Fertilizers

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kheteshwar borawat

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Feb 4, 2009, 1:33:30 AM2/4/09
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Fertilizers

Introduction

Fertilizers have a key role to play in crop husbandry. It is now known that at least 16 plant-food elements are necessary for the growth of green plants. These plant-nutrients are called essential elements. In the absence of any one of these essential elements, a plant fails to complete its life cycle, though the disorder caused can, however, be corrected by the addition of that element. These 16 elements are: Carbon(C), hydrogen(H), oxygen(O), nitrogen(N), phosphorous(P), sulphur(S), potassium(K), calcium(Ca),magnesium(Mg), iron(Fe), manganese(Mn), zinc(Zn), copper(Cu), molybdenum(Mb), boron(B) and chlorine(Cl). Green plants obtain carbon from carbon-di-oxide from the air; oxygen and hydrogen from water, whereas the remaining elements are taken from the soil. Most of the plant nutrients, besides carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, originate from the soil. Under favorable conditions, crop plants, in general, require larger amounts of plant nutrients than the quality found in soil solution at any given time. Hence, the situation of nutrients supply to plants becomes a limiting factor, specially, at the critical stages of plant growth and low crop yields result in recognition, therefore, fertilizers application and the use of suitable fertilizers are recommended for higher crop yields in productive farming. The knowledge of the specific role of each essential element in the growth of crop plants and their amounts required for efficient crop production is considered necessary in adopting scientific fertilizers use.

>> Need for fertilizers

>> Types of fertilizers

>> Fertilizer application

>> Soil fertility and fertilizer use

>> Tips for high fertilizer use efficiency

Need for Fertilizers

Need for Fertilizers in India

  • Increasing agricultural production in India by area increasing process is no longer possible as cultivable land left over is only marginal. Further a considerable cultivable land is being diverted year after year for industrial purpose and housing etc. Hence self sufficiency in food lies in increasing the yield per unit area per unit time through adoption of modern agricultural technology.

  • It is universally accepted that the use of chemical fertilizers is an integral part of the package of practices for raising the agricultural production to a higher place. Studies conducted by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have established beyond doubt that there is a close relationship between the average crop yields and fertilizer consumption level. More-over the nutritional requirement of different crops could not be fully met with the use of organic manures like FYM and other bulky organic manures like Neem cake, Castor cake, Groundnut cake, etc., for want of their availability in adequate quantities.

  • Further fertilizers have the advantages of smaller bulk, easy transport, relatively quick in availability of plant-food constituents and the facility of their application in proportion suited to the actual requirements of crops and soils. Hence there is need for an efficient use of fertilizers as major plant nutrient resource in enhancing the farm productivity. Other resource of plant nutrients like organic manures, bio-fertilizers etc., also should be integrated to get the maximum agricultural output from every kilogram of applied nutrient in the form of fertilizers.

Nutrients Required By Plants

  • Plants require 16 essential elements for their normal growth and development.

  • The essential elements exist as structural components of a cell, maintain cellular organizations, function in energy transformations and in enzyme reaction.

  • Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen are three naturally occurring nutrients and form about 94 per cent of the dry weight of plants. These are the major components of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Besides their structural role, they provide energy required for the growth and development of plants by oxidative breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins and fats during cellular respiration.

  • Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are three major or primary nutrients which are to be made available in larger quantities.

  • Nitrogen is an essential constituent of metabolically active compounds such as aminoacids, proteins, enzymes and some non-proteinous compounds. When nitrogen is a limiting factor, the rate and extent of protein synthesis are depressed and as a result plant growth is affected. The plant gets stunted and develops chlorosis.

  • Phosphorus is a structural component of all membranes, chloroplasts and mitochondria and a constituent of sugar phosphates, viz., ADP, ATP, nucleic acid, Phospholipids and phosphatides. Phosphorus plays an important role in energy transformations and metabolic processes in plants. It stimulates root growth.

  • Potassium plays an important role in the maintenance of cellular organisations by regulating permeability of cell membranes and keeping the protoplasm in a proper degree of hydration. It activates the enzymes in protein and carbohydrate metabolism and translocation of carbohydrates and imparts resistance to plants against fungal and bacterial disease.

