What Does A Nitrogen Fertilizer Do
- November 3, 2021
This makes nitrogen fertilizer especially appropriate for young plants that need to grow rapidly as they establish themselves in the soil.Warm soil temperatures above 50 degrees F convert the ammonium to nitrate within a month of application.This makes reapplication at different times of the year necessary for some plants because nitrate does not latch onto soil particles and is susceptible to being leached from the dirt.Leaching refers to water flushing nutrients deeper into the soil until plant roots can no longer reach them. .
Fertilizer 101: The Big 3 - Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium
That’s where fertilizer comes in.Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or NPK, are the “Big 3” primary nutrients in commercial fertilizers.Nitrogen is considered to be the most important nutrient, and plants absorb more nitrogen than any other element.Potassium is the third key nutrient of commercial fertilizers. .
What Does N-P-K Mean on Fertilizer?
Not all fertilizers are the same.However, you usually only have to worry about the Big Three, called the primary or macro nutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).What Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium Do for Plants.It’s a building block for growing new stems and leaves, plus it is a necessary part of chlorophyll, which makes the leaves green and helps plants photosynthesize.What Happens When Plants Don't Get Enough N-P-K?If you see these symptoms, a soil test will help you figure out exactly which nutrients are missing.Once you know what’s missing, you can add the right nutrients back into the soil with fertilizer. .
What Is the Nitrogen Cycle and Why Is It Key to Life? · Frontiers for
I was born on Earth Day, so naturally I love being outside and look for any excuse to spend time with animals of all shapes and sizes!Farmers can add nitrogen fertilizer to produce better crops, but too much can hurt plants and animals, and pollute our aquatic systems.Without nitrogen fertilizers, scientists estimate that we would lose up to one third of the crops we rely on for food and other types of agriculture.Nitrogen is a key element in the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, which are the most important of all biological molecules and crucial for all living things.With too much nitrogen, plants produce excess biomass, or organic matter, such as stalks and leaves, but not enough root structure.In extreme cases, plants with very high levels of nitrogen absorbed from soils can poison farm animals that eat them .Excess nitrogen can also leach—or drain—from the soil into underground water sources, or it can enter aquatic systems as above ground runoff.Eutrophication happens when too much nitrogen enriches the water, causing excessive growth of plants and algae.Too much nitrogen can even cause a lake to turn bright green or other colors, with a “bloom” of smelly algae called phytoplankton (see Figure 1)!These dead zones can happen in freshwater lakes and also in coastal environments where rivers full of nutrients from agricultural runoff (fertilizer overflow) flow into oceans .Figure 2 shows the stages of Eutrophication (open access Wikimedia Commons image from https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eutrophicationmodel.svg).(8) The decomposition process causes the water to have reduced oxygen, leading to “dead zones.” Bigger life forms like fish cannot breathe and die.They can re-reroute excess nutrients away from lakes and vulnerable costal zones, use herbicides (chemicals used to kill unwanted plant growth) or algaecides (chemicals used to kill algae) to stop the algal blooms, and reduce the quantities or combinations of nutrients used in agricultural fertilizers, among other techniques .Algaecides can be expensive, and they also do not correct the source of the problem: the excess nitrogen or other nutrients that caused the algae bloom in the first place!Another potential solution is called bioremediation, which is the process of purposefully changing the food web in an aquatic ecosystem to reduce or control the amount of phytoplankton.There are five stages in the nitrogen cycle, and we will now discuss each of them in turn: fixation or volatilization, mineralization, nitrification, immobilization, and denitrification.Leaching is where certain forms of nitrogen (such as nitrate, or NO 3 ) becomes dissolved in water and leaks out of the soil, potentially polluting waterways.During nitrification the ammonia in the soils, produced during mineralization, is converted into compounds called nitrites, NO 2 −, and nitrates, NO 3 −.Knowledge of the nitrogen cycle can also help us reduce pollution caused by adding too much fertilizer to soils.For example, a study done by Haycock and Pinay  showed that poplar trees (Populus italica) used as a buffer held on to 99% of the nitrate entering the underground water flow during winter, while a riverbank zone covered with a specific grass (Lolium perenne L.) held up to 84% of the nitrate, preventing it from entering the river.Pollution of our water sources by surplus nitrogen and other nutrients is a huge problem, as marine life is being suffocated from decomposition of dead algae blooms.Farmers and communities need to work to improve the uptake of added nutrients by crops and treat animal manure waste properly.We also need to protect the natural plant buffer zones that can take up nitrogen runoff before it reaches water bodies.But, our current patterns of clearing trees to build roads and other construction worsen this problem, because there are fewer plants left to uptake excess nutrients.We need to do further research to determine which plant species are best to grow in coastal areas to take up excess nitrogen.We also need to find other ways to fix or avoid the problem of excess nitrogen spilling over into aquatic ecosystems.DNA: ↑ Deoxyribonucleic acid, a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main component of chromosomes, and carrier of genetic information.Eutrophication: ↑ Excessive amount of nutrients (such as nitrogen) in a lake or other body of water, which causes a dense growth of aquatic plant life, such as algae.Phytoplankton: ↑ Tiny, microscopic marine algae (also known as microalgae) that require sunlight in order to grow.Leaching: ↑ When a mineral or chemical (such as nitrate, or NO 3 ) drains away from soil or other ground material and leaks into surrounding area.The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. .
