For dozens of centuries, man has exploited nature bending it at will, drawing immediate benefits. The next industrial and technological development, from the nineteenth century onwards, helped to change not only the environment but also our vision and our way of relating to it, spoiling it sometimes irreversibly.
The development model of today’s society has led on the one hand to uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources and on the other to believe that these resources were inexhaustible.
Why this resource exploitation?
We respond by asking another question in a provocative way: it is a necessary consumption or is it due to this particular economic model?
In answering these two questions the production of what is the basis of our consumption must be analyzed, thus the production of food and the use of raw materials.
In agriculture, the methods and tools used reflect a setting of the bottom, where a man at war with nature, in which the fate of the latter is to be looted, plundered and exploited mercilessly.
A historical reason
At the end of the World War II, there was the need to maintain the productive potential of the defense industry, converting tanks, heavy artillery tractors and chemical weapons in fertilizers and pesticides. In this way, we wanted to make the agricultural sector, hitherto self-sufficient, to industry, to open new areas of investment.
This process, like it or not, disconnected agriculture from its natural essence making it totally dependent to human, mechanical and chemical interventions, profoundly changing Earth’s perception.
Today much of the agricultural production is destined for the maintenance of intensive factory farming; this demand has encouraged the use of ever more sophisticated fertilizers, new technologies, including genetic modification. This technology has been strongly supported by the industry since GM crops allow a much greater use of pesticides and fertilizers all contribute to the elimination of biodiversity and the reduction of the fertility of the earth.
We want to continue our journey now speaking specifically of fertilizers and confusion that is often made when it comes to them, their use and their nature.
Fertilizers and manure, is there a difference?
According to the most common and popular belief yes. Manure is associated with the idea of natural nutrient for plants and soils while fertilizers are associated more with the idea of nutrient chemistry. For many experts manure and fertilizer are synonymous.
In reality, the answer is positive, albeit minimally, although one can be considered the sub-product of the other. When it comes to giving the right nourishment to the plants we give them a fertilizer, right? But what are manures if not a type of fertilizer?
The most correct and shared definition for fertilizer is as follows: any substance, which for the content of nutrients or to the physical, chemical or biological, increases fertility in the soil and provides the proper support to the plants.
We can see the fertilizer as the “technical means”, used in agriculture and gardening activities to allow you to create, maintain, restore or increase soil fertility.
Depending on the type of improvement to confer to the ground, fertilizers can be divided into three different types:
- Fertilizers: enrich the soil in one or more nutrients usable by plants.
- Soil improvers: any substance, synthetic or natural, organic or mineral, able to provide plants with the elements or element necessary for growth.
- Corrective fertilizer: as the name indicates implicitly, consist of any substance, able to change and improve the chemical characteristics of the soil. For example, they are used to modify the reaction of abnormal soil shifting the pH towards neutral.
It’s a case of small differences which may in a sense become huge by what we need for the plant. It ‘s a bit like when we have to choose the composition of fertilizer depending on whether we need to develop the plant or its flowering.
For fertilizers, it works the same way. If we simply need to correct the chemical composition of the soil, for example, its pH, we can buy a corrective fertilizer, and if we want to give our flowers such specific help in the growth of a particular substance, we can rely on the work of the soil improver who will change the texture or the chemical structure of the soil. Fertilizers allow us to act specifically on certain factors in addition to the need to give nourishment to our plants as we usually do with fertilizers.
The first fertilizer in history
Just for curiosity, the first chemical fertilizer was the calcium superphosphate, patented by the English scientist Sir. John Bennet Lawes in 1842. Chemical and agronomist (1814-1900) founded and directed in 1843 the Rothamsted station carrying a vast agrarian experimental activity, with research on nutrition and fertilization of cultivated plants.
Plants owe their existence to light and water, but other nutrients are to be added:
- Macroelements: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and calcium
- Microelements: iron, copper, manganese, zinc and sulfur which plants take from the earth.
These nutrients once assimilated by the plants do not reproduce easily and quickly, so we resort to fertilization. The goal is, therefore, to reinstate the original soil fertility. The more intensive cultivation will be the more massive the fertilization activity must be.
Manures are divided into organic manures and chemical manures or natural manure and mineral manure.
Organic manures (natural)
Besides the three main elements for soil fertility (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) contain carbon, and can only be of animal or vegetable origin. To a large extent, organic manures originate from sewage, dung and animal remains.
Namely horse and cattle manure (litter impregnated by the shedding of cattle and horses) worked properly. Excellent natural manure, for its nutritional properties, of crops and garden plants. The overall process which can last more than a semester includes a first phase, during which the manure is mixed and then left to mature for a few months, followed by a period necessary for drying.
The last stage of the production process and the granulation and packing. Manure, sold in bags, available at nurseries and agricultural centers, can be used alone or with the addition of other compost.
Another important organic fertilizer made from manure of chickens processed properly. Even the production of the droppings requires a working period of about one half. In practice, the droppings of chickens arranged in piles are left to mature, ie to ferment for a few months, after which they are left to dry and then reduced to granules.
Rich in ozone, perfect for green plants and fields.
A substance of fossil origin can also be used for organic crops since it does not contain chemicals.
Both in powder and liquid forms.
Horn and Hoof
Manure of animal origin, so called because it is obtained by processing cattle horns and hoofs. The latter has a high nitrogen content which makes it particularly suitable for fertilization of orchards, gardens, lawns, meadows, evergreen plants.
Important: It ‘s important to know and keep in mind that for all organic fertilizers the law sets clear limits on the presence of some heavy metals such as copper, zinc, chromium and lead.
Chemical fertilizers (mineral)
Chemical or mineral fertilizers are fertilizers produced industrially in a balanced way, in the sense that the macro and micro elements become part of the composition of the final product in the right proportions, in line with the needs of the soil and the type of crop to which it is intended.
Types of chemical fertilizers:
- Rich in phosphates, suitable for flowering plants;
- Rich in nitrogen, which act on the development of the stems and leaf mass, indicated for evergreen plants, lawns and turf, fertilizers rich in phosphorus, which stimulate root growth, indicated in the first years of life of the plants;
- Rich in potassium, which stimulate flowering, fruiting and lignification of the stems, shown to enhance the skeleton.
Chemical fertilizer can be simple or compound according to that contains one or more nutrients. For it is relevant the title, ie the amount in percentage of macro and micro elements it contains.
The percentages of the various elements are indicated by a sequence of numbers listed on the package. One number indicates the percentage of nitrogen, the possible second number, indicates the percentage of phosphorus and so on.
Among the synthetic fertilizers of latest generation remember the so-called complex fertilizers, in which the elements are joined together chemically, ie give life to a single product and not to a mixture of macro and microelements.
To conduct an analysis on fertilizers must perform several experiments: determination of nitrogen, organic nitrogen determination, determination of nitrate.
Returning to what is written in the beginning of our article, where we mentioned the exploitation of natural resources, we anticipate that there will be a sequel to this article where we discuss the boom of fertilizers and the risks associated with their excessive use for both man and the environment.
Ecodyger transforms wet waste into compost, which is a natural soil improver.