What Is Fertilizer? [Omnivore’s Dilemma School Project]

What is fertilizer? The denotation of fertilizer is,
anything natural or synthetic, or something that is made from chemicals. That doesn’t sound too bad right? Now let us explain more:
In part one of Omnivore’s Dilemma, the modern industrial fertilizer is described. This fertilizer is mostly made of Nitrogen,
which is a key nutrient for plants like corn and soy. These days fertilizers are known to not be
so eco-friendly. They tend to wash out into our lakes and rivers,
which ends up in the ocean and poisons the water. Before industrialization, fertilizers were
a cycle where farmers would mainly use animal manure to put on crops. This created a cycle where crops were grown,
fed to animals and then the manure was reused on crops. It also carried Nitrogen. Nowadays farmers will buy either hybrid seeds
or genetically modified seeds, this grows very fast but uses more nitrogen than manure
can supply, so farmers have a problem. Now the main solution for this buying nitrogen,
mixed with tons of other chemicals like phosphorus and potassium. Phosphorus helps grow the roots, seeds, and
fruit/flowers of the plants, while potassium helps grow the stem and transportation of
water throughout the plant. Most farmers are buying “multinutrient”
fertilizers which has two or more types of nutrient, usually all three. “Straight” fertilizers have one type of
nutrient, usually Nitrogen. So now that we know some of the problems with
modern fertilizer, how are scientists trying to make it better? A research team from Aarhus University in
Denmark is coming up with drones that can give the plants the exact amount of nitrogen
needed, this way there will be no more nitrogen getting in lakes and rivers, poisoning them. This way farmers can still use fast growing
GMO plants and won’t hurt the environment. There has also been a lot of research about
Biofertilizer which is Bacterial Fertilizer. This may be better for the environment as
well, although if it gets into lakes and rivers we don’t yet know the true effects. Fertilizers may have taken a bad turn recently,
but they are being researched and developed to be more eco-friendly and efficient, changing
at a rapid pace.

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