ORGANIC FERTILIZERS - The Nutrient Story
- Organic fertilizers contain trace
minerals which are often critical to plant health and growth
and missing in artificial fertilizers.
- Organic fertilizers do not leach out of the soils as compared
to water soluble artificial chemical fertilizers.
- Organic fertilizers do not contain harmful salts that contaminate
soil and create hardpan as artificial chemical fertilizers.
- Organic fertilizers last longer in the soil hence are cheaper
in the long term. On turfgrass only two applications of an
organic fertilizer gives better results that 4 applications
with an artificial fertilizer.
- Organic fertilizers do not burn the roots of plants.
- Organic fertilizers do not destroy beneficial microorganisms
- Organic fertilizers increase a plants resistance to disease
(Artificial fertilizers do the opposite which works out nicely
for the manufacturers since they sell more insecticide, fungicides
and other chemical poisons. Plants become addicted to the
- Blood meal contains about 15% Nitrogen, Bonemeal contains
about 21% Phosphorus, and wood ashes contain about 7% Potassium.
Mix one part blood meal, one part bonemeal and 2 parts wood
ashes and you get an organic fertilizer supplying nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium in the ratio 5-6-4.
- Compost is a excellent slow release soil amendment that
also contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, trace minerals,
humic and fulmic acids, vitamins, enzymes, and other needed
- Studies at the Alabama Polytechnic University have shown
that as much as 50% of the synthetic derived nitrogen applied
to the soil will be leached out and lost anyway and the half
that does reach the plants may in fact be harmful. Other studies
have shown that only 5-10% make it to the plant and the rest
is wasted and pollutes the environment.
- Nitrogen in organic fertilizers is found in proteins and
other complex molecules.
- "Every pound of excess Nitrogen applied to the soil
by artificial fertilizers destroys 100 pounds of humus.. ."
The Carbon Connection, L. Ridzon and C. Walters
- In reference to organic fertilizers, "...they are much
less labor over the long run, and the soil improves rather
than degrades.... In general, for vegetables, ornamental's,
and berries, organic fertilizers are vastly preferable."
Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston,
Bob Randall, Ph.D.
- "Plants grown with ammonia- based synthetic fertilizers
actually attract pest insects (Earth Kind Gardening, 1993).
Many studies since then have confirmed that insects and diseases
are attracted to plants that have had artificial fertilizers
- Evidence is accumulating that synthetic chelates (fertilizers)
are ineffective and have harmful side effects. Synthetic chelates
are alien molecules, and plants can absorb them slowly. Also,
after the chelating molecule releases its payload it may latch
on to other nutrients in the plants, thus making them unavailable.
For example: synthetic iron chelates cause a manganese deficiency
and lower zinc and copper levels; EDTA grabs calcium ions
and thus upsets the calcium-potassium balance. September 1981,
Acres U.S.A., p. 32-33
- Plant growth is often limited by the amount of CO2 available
to the plant. C.H. Wadleigh, 1957 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture,
"Soils", (p.41). Agronomists and farmers are increasing
yields by adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to their bag of practices...Carbon
dioxide is a basic requirement for plant growth (October 1968,
World Farming, p.31). We have evidence that CO2 produced by
the respiration of microorganisms in the soil is an important
factor in the supply of the gas to photosynthesizing plants.
A soil rich in decomposing organic matter provides a much
higher level of CO2 in the air just above the soil than a
barren, infertile soil. Use organic fertilizers and compost.
- Seaweed based organic fertilizers in addition to primary
nutrients generally contain 60 trace minerals and several
important growth stimulators (includes auxins, hormones, gibberellins,
indoles, and cytokinins). Seaweed fertilizers work best when
applied directly on the foliage. People using seaweed fertilizers
regularly report increased cold hardiness in their plants
and increased resistance to powdery mildew and black spot.
If transplants are soaked in a seaweed solution it makes an
excellent stimulator and starter solution. Texas Gardener,
- Why not use manures (horse, cow, etc.) directly on plants
instead of compost? USDA studies indicate that raw manure
lost 50-75% of its nitrogen in storage and application. A
study by Iowa State University indicated that 65% of the nitrogen,
75% of the phosphorus, and 49% of the potassium is lost when
manures are spread directly on farm acres. It has been suggested
that one ton of pre-digested (composted) manure can replace
20 tons of raw manure when applied to imbalanced soils.
- Using compost as an organic soil amendment stimulates microorganisms
to take nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil where
plants can use it. Up to 120 pounds of nitrogen can be fixed
per acre per year under ideal eco-conditions. An Acres U.S.A.
