Fertilizers provide key nutrients for facilitating plant growth, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers also contain small amounts of other various nutrients for plant growth, but primarily contain the three listed above. Organic and commercial fertilizers both provide key benefits and disadvantages. This article will examine the main differences between commercial and organic fertilizers, which will help you decide which one to use for your personal lawn, garden, or flowerbed.
Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium
Fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, which help with plant growth and development. However, what do these nutrients mean for your plants?
Nitrogen- Nitrogen promotes flowering and cell division, which helps in the early stages of plant or lawn growth. Too much nitrogen is harmful to plants, however, too little will produce less than desired growth results.
Phosphorus- Phosphorus is needed for photosynthesis and the maturation of fruits. Phosphorus also helps plants absorb the water and other vital nutrients. Too much phosphorus is caused from over fertilization, as it is not typically found in high amounts naturally in soil.
Potassium- Potassium helps plants absorb nitrogen and phosphorus, which promotes leafy vegetative growth.
Both sets of fertilizers contain the same nutrients, but differ for nutrients per identical weight, and the way they are applied. Organic fertilizers are derived from natural sources and are more expensive than inorganic fertilizers are, but are easier on the environment.
Pros of Organic Fertilizer
• Breakdown- Organic fertilizers are made from natural sources, which are easier to break down by the environment. This means that there are less environmental risks than inorganic fertilizers if applied properly.
• Contains the same nutrients as commercial fertilizers- Organic fertilizers have the same macronutrients as commercial fertilizers, which means that if you are willing to apply more of the product to your lawn or garden, you will get similar results.
• Easier to apply recommended nutrients- Nutrient levels vary from soil to soil, and are often different on one piece of land than another piece, close by. For instance, if your soil has a high concentration of nitrogen, then the lower concentration of inorganic fertilizer makes it easier to apply the recommended amount.
Cons of Organic Fertilizer
• Over fertilization- Many people believe that over fertilization does not occur with organic fertilizer. However, the misuse of organic fertilizer can cause run off, which leads to environmental problems, especially in rivers and lakes.
• Cost- Due to the lower nutrient levels of organic fertilizers more must be applied, which is costly and troublesome. Inorganic or commercial fertilizers are much less expensive and due to the higher nutrient content, less is required.
• Limited resource- Organic fertilizers are made from natural byproducts, such as cow manure, which means that there is a limited supply, thus making the cost higher.
Commercial fertilizers, or inorganic fertilizer, are chemically manufactured. The primary benefits of commercial fertilizers are that they are inexpensive and are produced in mass quantities. The environmental downfalls of commercial fertilizers are that they are not as easily broken down by the environment, and over fertilization is a common problem with amateurs.
Pros of commercial fertilizers
• Cost- Commercial fertilizers have more nutrients per bag than organic fertilizers, which reduces the cost, and the amount needed per job.
• Safe to use- Commercial fertilizers are often misconstrued as being harmful, but when properly applied they are safe for plants and the surrounding environment. However, when inorganic fertilizers when misapplied can lead to a variety of environmental problems, and can lead to damage to plants. Because commercial fertilizers can be harmful it is important to understand how much to apply, and how to properly apply it.
• Bigger vegetation- Due to the chemicals and nutrients found in commercial fertilizers, plant growth is often more lush, and greater than with organic fertilizers.
• Less application- Commercial fertilizers have more nutrients than organic fertilizers, which translates into fewer products needed for the same amount of area. This means that inorganic fertilizer are easier to apply.
Cons of commercial fertilizer
• Environmental risks– The chemicals found in commercial fertilizers are not as easy for the environment to break down. This translates into over fertilization and runoffs, which causes a variety of environmental problems to eco-systems, and pollution from the lowest levels of the food chain to human consumption.
Personal experience with agriculture classes, using and selling both varieties of fertilizers, and the pursuit of a graduate degree in agriculture economics.