One of the popular ways to increase crop yield is the application of fertilizers, either organic or inorganic or at times, the combination of both called organo-mineral. However, application of fertilizers has basic concept farmers must understand before starting the operation. Fertilizer is a separate entity and not a major factor for plant growth, though it’s a prerequisite. What makes it optional is the fact that fertilizers are not needed in all cases, only in a condition when found deficient in the soil through the signs exhibited by the plants.
Application of fertilizer can be good and at the same time detrimental; when applied in excess, it can pollute the underground water through leaching or reduce the growth of the sown crop, which it’s supposed to increase. There are basic facts about fertilizers that are obscure to most farmers; with better understanding of these facts, application of fertilizer to any crop becomes well understood and the right approach is used anytime the need for fertilizer application sets in.
Fertilizer is not plant food:
This is a common misconception about fertilizer; most farmers think fertilizer is a plant food and the more they apply, the higher their yield. This is not true. Plants manufacture their food by a process called photosynthesis; this process is facilitated by the presence of water, air and sunlight. These are the major component of plants’ food; when a plant has these readily available, it will grow. Just like how humans need certain vitamins and minerals to aid growth and development, so do plants too; these mineral elements like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus are readily available in the soil but of different concentration. However, in cases where the soil is deficient in any of these minerals, the first step is to improve the soil, this is where the need for fertilizer comes in. fertilizers are used to improve the soil and not plants food.
- Not all plants need fertilizer:
Many farmers believe any plant needs fertilizer to grow better; this is not true. Plants primarily get nutrients from the soil through their roots. Nutrients are naturally present in the soil; nutrients are also gotten when plant matters are digested by microorganisms. All the activities in the soil result to increase in soil fertility, so by default, soil have the capacity to supply enough nutrient to suffice a plant growth and produce high yield. However, in a situation where the soil has been worked on intensively, without any rest or where plants are grown in pots, there is a need to add fertilizer because the plants easily use up the nutrients and there is no source to rejuvenate the fertility of the soil since the soil has been taken away from its natural environment.
- More or excess fertilizer is bad:
As good as fertilizers are, particularly the inorganic fertilizer, they can be very detrimental too. Plants just utilize the relative amount they need; excess fertilizer can scorch the plant, leading to wilting or poor growth. Too much of anything is bad, use moderate fertilizer, if necessary; do not add excess fertilizer with the hope or intention of increasing your yield.
- Slow nutrient-releasing fertilizers are the best:
The manner at which fertilizers release nutrients varies; some are fast releasing while others are slow releasing. Fast nutrient releasing fertilizers, like the inorganic soluble fertilizers, deliver nutrients to plant in a rush. Uptake of nutrients by plants is a slow and steady process; when the nutrients are delivered in a rush, it makes it easy for the plants to be overdosed. Organic fertilizers, like compost, are good slow nutrient-releasing fertilizers; they deliver nutrients to plants in a slow, steady and easily digestible rate.
- Fertilizers lost nutrient easily:
Fertilizers lost their nutrients when they are exposed to high temperature. That is why fertilizers are best applied very early in the morning or late in the evening.
Fertilizers are, truly, good aid to plant growth and good yield but farmers need to understand how fertilizers work and the relationship between plants and fertilizers before application