Organic vs chemical fertilization for farms, gardens

Dryland Farming - Palouse Hills

Dryland Farming – Palouse Hills

by Catherine Haug, August 15, 2013

(photo, right from Wikimedia Commons)

Our readers believe in using organic methods to feed their gardens, but do we all walk the talk? Do we share our belief, our method with our neighbors? Do you compost your food and garden waste, then use it to augment your soil? Do you add manure to your compost to heat it up? Do you use aged manure to augment your soil?

Have you considered that if everyone – including farmers – used organic methods in their gardens and fields, that we could completely replace the need for chemical fertilizers? Have you ever wondered how the widespread use of chemical fertilizers come to replace natural organic methods?

It’s all about nitrogen. It is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere, but it doesn’t feed our plants in that form. In order to be useful to plants, it has to be ‘fixed,’ which means converted from nitrogen gas (N2) to ammonia (NH3). Fixing nitrogen requires enormous amounts of energy, amounts that can only be provided in an industrial setting. But using manure and composting food and garden waste bypasses the need to fix nitrogen, because it is already in a fixed state in manure and compost. Thus have humans been able to grow their own food since the dawn of agriculture eons ago.

The birth of industrial farming

Chemical fertilizers came about in the mid 20th century. As we were preparing for war in the late 1930s, industrial facilities were built to fix nitrogen – not for fertilizers – but for bombs and other explosives. When the war was over, these facilities were reluctant to give up the enormous income generated by their product, so they got into the fertilizer industry.

And thus was ‘modern’ agriculture – chemical agriculture – born, giving us not only chemical fertilizers but also chemical herbicides and pesticides. And with it came polluted ground water, lakes and rivers; polluted air; polluted food. Our soils became depleted of certain minerals and the microorganisms that give life to soil. See OCA: How Chemical Fertilizers Are Destroying Our Soil and Water for more on this. The article states:

“Far from being life sustaining, our modern chemical-dependent farming methods:

A looming crisis

Like all types of mining, industrial fertilizer facilities are running out of certain critical ingredients. From the OCA article:

“Unfortunately, the Earth’s soil is now being depleted of nutrients at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced. Not only that, but according to some, we may also be facing looming shortages of two critical fertilizer ingredients: phosphorus and potassium.”

This crisis will bring monoculture farms to the brink of disaster. No longer will they be able to grow their GMO crops on such a wide scale, because they will no longer be able to feed their crops with synthetics. The negative effect of 20th century invention will be reversed in the 21st century.

This crisis will once again bring organic methods to the fore, to save our food supply. But in the intervening years, we could face widespread food shortages. That is, unless we grow our own food using naturally fixed nitrogen in the form of compost and manure.


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