Fertilizers are significant substances supplied to soils to improve it with supplements and making the soil healthy to support plant life through the supply of nutrients to the plants for ideal growth. Plants get the fundamental nutrients required from the soil and the atmosphere. The soil is the main source of essential minerals such as Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium while vaporous components which are Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen are sourced from the atmosphere.
However, the soil in some conditions may not readily supply specific nutrients to the plants. This is a case of nutrient deficiency when the nutrients are either fixed together in the soil or lost through erosion and leaching. In low fertility soil conditions, fertilizers are introduced as a supplement to deficient nutrients.
There are many popular commercial fertilizers that farmers used on their farms to supply nutrients which include Nitrogenous fertilizers, Phosphatic fertilizers and Potassic fertilizers. Common nitrogenous fertilizers include Urea, Anahydrous ammonia, and Ammonium nitrate solutions. Common phosphatic fertilizers include ammonium phosphate, and Super Phosphates. Common potassic fertilizers include Potassium Nitrate and Potassium Chloride.
Urea: This type of fertilizer exist in the solid form and is the most widely used fertilizer to supply mainly nitrogen and no other nutrient element. As a solid fertilizer, it is generally applied as granules directly in the soil but in some cases, it can be dissolved in water into a solution mixed with ammonium nitrate. When applied to the soil, molecules of water in the soil reacts with urea to form ammonia from which plants absorb its nitrogen. 46% of Nitrogen is available for use in urea fertilizers without phosphorus or potassium. Urea fertilizers help in giving direct nitrogen source to plants for increased green leaf growth and development for photosynthesis. It also contributes to flowering in plants.
Anhydrous ammonia: Unlike urea solid fertilizers, anhydrous ammonia NH3, could exist as either solid, liquid or gaseous. Anhydrous ammonia ammonia supplies the highest Nitrogen content of 82% and also a widely used source of nitrogen supply. The fertilizer is easily available and is applied using simple methods.
Ammonium Nitrate. This is a solid fertilizer also applied in form of granules exactly like urea. Ammonium nitrate provides significant amounts of 33% nitrogen in the soil – a small margin to the Nitrogen content from urea. Ammonium nitrate is mostly used for fertilizing pasture and fruit crops such as citrus.
Ammonium Phosphate: Two primary forms of this type of fertilizers are Monoammonium phosphateand Diammonium phosphate often applied in liquid form. Diammonium phosphate in soil with lower amount of phosphorus can supply 46% of P. Amonium phosphate fertilizers can also supply significant amounts of Nitrogen. Monoammonium phosphate supplies 48% nitrogen while Diammonium phosphate supplies 18% nitrogen which is considerably lower in nitrogen supply than monoammonium. However, using diammonium phosphate has an advantage in reducing the risk of damage to new seedlings because of the lower ammonia content.The lower level of the ammonia component of this chemical lessens the risk of damage when applied to new seedling growth.
Super Phosphates: These type of phosphorus fertilizers include Single Super Phosphate (SSP), Double Super Phosphate (DSP) and Triple Super Phosphate (TSP). The all exist as solids in the form of granules. Thus, they can be applied directly to the soil easily. Although they have been replaced by the ammonium phosphates fertilizers due to better phosphorus content and ease of storage, super phosphates are still commercially available for use. They can be mixed with nitrogenous fertilizers to get an improved soil fertilizing effect.
Potassium Nitrate: This fertilizer is often referred to as Nitrate of Potash (NOP) and mostly used as a nutrient supplement for potassium on leafy green vegetable crops, spices, tomatoes and fruit crops. It is highly soluble in water and can be applied directly to the soil or foliar as a liquid fertilizer. Potassium nitrate when applied to the soil and mineralized supplies 44% potassium.
Potassium Chloride: Often referred to as Muriate of Potash (MOP) is another significant type of potassic fertilizer. MOP is also highly soluble in water and can be applied directly to the soil or foliar as a liquid fertilizer. Muriate of Potash supply significant amounts of 60% potassium.
On a final note, it is important to be aware of the fact that the choice of fertilizer type to use depends on the soil and plant requirements. Over or under fertilizing your plants can have damaging effects to plant growth and may eventually kill the plant in the process of trying to improve soil fertility.