Organic fertilizer vs. chemical fertilizer


The natural way of farming or gardening is the mainstream form of agriculture. The concept of naturally occurring is similar with the concept of organic farming, in which do not permit the use of manufactured or synthesized chemical materials, opposition to production of genetically modified organisms and irradiation of food.

Can the natural way of farming and organic farming reach the goal and survive? The answer is Yes as more people concern about the safety of what we eat everyday, want to be healthy, and appreciate the environmentally friendly approaches on farming and gardening. This movement is struggling because at this moment our food production is facing big challenges of increasing human population that need much more foods, decreasing of the soil fertility due to the application of the chemicals and pesticides, and global warming that makes the weather unpredictable; and eventually it puts at high risk for the crop and livestock.

The term and concept of organic farming originally was introduced about a century ago by Sir Albert Howard in the United Kingdom based on his work with organic gardening in India. Basically, he was promoting the concept of management of a farm as a living unit or whole system. Before the development of synthesized fertilizers and pesticides, practices of crop rotation and fertilization with animal manures and legumes were the options available to most farmers to maintain crop productivity.

Soil fertility is the ability of a soil to supply the nutrients to a crop, so it will sustain agricultural plants growth. In most situation, these following properties contribute to soil fertility: Sufficient soil depth or top soil, water retention, drainage, soil organic matter, essential plant nutrients, beneficial soil microorganisms and soil fauna (e.g. earthworms). Chemical fertilizers or synthetic fertilizers or conventional fertilizers are success to boost the growth of the crops but on the other hand they make the soil harder, reduced significantly the water retention, soil organic matter, and beneficial soil organism population.

This dilemma in reducing the use of chemicals, pesticides, and opposition to production of genetically engineered crops tried to be solved by using organic movement. The disadvantages of using organic fertilizers based on bone/blood meals, fish scrap, manure, compost, rock phosphate etc., although they can be categorized as slow-release natural or organic fertilizers, their macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and kalium or potassium (N – P – K) concentration are relatively low; may not supply nutrient sufficiently and rapidly. So, it may need more in quantity of the organic fertilizers to boost the crops. Most of the organic fertilizers are heavier and more expensive than chemical fertilizers. In addition, immature compost may bring plant pathogens and weeds.

Vermicomposting is one of the alternatives to increase the quantity and quality of the compost (termed worm castings or vermicomposts) produced by compost worms or red wigglers to support the natural way of farming and to be more organic with a better crop productivity. Fresh worm castings can be categorized as a bio-fertilizer which contains beneficial soil microorganisms and their nutrients content mostly are higher than of the regular compost from the thermophilic composting or conventional composting with a high temperature. Thermophilic composting reduces the production of the beneficial nutrients, soil microbial activities, and plant growth regulators.

There was a controversy article in Wall Street Journal few years ago: “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable”. It is mostly because output from organic farms is about 50% less than conventional agriculture and organic foods are for “social elites”. In fact, In Canada although only about 5% of farms are certified organic, the demand of organic products is increasing for about 30% per year.

Let’s decide what food shall we consume daily that is healthier for our body and mind, and more sustainable for the crop productivity.

– Bintoro Gunadi

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