  • Calcium, magnesium and sulphur are secondary nutrients which are required in relatively smaller but in appreciable quantities. Calcium, a constituent of the cell wall, an activator of different plant enzymes and is essential for the stability of cell membranes.

  • Magnesium is a constituent of chlorophyll and chromosome. It is known to play a catalytic role as an activator of a number of enzymes, most of which are concerned with carbohydrate metabolism.

  • Sulphur is required to synthesize the sulphur containing amino acids and proteins, activity of proteolytic enzymes and increases oil content in oil bearing plants.

  • Iron, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, molybdenum and chlorine are required by plants in small quantities for their growth and development. Hence they are known as micronutrients or trace elements. The very fact that the micronutrient elements are required by plants in very low concentration suggests that they all function as catalysts or at least closely linked with some catalytic processes in plants. Manganese, zinc and copper are components of certain biological oxidation-reduction systems. Manganese performs some function in photosynthesis, acts as regulator to the intake and state of oxidation of certain elements. Zinc is concerned with the functioning of Sulphydryl compounds such as cystein, in the regulation of oxidation - reduction potential within the cells. Copper is a constituent of cytochrome oxidase and component of many enzymes like ascorbic acid oxidase, phenolase and lactase. Molybdenum is a constituent of nitrate reductase and nitrogenase enzyme and is associated with nitrogen utilization and in nitrogen fixation. Chlorine stimulates the activity of some enzymes and influences carbohydrate metabolism.

  • Boron helps in cell development by its influence on polysaccharide formation. It regulates translocation of sugars across membranes and polyphenolase activity. Iron is a constituent of cytochromes, haem and non haem enzymes. Perhaps the best known role of iron is its catalytic role in enzyme activity.

Diagnosis of Fertilizer Requirement

For obtaining maximum crop yields with maximum benefit to the cultivators, it is most essential that the crop plants should be fed properly with all nutrients. Soils deficient in particular nutrients must be supplied with fertilizers containing those plant nutrients. Thus it is important to know which plant nutrients are lacking in a soil. Simple and elaborate tests have been developed by the agricultural scientist to estimate the nutritional requirements of soils and crops. These methods are known as diagnostic techniques. Fertilizer requirement is known by different diagnostic techniques and they are as follows:

By Plant Observation

This is one of the method to know the fertilizer need of plants by means of the hunger signs of plants which can be detected by the eye.

The basis of the method is the fact that the plant suffering from severe deficiencies and excess of mineral nutrients usually developed well-defined and typical sign of disorders in various organs, particularly in the leaves. Usually, specific abnormal colours are developed in the leaves due to deficiency of plant nutrients.

Although the hunger signs in plants are easily observed, it is not easy to recognise the particular nutrient deficiency in nature due to various field conditions. This requires experience and practice in the field.

By Plant Analysis

The use of plant analysis as a tool to diagnose fertility status mainly consists of :

  • Plant tissue tests or rapid tests

  • Total analysis

  • Biochemical methods.

The basis of plant analysis for diagnostic purposes is that the amount of a given nutrient in a plant is an indication of the supply of that particular nutrient and is directly related to the quantity present in the soil. The normal growth of a plant is determined by the supply of the nutrients. However, there is one disadvantage with this method, that is, while the shortage of one nutrient can limit the growth, other nutrients may show higher contents in the cell sap irrespective of the supply.

The use of plant tissue tests as a means to diagnose soil fertility status has been found to be important. This is a rapid test of the cell sap of the growing plants. The sap from the ruptured cells is tested for unassimilated nitrogen, phosphorus, potash and other nutrients. Tissue tests are getting popular because of the convenience of handling and the small number of equipment needed for the test. The test can be made in a few minutes.

Total analysis is used extensively in research work as this gives a quantitative indication of the level of nutrients in plants. However, it should be remembered that the determination of total analysis gives both the assimilated and unassimilated nutrients. Many nutrients such as N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Mn, Zn, Cu, Fe, Mo and B can be determined by this method. Usually, the mature plants are selected for this testing.

