Organic fertilizers are becoming a popular choice these days because of their many benefits.
In addition to fertilizing the soil and stimulating plant growth, some organic fertilizer facts that are widely known are that they help retain water so that when watering, they can optimize water absorption. But apparently, many other facts are interesting to discuss!
Hence, we have provided you with 15 organic fertilizer facts that cover both the advantages and disadvantages of organic fertilizers in your field or garden. Check them out!
Table of Contents
- 1. Increase Water Content And Soil Porosity
- 2. Boost Nutrient Value
- 3. Reduce Nitrate In The Soil
- 4. Provide Beneficial Soil Microbes
- 5. Comparable Growth To Chemical Fertilizers
- 6. Increase Soil Minerals
- 7. You Can Conserve This Fertilizer. How?
- 8. Improve Shelf-Life Of Fruits
- 9. Suppress Plant Diseases
- 10. Enhance Crops Yield
- 11. Release Nutrients Slow And Steady
- 12. Increase Organic Carbon In Soil
- 13. Can Be Pathogenic
- 14. Contribute To Eutrophication
- 15. Higher Labor Costs
1. Increase Water Content And Soil Porosity
It has been known that fertilizers can help conserve water and keep the moist soil longer. But do you know that organic fertilizers do that better? A 2020 study stated that the soil absorbed water better and prevented water infiltration when applying organic fertilizers. It was because organic fertilizer helped increase soil water content (SWC) in the rhizosphere, particularly in the broadest layers (around 40-80 cm).
Furthermore, applying organic fertilizer also demonstrated a reduction in soil water loss. In addition, organic fertilization also increases soil porosity, leading to better water absorption and nutrient intake of the plants. Moreover, a 2013 research also supported this finding, mentioning that the porosity of organic fertilization was around 19-33% compared to inorganic fertilizers, which were about 16-33%.
2. Boost Nutrient Value
One of the most interesting organic fertilizer facts is it can also boost fruit quality. A 2020 research focused on applying organic fertilizers to Pear Jujube for two years found that this fertilizer improved the nutrient value of the fruits, such as vitamin C and total flavonoids, which were 82.6% and 45.6% higher than the control (no treatment).
It was argued that the slow and steady release of organic fertilizers into the soil meets the fruits’ physiological necessity and balances the nutrient metabolism.
3. Reduce Nitrate In The Soil
Nitrate plays a vital role in farming since it provides nitrogen supply for the soils. Generally, farmers add mineral fertilizers into the ground to increase this compound.
However, excessive fertilization may lead to an excessive amount of nitrate and end up in high accumulation. If this condition persists, it harms the soil and the water as the compound leaches. It is also detrimental to human health since nitrate is accumulated in the leafy vegetables, like lettuce and spinach, which humans will eventually consume.
Hence, 2022 research published in the Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition said that applying slow-release organic fertilizer from manure could lower the nitrate concentration in the soil. It also increases the yield and prevents the loss of nitrogen content to the water table due to the delayed transformation of N to nitrate. The result of this study also demonstrated that the accumulation of nitrate when using mineral fertilizers was 1.24 higher than in organic fertilizers.
4. Provide Beneficial Soil Microbes
There are several organic fertilizers, one of which is microbial organic fertilizers. This type of fertilizer may help increase the number of beneficial microbes in the soil, improve soil fertility, and ultimately stimulate plant growth. This statement was followed by a recent 2019 research that examined the addition of microbial organic fertilizers (MOF) to soil after the fumigation process. The process is a disinfecting area with chemical compounds that can reduce soil microbial diversity.
Moreover, the results showed that this kind of fertilizer increased the availability of beneficial microorganisms in the soil, such as Glomeromycota, Mortierellomycota, Humicola, and Bacillus while dropping Ascomycota and Fusarium, two microbes that are harmful to plants. Besides, it also increased nitrogen by 9.88%, phosphorus by 21.39%, potassium by 7.99% in the soil, and saponins in roots by 23.62%.
5. Comparable Growth To Chemical Fertilizers
Some farmers debate whether organic fertilizers can yield as good as chemical or synthetic fertilizers offer. In fact, it is possible and had been published in the 2013 Journal of Forest Science and Technology. In this study, the organic manure fertilization process and NPK fertilizers increased the seedlings’ height and root collar diameter of Liriodendron tulipifera by 29% and 21%, respectively.
Meanwhile, the dry weight of the stems and leaves of both treatments showed an increase of around 72% and 123%, respectively. Although there is a visible difference, statistically, the two do not offer a significant difference.
The results of this recent study are supported by another study in 2013. It stated that manure’s organic materials provided both primary and minor elements crucial for the plant growth regulators and humic acid. Therefore, farmers can use organic fertilizers as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. These fertilizers are more environmentally friendly but with commensurate results.
6. Increase Soil Minerals
Still talking about the soil, it is one of the organic fertilizer facts related to point five. Besides having a promising result in plant growth, organic fertilizers can increase soil nitrogen, pH, and minerals better than chemical fertilizers. The 2013 report showed that the soil nitrogen increased by 17% compared to the NPK fertilizers and control treatment, demonstrating no significant changes. In addition, phosphorus availability rose more than 50%, followed by calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Contrary to that, soil pH and exchangeable calcium concentration decreased in the NPK-fertilized soil, while the magnesium did not increase significantly. Only potassium has the same increase in both treatments. However even though both organic and mineral fertilizers can increase mineral content in the soil, organic fertilizers are the one that is advisable to add since they are more environmentally friendly.
