Organic fertilizers or Chemical fertilizersThe “Organic” verses “Chemical Fertilizer” thing really needs to be set straight in my opinion. In the minds of most Gardeners, there is “Organic Gardening” and “Chemical fertilization”. One sounds so nice and natural. The other, by just one word, sounds dangerous.
Let's first correct the improper use of language when describing the fertilization of crops. An “organic” garden is one that uses compost, manure, eggshells, fish emulsion and other things of this nature to fertilize the plants. To be specific, Organic is something that is, once was, or was derived from a living organism. Organism > organic, makes sense to me.
The “Chemical fertilizer” thing. To start with, if it is not organic, it can only be one other thing....inorganic. Inorganic is best described as something that is derived from material such as rock, air, water or a gas. To be specific, all elements found on earth are inorganic matter. Because all so- called “chemical fertilizers” are derived from rock or air they are specifically inorganic fertilizers. So when it comes to nutrients for plants (or any living organism) it is either derived from organic or inorganic matter.
Now we are going to get serious and real concerning that “Chemical” thing. These days, the word “chemical” is the most stigmatized word in science that I can think of. It has become synonymous with the words danger or poison. In gardening “chemical” is the ultimate dirty word. While applying some inarguable science, we are going to find that chemicals are actually Mother Nature's ultimate tool.
So what is a chemical? It is matter that has constant composition and characteristics. The most basic of chemicals are the elements found in the periodic table. In science they are known as chemical elements. Bind two or more of these chemical elements together and you get chemical compounds such as nitric acid and vitamin C.
To begin this journey, let's start out in the “Organic” garden. Dinner left overs, cow dung, fish guts, bat crap, tree leaves, egg shells. you name it. If it is, or once was a living organism , or was excreted by an organism.... it is organic. Pile it all into a heap and begin composting. Decomposition is the word used but how many of us really know what that means?
To a plant it means complete decomposition down to the molecular level or “I ain't eating it”. So you have your pile of compost and your out turning it one day and notice it seems to be steaming and is pretty smelly.
This is what is going on in there. Countless organisms from bacteria to all types of crawling and wiggling creatures are munching away on everything, including one another or it's neighbor's excrement. This is is a living reaction chamber. The series of chemical reactions occurring in this pile are countless and that smelly steam is just a tiny part of it. These are just a few of the chemical compounds that cause the smell alone.
Hydrogen sulfide, Carbon oxysulfide, Carbon disulfide, Dimethyl sulfide, Dimethyl disulfide, Dimethyl trisulfide, Methanethiol, Ethanethiol Aminomethane, Dimethylamine, Trimethylamine, and Ammonia.
Talk about chemicals! The notion that Organic gardening uses no chemicals is a complete fallacy. The process (decomposition) of breaking down just the nitrogen component from organic matter into a plant ready nutrient involves all of the following chemical compounds. Ammonia, Hydrazine, Hydroxylamine, Nitrogen gas, Nitrous oxide, Nitric oxide, Nitrous acid, Nitrogen dioxide, and Nitric acid.
I could bore you to sleep with the thousands of chemical compounds found during the decomposition process, but imagine the ones that are associated with just the 13 essential plant nutrients found in soil. So the organic garden is far from being “chemical free”. Along with systems like a rain forest, an organic garden is one of the most complex chemical reaction sites on earth.
For nutrition, every single living plant in this system requires that each decomposing piece of organic material be striped of chemical bonds and exist at a molecular level in water as these precise nutrients.
NO3- NH4+ HPO4-2 H2PO4- K+ Ca+2 Mg+2 SO4-2 Fe+2 Fe+3 Cu+2 Cu+ Zn+2 Mn+2 MnO4- HMoO4 MoO4-2 H3BO3 B4O7-2 Cl-
Now that so-called “chemical fertilizer” thing. First it must be understood that these fertilizers are not made in the sense that we actually create any of the chemical elements they are comprised of. The nitrogen component of these fertilizers is most commonly removed from our air through the Haber Bosch Process.
All others are extracted from the ground. We use a series of chemical reactions that removes specific chemical elements from their origins and reorganize them into forms that are water soluble. Sound familiar? Re-composition rather than decomposition. To imagine that any of these very basic chemical elements or the resulting compounds are man made is pure fantasy. Every single chemical compound in these fertilizers is a naturally occurring compound that can be found almost everywhere on this planet.
In your garden, the only thing that separates these chemical compounds by any means whatsoever is from whence they were derived. From organic material or from inorganic material. The specific nutrient HPO4-2 (phosphorous) can be extracted from animal urine or rock …..take your pick.
Now, scroll back up to that list of precise nutrients for plants. Every single one of them is inorganic matter. This is a fact, some portion of your organic garden must be completely striped of its organic origins (through a series of naturally occurring chemical syntheses) to become an absolutely inorganic nutrient, or your garden will die. In fact, everything in your garden was derived from inorganic material from the very beginning and everything in it will eventually return to its inorganic origins.
That “chemical fertilizer” thing and the fear that is pushed with its use is not based on fact whatsoever.
Everything on this planet is a chemical element or compound thereof. We ourselves are an assemblage of chemical compounds.....organic for the time being!