- The University of California at Berkeley has found that
broccoli and other vegetables fertilized with organic fertilizers
attracted less pests (aphids and flea beetles) than those
with chemical fertilizers. Additionally, the organic fertilized
plots out yielded the commercial plots.
- Using lava or granite sand is an excellent organic fertilizer.
It contains almost all trace minerals which helps stimulate
microbes to fix nitrogen from the air. It also helps the soil
become better balanced chemically which means healthier plants
and fewer problems. Often used in making compost to increase
mineral content also helps prevent odors from forming.
- Azomite is a naturally occurring organic fertilizer. It
is a pinkish powdery clay found only in Utah and is chemically
a hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicate that contains 67
major minerals including many trace elements. Increases growth
rates, diseases and pest resistance of most plants.
- Grass clippings contain 4% nitrogen, 0.5% phosphorous, 2%
potassium and many essential minor elements (Texas A &
- Animal feed such as Corn gluten meal is 9% Nitrogen, often
used as an organic pre -emergent weed & feed in late winter
at 20 pounds/1,000 sq. ft.
- If a soil contains 4% organic matter...then up to 55Kg (120lbs)
of ammonium could be released each year per acre (USDA).
- Wood Ash - hardwoods produce 3X as much ash as softwoods
and contain 5X the amount of nutrients. Wood Ash typically
contains: 10-25% Calcium, 1-4% Magnesium, 5-15% Potassium,
1-3% Phosphorous. If listed as a chemical fertilizer it would
read 0-2-10. Note: Tends to be very alkaline so do not use
too much or compost it first.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU USE ARTIFICIAL FERTILIZERS
- High nitrogen artificial fertilizers can increase yields
in some cases (temporarily) of certain grains, however the
amino acid content of the protein is actually adversely affected.
For example in wheat and barley grown with synthetic fertilizers
are less nutritious even though the total protein weight may
be higher since critical amino acids are missing or reduced
in quantity as compared to organically grown (USDA Researcher).
- Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers increase the amounts of toxic
nitrates in dietary intake. According to the National Research
Council, 6 of the top 7 and 9 of the top 15, foods with oncogenic
(cancer causing) risk are produce items with high nitrate
content from pesticides or nitrogen fertilizers. A 12 year
study comparing organically grown versus chemically grown
showed that chemically grown foods had 16 times more nitrate
- Vitamin C content decreases in crops as the use of synthetic
nitrogen fertilizers increase (Soil Scientist, USDA).
- Excess synthetic nitrogen (fertilizers) can also reduce
carbohydrate synthesis which results in lower glucose content
which affects taste (Soil Scientist, USDA).
- Artificial synthetic nitrogen (fertilizers) has been found
to reduce insect and disease resistance of plants (Soil Scientist,
USDA). Numerous studies have now confirmed that the use of
artificial fertilizers significantly increase the amount of
insects and disease problems one has.
- Four metals that are considered harmful to humans; aluminum,
cadmium, lead and mercury are lower in foods grown organically
as compared to those with synthetic chemicals. Doctor's Data
- 1) Chemicals not absorbed by the grass can leach into ground-water
and pollute the water supply. In time local ponds, streams,
and lakes become polluted. 2) Salts accumulate in the soil
and can "lock up" water and other nutrients making
them unavailable to grass, salt buildup also reduces the soils
ability to absorb water and air 3) Fast release chemicals
needlessly stress the grass making it more susceptible to
insects, disease and injury. 4) Slow-release fertilizers are
coated with other materials that can further pollute the soil
and environment 5) Thatch greatly increase with the use of
synthetic fertilizers since the soil becomes too acidic for
earthworms and microorganisms (if the salts have not killed
them first) hence they are not available to break down the
thatch back into beneficial organic compounds. 6) Chemical
burning and browning often occurs if synthetic fertilizers
are over applied to grass. 7) Destruction of earthworms and
microorganisms leads to a reduced root zone in the soil which
means more watering required and additional fertilization
required to keep plants green which starts the cycle all over
- Synthetic fertilizers use strong chemical salts used to
carry nutrients that create a thatch buildup by killing both
microorganisms and earthworms in the soil that eat and breakdown
thatch. Thick layers of thatch (high lignin content) create
a fertile breeding ground for diseases and destructive insects
- As a rule only 30% of the nitrogen (up to 50% for anhydrous
forms depending on soil types) and 10-11% of the phosphate
applied as a fertilizer is actually used by plants in a best
- Excess salts used in synthetic fertilizers cause 2 problems.