7. You Can Conserve This Fertilizer. How?
Do you ever notice a foul smell from your organic fertilizers after some time in a storage area? It is because of the activity of some microbes that break down organic materials into ammonia and methane. But don’t worry! We discovered an interesting journal explaining how to tackle this issue and prolong its shelf-life.
Furthermore, it said that you could use lactic acid bacteria in organic fertilizers to conduct lactic acid fermentation. You only need to add an easily-digested carbon source into the fertilizer, close them up, and wait for one to two days at room temperature to allow bacteria to break down the molecules.
After that, you will notice the sour scent resulting from fermentation. In addition, this fermentation process can also kill pathogenic bacteria in your fertilizer, especially if they are made of manure.
8. Improve Shelf-Life Of Fruits
Besides improving the nutrients, organic fertilizers can also prolong the shelf-life of fruits. A study showed that adding organic fertilizers and several microorganisms, such as Azospirillum and Trichoderma harzianum, to banana plants was able to extend the shelf life of bananas up to 14 days compared to 9 days in control.
In addition, the physiological weight loss was only 7.44% compared to the control, which could reach 12.05%. This result is one of the most promising organic fertilizer facts because it benefits farmers in post-harvest handling and storage.
9. Suppress Plant Diseases
Plant diseases can be caused by viruses or fungi, which are harmful to farmers. Luckily, fertilization with organic fertilizers with the substitution of beneficial microbes was able to suppress plant diseases due to the presence of the microorganisms. But, the question is, what are their roles?
A study showed that inoculated sterilized organic fertilizers with Bacillus and bio-organic fertilizers could help plants fight disease.
The finding demonstrated that both fertilizers increase specific indigenous Pseudomonas spp., inhabiting soil. Bacillus and these Pseudomonas spp. increase the formation of biofilm, a consortium of microbes that further suppress the disease.
10. Enhance Crops Yield
Effective Microorganism (EM) is a microbial inoculant of beneficial microbes proven to improve soil quality and crop yield. With this background, a group of researchers tried to add (EM) to organic fertilizers compared to chemical fertilizers to sweet corn.
As a result, EM with organic fertilizers can stimulate root activity and growth and improve photosynthesis as well as grain yields by 28% compared to EM with a chemical of only 20%. It happened because the EM increased the nutrient availability of the organic fertilizers higher than chemical ones.
11. Release Nutrients Slow And Steady
You may think that slow is bad. But in this case, slow and steady are exactly what the plants need to absorb nutrients from the fertilizer optimally. Organic fertilizer offers sustained slow release of nutrients required for the plants and in accordance with what they need physiologically.
In addition, it can ensure balanced nutrient metabolism in your vegetable or fruit plants and reduce the risk of nutrient burn in your plants because of over-fertilization. With such a pace, your plants will grow stronger and healthier.
12. Increase Organic Carbon In Soil
Soil organic carbon is crucial for agriculture as it can increase the yield of your crops. Besides, it also improves soil structure, ensuring its physical stability. Additionally, this carbon also increases nutrient holding capacity and enhances soil fertility.
In a 2016 study, researchers found that applying organic manure in cultivated farmland significantly increased the soil carbon by 2.01 t C compared to chemical fertilizer. However, this finding also collaborated the organic fertilizer, newly cultivated farmland, and integrated fertilization to achieve such excellent results.
13. Can Be Pathogenic
Organic fertilizers give farmers numerous benefits to their crops. They can increase soil organic matter, eventually increasing the crop yield. However, it does not mean that they do not have any drawbacks. Research from Clemson University discovered that there is a high chance that pathogenic microbes, such as Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and E. coli, contaminate the organic fertilizer.
Furthermore, these harmful bacteria may lead to food-borne diseases as the microbes can transfer to the vegetables or fruits if improperly processed. In fact, these bacteria were found in almost all samples in varying amounts. In addition, this event usually occurs when you add animal-based materials to your organic fertilizer. One method for sterilizing the animal-based fertilizer is lactic acid fermentation. This method allows you to use lactic acid bacteria to kill those bad culprits.
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14. Contribute To Eutrophication
Eutrophication is an increase in plant nutrients in surface water, resulting in many aquatic plants, such as algae, growing on it. It is detrimental because these plants increase carbon dioxide production in the water, lowering sea water’s pH. This phenomenon is popular as ocean acidification. Although chemical fertilizers generally cause eutrophication, organic fertilizers also contribute to increasing the percentage of this occurrence.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), using these fertilizers for agriculture in European countries alone accounts for about 60% of water pollution. Despite not knowing the exact percentage of the effect of using organic fertilizer, the number is concerning, given that fertilization is increasingly being used to meet the world’s food demands.
15. Higher Labor Costs
You cannot separate organic farming when talking about organic fertilizer facts . Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) published an article that discusses the economic point of view on organic production and the use of organic fertilizers.
The price of organic fertilizers is more expensive than chemical fertilizers. It has turned out to be one of the factors that cause higher labor costs, and organic farming products are more costly than conventional ones. In addition, considering the ingredients, sometimes organic fertilizers are not suitable for mechanical spreaders to effectively spread the fertilizer over the land.