Fertilizing: It's Mainly About Nitrogen
I learned my first lesson about fertilizing many years ago as a boy on our family farm.My young mind was having a hard time reconciling the lessons of my elementary school botany studies with the bags of Chilean nitrate fertilizer stacked up to the ceiling of our barn.Impressionable youth that I was, I had come away from the class with the understanding that plants made their own food out of thin air and sunlight through the miraculous process of photosynthesis.Whenever I returned home from school, I knew where to find my dad: out on the tractor, side-dressing the crops with fertilizer.I’ve learned that one of the most important distinctions among fertilizers is how soluble they are, a concept critical to protecting ground water.The good news is that nitrogen is in plentiful supply in nature; it comprises 78 percent of the earth’s atmosphere.For nitrogen to be absorbed by plant roots, it must be converted, or “fixed,” into nitrates (NO 3 ) or ammonium (NH 4 ) ions.But the richer the soil, the higher it is in organic matter and microorganisms, and the faster the nitrogen is made available.In those days, virtually all nitrogen fertilizers came from natural sources: manure, plant residue, bone and blood meals.The nitrogen cycle was speeded up dramatically, and the synthetic fertilizer industry was born.Unlike in natural fertilizers, the nitrogen in these synthetics was available to plants almost as soon as it hit the ground.If you apply too much at one time, the excess nitrates can leach into groundwater and pose a health hazard; too little and plants suffer.When phosphorus levels are low, plants grow slowly and may have poor fruit or seed development.It does not travel in the soil solution, and plant roots must be in contact with phosphate ions to absorb them.However, in 1842 it was found that treating phosphate rock with sulfuric acid would greatly speed the release of phosphorus.Superphosphate (0-20-0) is produced by reacting finely ground phosphate rock with sulfuric acid.Potassium, the third primary nutrient, also encourages root growth and helps plants resist disease.Signs of potassium deficiency include weak plants, slow growth, small or shriveled fruit, and leaf burning at the tips and margins.Other common sources of potassium include greensand, from the mineral glauconite (0-0-6), wood ashes (0-0-10), and granite dust (0-0-7).The secondary nutrients, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, are not required in great quantities by plants and are often present in the soil in adequate amounts.When sulfur is deficient, plants are small and spindly, and the youngest leaves are light green to yellow.For example, just ¾ ounce of Borax, the laundry detergent, provides all the boron necessary for 100 square feet of garden.As a teenager in the 1960s, I reacted against my father’s stacks of chemical fertilizers with their acrid, nose-twitching odor and planted an organic vegetable garden in a corner of the farm.If you’re patient and have time to build up the soil, organic fertilizers pay dividends over the long run.The residual organic matter means that the plants never starve, and you won’t overfeed or underfeed.Or the pepper plants lag just when the compost bin runs out, and you can’t lay your hands on some mellow, aged manure.It was during one of those times, after I had just started a garden in soil as sandy as the beach, that I began to wonder: What’s the harm in spritzing those plants with a little bit of Miracle-Gro?Nitrates in drinking water at levels greater than the federal standard of 10 parts per million can cause a potentially fatal condition in infants commonly known as “blue-baby” syndrome, also called methemoglobinemia.Babies can develop blue-baby syndrome after drinking water contaminated with nitrate levels greater than 10 parts per million for as little as one week, according to the Environmental Work Group, an activist organization based in Washington, D.C.You need to keep in mind the actual amount of the ingredients, not only to get the biggest bang for your buck, but also to determine how much to apply to different crops.The synthetic sources of nitrogen carry a high percentage of the fertilizer and offer a quick boost to plants.A 100-square-foot patch of potatoes needs about ½ pound each of actual nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per year for good growth.While legumes, such as beans and peas, require only 1/10 pound of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash for the same amount of space.Some people plan their kitchen gardens for aesthetics, some for succession and rotations, and some for ease of harvest.I take all of those elements into account, but plan my garden primarily according to the feeding needs—basically the nitrogen requirements—of the plants.Choose the finest, tastiest, and best-looking varieties you can find—it doesn’t matter if they’re heirlooms or hybrids—and feed the plants properly. .
Many metabolic processes in plants and animals rely on nitrogen.All N fertilizer begins with a source of hydrogen gas and atmospheric N that are reacted to form ammonia.For example, some ammonia is oxidized to make nitrate fertilizer.Because the production of hydrogen gas required for the synthesis of ammonia largely comes from natural gas, the price of this primary feedstock is the major factor in the cost of ammonia production.There are a number of organic sources of N that are commonly used to fertilize crops. .
The downside of nitrogen fertilizer
An estimated 1/3 of global food production is made possible by its use, with 100 million tons applied to Earth’s surface annually.When aquatic plants die, their decomposition strips oxygen from the water, causing fish and shellfish kills.At the mouth of the Mississippi River, in the Gulf of Mexico, agricultural pollution has resulted in a dead zone the size of New Jersey.Ammonia is volatized from nitrogen fertilizer and it forms fine particles in the atmosphere that are hazardous to human health. .