Biochemical methods to determine the soil fertility require costly equipments, but offer good opportunities for research work. Two methods are recognised amongst biological tests. They are, use of higher plants, Microbiological methods.

By Fertilizer Experiments

In India, simple field experiments on farmers fields as well as complex field experiments are very popular.

Simple Field Experiments - In well managed state farms, the level of soil fertility is usually higher than in the farmers fields. This is due to the use of manures, fertilizers, good management practices, etc. Many experiments conducted on farmers fields have revealed the deficiency of nutrients at various levels. These experiment have to be simple in nature with N, P, K, NP, NK, PK, NPK as the treatments.

These simple field experiments on farmers fields are very educative and effective for the farmers, as they themselves see the deficiencies and the response of the nutrients. These trials are useful for advising the correct type and amount of fertilizer.

Complex Field Experiments

Complex field experiments allow the testing of many factors at a time and permit a study of interaction among various nutrients. Complex fertilizer trials helps in determining the correct kinds of fertilizer, amount and the method of application for each of the soil zone. These experiments are complicated, expensive and can be done only by experienced people.

By Soil Testing

Soil testing is one reliable diagnostic tool whose value in evaluating soil-fertility conditions has been recently recognised in India. Soil testing is multipurpose in nature. Its purposes are :

  • To group soils into classes relative to the levels of nutrients for suggesting fertilizer practices.

  • To predict the probability of getting a profitable response to the application of fertilizers.

  • To help evaluate soil profitability and To determine specific soil conditions i.e., alkalinity, salinity, acidity, that limit crop yields and can be improved with soil amendments and other management practices.


Types of fertilizers and Nutrients required

Organic Fertilizers and Manures

Organic fertilizers include both plant and animal bi-products. They are slow acting. Organic nitrogen fertilizers include oil cakes, fish manure, dried blood from slaughter houses etc., where as organic phosphorus from bone meal and organic potassium from cattle dung ash, wood ash, leaf mould, tobacco stems and water hyacinth.

Organic Manures

Manures are organic or inorganic substances applied to the soil to supply one or more nutrients to plants to obtain increased yields.

Manures are classified as follows:

  • Organic manures:

  1. Bulky (Slow acting with large quantities of organic matter) Eg: Cattle, Sheep Poultry, Pig, Goat,, Horse manures, Compost, Green Manures, Sewage.Sludge.

  2. Concentrated(Quick acting with small quantity of organic matter.Eg: Groundnut cake, Castor cake, Bonemeal, Blood meal, Horn meal, Wood ash, Cotton and Linseed Meal.

  • Inorganic manures: (Artificial manures,Chemical fertilizers very quick acting with No organic matter.Eg: Nitrogenous, Ammonium,Phosphatic, Potassic and Sulphate fertilizers.

Inorganic Fertilizers

The primary nutrients supplied by fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Their concentration in a fertilizer is expressed as percentage of N, P2O5 and K2O.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is the first fertilizer element of the macronutrients usually applied in commercial fertilizers. Nitrogen is very important nutrient for plants and it seems to have the quickest and most pronounced effect. In the case of nitrogenous fertilizers, nitrogen may be in the ammoniacal, nitrate (or a combination thereof) or amide form. Ammoniacal form of nitrogen is contained in fertilizers like ammonium Sulphate, ammonium chloride, etc. Nitrate nitrogen is contained in fertilizers like ammonium nitrate, calcium ammonium nitrate, etc. The amide nitrogen is contained in urea.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is the second fertilizer element and it is an essential constituent of every living cells and for the nutrition of plant and animal. It takes active part in all types of metabolism of plant. Phosphate present in phosphatic fertilizers may be in the water soluble form or citrate soluble form. That portion of phosphate which is soluble in water is called water soluble phosphate and that which is not soluble in water but in 2 per cent neutral ammonium citrate solution is called citrate soluble phosphate. The sum of water soluble and citrate soluble values is termed as available phosphates. The portion of phosphate which is neither soluble in water nor in 2% neutral ammonium citrate solutions is termed insoluble. The sum of the available phosphate and insoluble phosphate is termed as total phosphate.

