“A Nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
We have learned some harsh lessons about how to treat our soil. While most of us are aware of the problems of the past, some agricultural operations in the world are not heeding those lessons.
We all know that healthy soil is essential to feed the ever-increasing population of the world. However, many agriculture practices continue to damage and deplete our natural resources — of which soil ranks among the top. These practices have caused reductions in soil productivity due to soil loss through erosion and changes in the nutritional balances in soil. This has resulted in nutrient depletion and increased our dependence on synthetic fertilizers. Because of the low efficiency of many commercial fertilizers, we have over-applied many nutrients to maintain or increase crop production levels.
Although these increased inputs have led to higher yields to meet the demand for food production, the over-application of nutrients has resulted in continuous environmental degradation of soil, water and vegetation resources. In some areas, organic matter levels are declining due to improper tillage and nutrient management, resulting in a depletion of naturally available nutrients in our soils. All of this leads to even higher chemical inputs, including the use of synthetic fertilizers.
With continuous additions of chlorides, hydroxides, and other potentially harmful fertilizer byproducts, we have witnessed soil salinization and degradation of fresh water quality. Excess application of manures and acid-causing synthetic fertilizers has adversely affected soil structure, soil pH, and overall productivity of the soil. Over-application of synthetic fertilizers can also result in nutrient leaching into groundwater or off-site movement into surface waters.
Nutrient pollution does major damage to our ecosystem. It can result in irreversible damage to aquatic life — both plant and animal. The damage extends from our fresh water sources to our coastal environments. Nutrient pollution can lead to coral reef degradation, and aquatic sea plant death. It can also be tied to the decline of aquatic biodiversity and algal blooms resulting in massive fish deaths. Groundwater and surface water contamination by nutrients has also been associated with a number of human health issues including reduced amounts and quality of drinking water (ex. Toledo, 2014), infant brain damage, methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome), and even death.
Plants only absorb and utilize the nutrients they need at any given point during the growing season. Excess nutrients may remain in the soil; however, it is likely much of the excess will be leached through the soil or be tied up in the soil where it is unavailable. Two of these major nutrient pollutants are nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P). The main sources of N and P in groundwater are manure and synthetic fertilizers.
Another result of our practices is the loss of natural biodiversity of soil organisms. Soil is a complex mixture of minerals, air, water and organic materials. We know our soil can benefit from bacteria, fungi, insects, and other organisms living underground. They help build soil tilth and increase land performance. Decomposition of the organic matter is essential to releasing nutrients to a plant. Included in organic matter are up to 2,400 pounds of fungi, 1,500 pounds of bacteria, 133 pounds of protozoa and hundreds of pounds of arthropods, algae, and even small mammals, per acre of soil. The pH and byproduct content of some commercial fertilizers can reduce populations of fungi, nematodes and protozoa. Additionally, many fertilizer (especially nitrogen) stabilizers have components that adversely affect soil microbes to accomplish that stability. Maintaining a healthy living environment for these organisms is critical for the sustainability of agriculture.
AgroLiquid’s goal is to prosper the farmer while safeguarding the environment. Lower-grade raw materials can contain byproducts that are harmful to plants, soil, the environment and even human health. Using formulation technology that protects nutrients from loss to the environment and allows those nutrients to work with, instead of against, the biology of the soil to make them more usable by the crop.
Intensive research, development and product testing have resulted in a full-line of nutrient products that don’t solely focus on N-P-K. As AgroLiquid Vice-President of Operations and Organizational Development, Nick Bancroft, said, “we use nutrients to make nutrients better.”
For example, a phosphorus product needs more than just phosphorus to be effective.
“It should not only contain phosphorous, it should contain nitrogen, it should contain potassium, and it should contain micronutrients.” Bancroft explains those nutrients work in harmony with phosphorous in the processes that phosphorous affect in the plant to make uptake, translocation, and utilization in the plant more efficient. This equates to more plant growth with less applied fertilizer.
Again, using phosphorous as an example, one gallon of Pro-Germinator is significantly more efficient than conventional fertilizer sources when used at the recommended application rate. Less applied fertilizer means less leaching or off-target movement potential. The crop safety of Pro-Germinator allows it to be placed in the soil or on the plant, reducing the potential for pollution due to erosion. Many AgroLiquid products are also formulated to provide usable nutrients to the plant over the growing season, and not just for a short time after application, enabling the plant to utilize those available nutrients.
AgroLiquid continues to advance our full line of fertilizers by considering the soil as a dynamic living organism. We strive for Responsible Nutrient Management to provide environmental stewardship, cost effective crop nutrition, and sustainability of agriculture for the future.
Soil health helps determine sustainability in agriculture. A healthy soil will better perform to potential. By addressing the needs of the plant with efficient fertilizers and fertilizer placement, we can manage many of the adverse effects discussed here. The sustainability of agriculture is of utmost importance, and we are constantly and continuously researching, developing, testing and perfecting our products with the future in mind.