First, they reduce the moisture holding ability of soils and
cause what moisture is present to be bound more tightly to
the soil making it harder for plants to absorb. Second, also
salt exposure reduces a plants roots ability to absorb water
even if the soil is fully saturated. Since most commercial
fertilizers are composed of soluble salts (ammonium nitrate,
potassium chloride, etc.) and as these salt build up in the
soil more water (irrigation) is required, the plants are weaker
and more susceptible to insects and disease hence require
more pesticides, fungicides, etc.
- A few common artificial salt based fertilizers.
NaNO3 - "sodium nitrate or nitrate of soda", contains
16% Nitrogen, very soluble hence leaches easily and pollutes
(not good for conifers or hardwoods).
NH3NO3 (NH4NO3) - Ammonium nitrate, 33.5% nitrogen (50% in
nitrate form & 50% in Ammonium form), highly soluble hence
leaches and pollutes lakes and streams. Also flammable and
can explode if stored in a closed warehouse. Also absorbs
water. Commonly used in nurseries, may also be used as a top
dressing, acidifies soil. Kills soil microbes that prevent
(NH4)2SO4 - "ammonium sulfate", source of N and
S, can acidify soil, may be used as a top dressing, kills
microbes in the soil that prevents disease.
CO(NH2)2 - "urea", nitrogen loss by volatilization
can be a problem, dissolves rapidly and suffers leaching losses.
KNO3 - "potassium Nitrate or nitrate of potash",
13% nitrogen (not good for trees as a N source, may be okay
for K), raises soil pH
CaNo3 - Calcium nitrate, 15% nitrogen, raises soil pH
Anhydrous Ammonia - 82% nitrogen, a particularly lethal form
of nitrogen, combines with soil moisture to form colloids
that stay in soil, when applied to soils low in humus over
2/3 (67%) can be lost to the atmosphere
- Most (all) synthetic fertilizers use "fillers"
to help carry the nutrients. These fillers are not listed
on the label. These can be chemical salts, sand, lime, dolomite,
or even (as it was recently discovered) contaminated wastes
containing dangerous heavy metals and hazardous wastes. These
fillers can often cause problems. For example, if your soil
has high magnesium relative to calcium, then using a fertilizer
with a dolomitic lime filler will make the soil imbalance
worse, resulting in more weeds.
- Synthetic fertilizers kill the soil microbes that are so
essential for healthy soil and healthy plants. The residues
from these fertilizers can adversely affect the soil biology
- If anhydrous ammonia (synthetic fertilizer and a particularly
lethal form of nitrogen) is applied to a field low in humus,
over 2/3 of the material can be lost to the atmosphere, sometimes
before the farmer can move from one end of a field to the
other. Acres USA Primer, 1992
- Many synthetic fertilizers are dangerous to keep around
as they can create a condition where spontaneous combustion
can occur. They also can be used as a essential ingredient
in making explosives (i.e. Oklahoma City Bombing).
- Labeling laws are misleading. For example they require that
nitrogen numbers refer to total N while those for phosphate
and potash only tell the amount that will be released in the
first year...not the total amount. Hence when one buys an
organic fertilizer they are getting a lot more nutrients than
shows up on the bag
- New studies have shown that nitrate from synthetic fertilizers
stimulate the germination of weed seeds. In tests of 85 species
of weeds it was found that nitrate could replace light requirements
for germination, and increase germination under adverse temperatures.
Other studies have shown that nitrate increases weed germination
rates 11 times higher (3% to 34%). Acres USA February 1997,
Harold Willis, Ph.D.
- Potential Acidity: 406 lbs. calcium carbonate equivalent per
ton. – This means 406 lbs. of limestone (CaCO3) are
required to offset the acidifying effects of this fertilizer
An Acres U.S.A. Primer, by Walters and Fenzau
The Rest of The Story...About Agriculture Today, by Dr. Harold
Texas Organic Gardening Book, by Howard Garrett
"The Guide To Organic Fertilizers" by Vicki Mattern,
Organic Gardening May/June 1996, p. 55-59
WWW.SEATTLETIMES.COM -A series of investigative reports (copyrighted)
by the Seattle Times Newspaper has found that many companies
that manufacture synthetic fertilizer add hazardous waste
and radioactive waste to their fertilizers. These extremely
dangerous wastes then end up in our food supply or in our
yards for our children to play in. July-August 1997-1999,
Seattle Times Newspaper.
Fateful Harvest, by Duff Wilson, Harper Collins Publisher,
ISBN 0-06-019369-7, A history of how hazardous waste is disposed
of in synthetic fertilizers and ends up contaminating the
food supply of your children and pets.