Potassium

Potassium is the third fertilizer element. Potassium acts as a chemical traffic policeman, root booster, stalk strengthener, food former, sugar and starch transporter, protein builder, breathing regulator, water stretcher and as a disease retarder but it is not effective without its co-nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Secondary Nutrients

Secondary nutrients include calcium, magnesium and sulphur, which play an important role in plant growth and development.

Micronutrients

Micronutrient elements are required by plants in very low concentration suggests that they all function as catalyst or at least closely linked with some catalytic process in plants. Micronutrient elements include boron, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, molybdenum and chlorine.

Given below are nutrient contents of fertilizers mostly used in India.

 

Nutrient Content of Solid Fertilizers

(Per cent by wt. min.)       

  Material

Total
Nitrogen
(N)

Ammoniacal
nitrogen
(N)
 

Nitrogen Nitrate
(N)
 

Nitrogen
in form of urea
(amide) (N)
 

Neutral
ammonium
citrate
soluble
phosphate (P2O5)
Water
soluble
phosphate
(P2O5)
 
Water
soluble
potash
(K2O)
 
I Nitrogenous fertilizers
1. Ammonium
Sulphate
 
20.6 20.6          
2. Ammonium
chloride
 
25.0 25.0          
3. Calcium
Ammonium Nitrate
 
25.0 12.5 12.5(max)        
4. Calcium
Ammonium Nitrate
 
26.0 13.0 13.0(max)        
5. Calcium Nitrate 15.5 1.1(max) 14.4        
6. Urea 46.0     46.0      
II Phosphatic fertilizers
7.

SSP 14%

SSP 16%

         

14.0

16.0

 
8. Rock Phosphate (powder/granular)         18.0    
III Potassic fertilizes
9. Potassium chloride (powder/granular)             60.0
10. Potassium Sulphate             50.0
11. Potassium Magnesium Sulphate             22.0
12. Potassium Schoenite             23.0
IV Complex fertilizers
13. Ammonium Phosphate              
  11-52-0 11.0 11.0     52.0 44.2  
  1846-0 18.0 15.5   2.5(max) 46.0 41.0  
14. Ammonium Phosphate Sulphate
 
             
  16-20-0 16.0 16.0     20.0 19.5  
  20-20-0 20.0 18.0   2.0(max) 20.0 17.0  
  18-9-0 18.0 18.0     9.0 8.5  
15.

Ammonium Phosphate Sulphate Nitrate

20-20-0

 

20.0

17.0 3.0(max)   20.0 17.0  
16.

Nitrophosphate

20-20-0

23-23-0

20.0

23.0

10.0

11.5

10.0(max)

11.5(max)

 

23.0

23.0

12.0

18.5

 
17.

Ammonium Nitrate Phosphate

23-23-0

 

23.0 13.0 10.0(max)   23.0 20.5  
18.

Urea Ammonium Phosphate

28-28-0

24-24-0

20-20-0
 

 

28.0

24.0

20.0

 

9.0

7.5

6.4

 

 

16.5(max)

 

28.0

24.0

20.0

 

25.2

20.4

17.0

 
19.

Potassium Nitrate (cystalline/prilled)

(13-0-45)

13.0   13.0       45.0
20.

Mono Potassium Phosphate

(0-52-34)

          52.0 34.0
21.

NPK fertilizers

15-15-15

10-26-26
 

12-32-16
 

22-22-11
 

14-35-14
 

17-17-17
 

14-28-14
 

19-19-19
 

17-17-17
 

20-10-10
 

 

15.0.

10.0

12.0

22.0

 

17.0

14.0

19.0

17.0

20.0

 

7.5

7.0

9.0

7.0

14.0

5.0

8.0

5.6

8.5

3.9

 

7.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.5

 

 

3.0(max)

3.0(max)

15.0(max)

 

12.0(max)

6.0(max)

13.4(max)

 

17.1(max)

 

15.0

26.0

32.0

22.0

35.0

17.0

28.0

19.0

17.0

10.0

 

4.0

22.1

27.2

18.7

29.0

14.5

23.8

16.2

13.6

8.5

 

15.0

26.0

16.0

11.0

14.0

17.0

14.0

19.0

17.0

10.0

 

Nutrient Content of Liquid Fertilizers

(Per cent by wt. min.)         

