The Debate over Organic vs. Chemical Fertilizers

Disadvantages of Organic Fertilizer:

    • Microorganisms are required to break down and release nutrients into the soil. Since they need warmth and moisture to do their job, the effectiveness of organic fertilizer is limited seasonally. The good news is that these microorganisms obtain energy from decaying plant and animal matter, so an application of organic fertilizer provides a complete package of nutrients for your soil.
    • Organic fertilizers break down according to nature’s rules, so they may not release nutrients as soon as you need them. You have to be patient – you won’t see improvement overnight. In fact, you may actually see a deficiency in your plants during the first couple of months until the first application breaks down. Hang in there! You’ll most definitely be rewarded.
  • Nutrient ratios are often unknown, and the overall percentage is lower than chemical fertilizers. However, some organic products are actually higher in certain nutrients.

Chemical Fertilizers

Chemical fertilizers (also called inorganic, synthetic, artificial, or manufactured) have been refined to extract nutrients and bind them in specific ratios with other chemical fillers. These products may be made from petroleum products, rocks, or even organic sources. Some of the chemicals may be naturally occurring, but the difference is that the nutrients in chemical fertilizers are refined to their pure state and stripped of substances that control their availability and breakdown, which rarely occurs in nature.

Advantages of Chemical Fertilizer:

    • Since nutrients are available to the plants immediately, improvement occurs in days.
    • They are highly analyzed to produce the exact ratio of nutrients desired.
    • Standardized labeling makes ratios and chemical sources easy to understand.
  • They’re inexpensive.

Disadvantages of Chemical Fertilizer:

    • Chemical fertilizers are primarily made from nonrenewable sources, including fossil fuels.
    • They grow plants but do nothing to sustain the soil. The fillers do not promote life or soil health, and even packages labeled “complete” do not include the decaying matter necessary to improve soil structure. In fact, chemical fertilizers don’t replace many trace elements that are gradually depleted by repeated crop plantings, resulting in long-term damage to the soil.
    • Because the nutrients are readily available, there is a danger of over fertilization. This not only can kill plants but upset the entire ecosystem.
    • Chemical fertilizers tend to leach, or filter away from the plants, requiring additional applications.
    • Repeated applications may result in a toxic buildup of chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium in the soil. These toxic chemicals can eventually make their way into your fruits and vegetables.
  • Long-term use of chemical fertilizer can change the soil pH, upset beneficial microbial ecosystems, increase pests, and even contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.

Making a Choice

If you wish to live in harmony with nature and make a lasting improvement in your own patch of earth for generations to come, organic fertilizers outweigh chemicals by leaps and bounds.

Can a shot of chemical fertilizer make your containers spill over with blossoms, and give you the biggest tomatoes and greenest lawn in the neighborhood? Absolutely. Just be sure you understand what’s really happening to the earth under your feet, so that you’ll make your choice consciously.

Further Information