Discussion on chemical fertilizers

I had an interesting discussion today regarding the impact of chemical fertilizers. My colleague is an intelligent, health-conscious person with a deep understanding of the gardening environment. Her take on the beneficial use of organic fertilizers is that it is largely a media-driven story and that their only harmful impact is when they are mis-used.

I was really surprised on her take because the following are pretty generally accepted by all plant folks…

  • Chemical fertilizers are typically soluble and in a form instantly available to plants meaning, what the plant does not absorb will often be washed into our water supplies – fertilizers are considered the primary cause of algae blooms
  • Chemical fertilizers contain only a small subset of the minerals and nutrients required by a healthy growing environment
  • Chemical fertilizers do not support soil biology which is a key aspect of healthy soil
  • Chemical fertilizers are produced from fossil fuels (non renewable) and require a large amount of energy to convert
  • Since the long term use of chemical fertilizer leads to nutrient-deficient soils, many people believe that this results in less nutritious produce. This makes sense to me although I have not discovered research that provides the ‘proof’
  • Chemical fertilizers do not work ‘better’ than organic fertilizers