Q:

What are artificial fertilizers?

A:

Quick Answer

Artificial fertilizers are man-made chemical compounds that mimic the soil's natural minerals and elements to maximize plant growth. They usually contain different ratios of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other elements.

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Full Answer

There are two types of fertilizers: artificial and organic. Artificial fertilizers are convenient, easy to use and readily available in local gardening stores. They immediately supply consistent amounts of precise nutrients to the soil, which is especially helpful for reviving dying or severely malnourished plants. Organic fertilizers include biofertilizers, green manure, organic manure and compost. While natural fertilizers take longer to build soil vitality, they are safer and cause no pollution.

Throughout most of history, agriculture has relied on natural fertilizers to increase the nutrient levels of soil. The release of artificial fertilizers in the late 19th century increased crop yields and launched the agricultural revolution.

Despite its advantages, artificial fertilizers kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil that convert plant and animal remains into nutrient-rich organic matter. They also leach nitrogen and phosphate into groundwater and pollute streams, rivers, lakes and other water bodies to disrupt aquatic ecosystems. Plants grown from synthetic fertilizers contain toxic nitrates that react with hemoglobin to damage the vascular and respiratory systems and cause suffocation and even death in extreme cases. Over time, artificial fertilizers destroy the soil’s natural makeup. Too much fertilizer produces plants deficient in iron, zinc, carotene, vitamin C, copper and protein.

Individuals can minimize the negative effects of artificial fertilizers by mixing them with the soil well enough to prevent rain runoff. Diluting it prevents burning plants. Synthetically grown fruits and vegetables require a thorough wash before eating. Individuals must keep unused fertilizer away from water, pets and children.

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