ratios. Synthetic fertilizers are water-soluble and can be taken up by the plant almost immediately unlike organic fertilizers.

Kills Soil Microbes

Synthetic fertilizers have long-term negative effects. Synthetic fertilizers kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil that convert dead plant and animal remains into nutrient-rich organic matter - making farmer totally dependent on synthetic fertilizers for future planting.

Impact on Environment and Humans

Since synthetic fertilizers are water soluble, Nitrogen- and phosphate-based synthetic fertilizers leach into groundwater and increase its toxicity, causing water pollution. Fertilizers that leach into streams, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water disrupt aquatic ecosystems. 

Synthetic fertilizers increase the nitrate levels of soil. Plants produced from such soil, upon consumption, convert to toxic nitrites in the intestines. These harmful nitrites react with the hemoglobin in the blood stream to cause methaeglobinaemia, which damages the vascular and respiratory systems. 

Nutritional Deficiency 

Synthetic fertilizers tend to replenish only nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus - while depleting the other nutrients and minerals that are naturally found in truly fertile soils. Plants that grow in overly fertilized soil are deficient in iron, zinc, carotene, vitamin C, copper and protein. This leads to increase in   nutritionally-deficient foods.

However, organically grown vegetables have significantly more anti-oxidants, polyphenols, and enzymes. 

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