  Material

Total Nitrogen
(N)

Ammoniacal
nitrogen
(N)
 

Nitrogen Nitrate
(N)
 

Urea
Nitrogen
(N)

Total
phosphate (P2O5)

Poly
phosphate
(P2O5)
 
Maganesium(MgO)
 
1. Urea Ammonium Nitrate 32.0 7.7 7.7 16.6(max)      
2. Superphosphoric
Acid
 
        70.0

18.9

0.5(max)
3. Ammonium
Polyphosphate
 
10.0 10.0     34.0 22.1 0.5(max)

(Source: Department of Fertilizers, GOI)  

 


Fertilizer Application

Placement

Inserting or drilling or placing the fertilizer below the soil surface by means of any tool or implement at desired depth to supply plant nutrients to crop before sowing or in the standing crop is called placement.

With placement methods, fertilizers are placed in the soil irrespective of the position of seed, seedling or growing plants before sowing or after sowing the crops. The following methods are most common in this category.

Plough - Sole Placement

In this method, the fertilizer is placed in a continuous band on the bottom of the furrow during the process of ploughing. Each band is covered as the next furrow is turned. No attempt is usually made to sow the crop in any particular location with regard to the plough sole bands.

This method has been recommended in areas where the soil becomes quite dry up to a few inches below the soil surface during the growing season, and especially with soils having a heavy clay pan a little below the plough-sole. By this method, fertilizer is placed in moist soil where it can become more available to growing plants during dry seasons.

Deep Placement of Nitrogenous Fertilizers

This method of application of nitrogenous and phosphatic fertilizers is adopted in paddy fields on a large scale in Japan and is also recommended in India. In this method, ammonical nitrogenous fertilizer like ammonium sulphate or ammonium forming nitrogenous fertilizer like urea, is placed in the reduction zone, where it remains in ammonia form and is available to the crop during the active vegetative period.

Deep or sub-surface placement of the fertilizer also ensures better distribution in the root zone and prevents any loss by surface drain-off. Deep placement is done in different ways, depending upon the local cultivation practices. In irrigated tracts, where the water supply is assured, the fertilizer is applied under the plough furrow in the dry soil before flooding the land and making it ready for transplanting. In areas where there is not too much of water in the field, it is broadcast before puddling. Puddling places the fertilizer deep into the root zone.

Sub - Soil Placement

This refers to the placement of fertilizers in the sub-soil with the help of heavy power machinery.

This method is recommended in humid and sub-humid regions where many sub-soils are strongly acidic. Due to acidic conditions the level of available plant nutrients is extremely low. Under these conditions, fertilizers, especially phosphatic and potassic are placed in the sub-soil for better root development.

Localised Placement

This method refers to the application of fertilizers into the soil close to the seed or plant.

Localised placement is usually employed when relatively small quantities of fertilizers are to be applied. Localised placement reduces fixation of phosphorus and potassium.

Bulk Blending

It is the process of mixing two or more different fertilizers varying in physical and chemical composition without any adverse effects.

For this formulation certain additional materials called 'Fillers' and 'Conditioners' are used to improve the physical condition of the mixed fertilizer. This mixed fertilizer should be applied as top dressing.

Liquid Fertilization

The use of liquid fertilizers as a means of fertilization has assumed considerable importance in foreign countries. Solutions of fertilizers, generally consisting of N, P2O5, K2O in the ratio of 1 : 2 : 1 and 1 : 1 : 2 are applied to young vegetable plants at the time of transplanting. These solutions are known as 'Starter Solutions'.

They are used in place of the watering that is usually given to help the plants to establish. Only a small amount of fertilizer is applied as a starter solution. The starter solution has two advantages.

The nutrients reach the plant roots immediately 

The solution is sufficiently diluted so that it does not inhibit growth. As such a starter solution helps rapid establishment and quick early growth. There are two disadvantages of starter solution, if watering is not a part of the regular operation-extra labour is necessary and the fixation of phosphate may be greater.

