Minerals are the source of vital energy for plants. These are not food as green organisms produce it on their own via photosynthesis (transforming the energy of sunlight into the energy of chemical reactions).
They are basically ‘vitamins’ or ‘dietary supplements’ necessary for crops improvement. Micro and macronutrients make plants stronger: forcing them to grow faster, develop abundant fruits, and resist pathogenic (harmful) factors like pests and diseases.
Dissolved chemical elements determine soil fertility. This feature answers the question “What is fertility?” It can be described as the ability to produce high yields. The definition of soil fertilizing can be literally put as supplying nutrients and ‘dietary feeding’ in order to get the most sustainable crops.
Initially fertile soils are a great advantage for a farmer, yet it does not mean that they do not require additional supplies. Minerals absorbed by plants should be renewed: lack of them leads to soil depletion. On the other hand, even infertile soil can produce great crops on the condition of effective management.
How do minerals affect soil productivity – what is the trick?
For successful growth, plants require certain basic chemicals derived from different sources: for example, they take oxygen and hydrogen from the air and water correspondingly. The other three major minerals are deposited in the land, thus improving soil quality. These are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (or potash), each of them contributing in its own way:
- Nitrogen boosts leaves and general growth;
- Phosphorus is beneficial for the root system, the development of buds and seeds;
- Potassium is significant for metabolism and resistance to pathogens.
Minor minerals include:
- Magnesium – as a chlorophyll component being important for photosynthesis;
- Calcium – as a building material for cells and toxic neutralizer;
- Sulfur – as a part of proteins and enzymes.
Besides, plants also employ small amounts of copper, boron, manganese, zinc, chlorine, iron, and silicone.
How to improve soil quality with minerals?
Rich soil is abundant in necessary macro and microelements. On the contrary, unfertilized soil is poor in nutrients and gives poor yields. Loss of soil fertility not only decreases crops but can lead to total failures. In this respect, fertilization is one of the major and constant tasks of all agrarians.
Soil productivity can be boosted with fertilizers that fall into different types. There exist several classifications depending on what is taken as a distinguisher:
- origin (manufacturing) – organic and inorganic (also synthetic or chemical);
- substance form (liquid – as solvents or solid – as granules, powders);
- composition: MAP, DAP and NPK.
As the name implies, organic ones are made from natural materials like green and animal manure and compost, ash, wastes. Synthetic ones are produced via chemical processing.
Organic fertilizers are preferable as they are eco-friendly. Yet, they are non-water soluble, released slowly and require soil microorganisms to turn them into forms ‘digestible’ plants.
Synthetic (chemical) fertilizers are highly water-soluble and absorbed quickly. That’s why their amount should be restricted not to kill the greenery. Besides, due to their chemical origin, they are not ecologically secure, due to high solubility may leak to water bodies.
Thinking about how to make soil fertile and to choose the best time for it, one should take into account the above-mentioned peculiarities. These types of fertilizers are best applied in certain periods of agricultural activity. It is considered that organic ones are good for fall to provide enough time needed for nutrient processing and release. Synthetic ones are most beneficial in spring to boost intensive growth.
Figures and letters on a plant fertilizer: a short deciphering guide
Depending on their composition, manufactured supplements fall into three major types:
1. MAP fertilizer – mono ammonium phosphate (nitrogen + phosphorus with 1 mole each)
2. DAP – diammonium phosphate (nitrogen + phosphorus with two moles of nitrogen and one mole of phosphorus)
3. NPK where N stands for nitrogen, P means phosphorus and K is the chemical sign for potassium.
The numbers specify the ratio of each element. For example, if a MAP bag reads 11-52-0 it means it consists of 11% N, 52% P, 0% K. For a 100-pound bag, the percentage would equal to pounds. You may notice that the total does not make 100%. This is because the rest is filler, or ballast.
There exist universal, all-purpose fertilizers. Yet, if you think how to fertilize plants most optimally, you should remember that figures are not the same for different species. Correspondingly, you would calculate how much fertilizer per acre should be provided for particular species.
Values will be different in every single case. For example, grass growing soil should be supplied with 43.56 pounds of Nitrogen.
You don’t have to buy a dozen various bags, however. Some plants have similar needs. For example, minerals for tomatoes, sweet peppers or aubergines can be fed from the same source.
The best soil for agriculture – does the Holy Grail exist?
There is no ‘ready’ answer to this question as multiple aspects are decisive. The best would be the one you will be able to perfectly tailor to your own needs.
One should just know how to fertilize soil correctly. ‘The more, the better’ is not the case. The amounts should be optimally balanced to avoid unintended consequences. Excessive nitrogen speeds up growth but prevents from fruiting. Besides, extra quantity not only burns up the plant but pollutes the environment.
Each species dictates its own requirements, and how much compost per acre should be calculated depending on the crop type and soil testing. Fertilizer management apps do facilitate the effort.
The last but not the least is to integrally tackle the soil depletion causes through fertilizing proper, thorough drainage, structure improvement, erosion prevention, and crop rotation.
Soil Fertility In Crop Monitoring
With farming tools there’s an opportunity to indicate the soil fertility of your fields. To accomplish this, save your field in Crop Monitoring and apply the Zoning option. The feature will cluster your field according to NDVI values and visualize it with a dynamic palette. This data is capable of significantly enhancing the process of soil fertility analysis.
Check Сrop Monitoring’s step-by-step user guide to find detailed instructions on how to work with the system, or feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org