Direct application of liquid fertilizers to the soil need special equipment. Anhydrous ammonia (a liquid under high pressure upto 14 kg per square cm. Or more) and nitrogen solutions are directly applied to the soil. This practice is very popular in the United States of America. Plant injury or wastage of ammonia is very little if the material is applied about 10 cm below the seed. If the application is shallow, nitrogen from ammonia will be lost. This method allows direct utilisation of the cheapest nitrogen source.

Straight and mixed fertilizer containing N, P and K easily soluble in water, are allowed to dissolve in the irrigation stream. The nutrients are thus carried into the soil in solution. This practice of fertilization is called "Fertigation". This saves the application cost and allows the utilization of relatively in expensive water-soluble fertilizers. Usually nitrogenous fertilizers are most commonly applied through irrigation water.

Foliar Application

  • This refers to the spraying on leaves of growing plants with suitable fertilizer solutions. These solutions may be prepared in a low concentration to supply any one plant nutrient or a combination of nutrients.

  • It has been well established that all plant nutrients are absorbed through the leaves of plants and this absorption is remarkable rapid for some nutrients. Foliar application does not result in a great saving of fertilizer but it may be preferred under the following conditions.

  • When visual symptoms of nutrient deficiencies observed during early stages of deficiency.

  • When unfavourable soil physical and chemical conditions, which reduce fertilizer use efficiency (FUE).

  • During drought period where in the soil application could not be done for want of soil moisture.

  • There are certain difficulties associated with the foliar application of nutrients as detailed below:

  1. Marginal leaf burn or scorching may occur if strong solutions are used.

  2. As solutions of low concentrations (usually three to six per cent) are to be used, only small quantities of nutrients can be applied in single spray.

  3. Several applications are needed for moderate to high fertilizer rates, and hence

  4. Foliar spraying of fertilizers is costly compared to soil application, unless combined with other spraying operations taken up for insect or disease control.


Soil Fertility and its Importance

Soil fertility may be defined as the inherent capacity of soil to supply plant nutrients in adequate amount and in suitable proportion and free from toxic substances. There are two types of soil fertility viz.,

Inherent or Natural Fertility

The soil, as a nature contain some nutrients, which is known as inherent fertility. Among plant nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is essential for the normal growth and yield of crop. The inherent fertility has a limiting factor from which the fertility is not decreased.

Acquired Fertility

The fertility develops by application of manures and fertilizers, tillage, irrigation, etc., is known as acquired fertility.

The acquired fertility has also a limiting factor. It is found by experiment that the yield does not increase remarkably by application of additional quantity of fertilizers.

Factors Effecting Soil Fertility

The factors that are effecting soil fertility may be of two types, i.e.,

Natural factors and Artificial factors.

The natural factors are those which influences the soil formation and the artificial factors are related to the proper use of land.

The factors effecting the fertility of soil are parent material, climate and vegetation, topography, inherent capacity of soil to supply nutrient, physical condition of soil, soil age, micro-organisms, availability of plant nutrients, soil composition, organic matter, soil erosion, cropping system and favourable environment for root growth.

Maintenance of Soil Fertility

Maintenance of soil fertility is a great problem of our farmers. Cultivation of particular crop year after year in the same field decreases the soil fertility. To increase the soil fertility, it is necessary to check the loss of nutrient and to increase the nutrient content of soil.

The following things must be properly followed for increasing the fertility of soil.

  • Proper use of land,

  • Good tillage,

  • Crop rotation,

  • Control of weeds,

  • Maintenance of optimum moisture in the soil,

  • Control of soil erosion,

  • Cultivation of green manure crops,

  • Application of manures,

  • Cultivation of cover crops,

  • Removal of excess water, (drainage)

  • Application of fertilizers,

  • Maintenance of proper soil reaction.

Soil Reaction and Liming

It is well known fact that in high rainfall areas, due to the leaching of bases, acids soils are formed, while in low rainfall regions, on account of arid and semi arid conditions, saline and alkali soils occur.

Thus soil vary in acidity or alkalinity. The soil reaction is indicated by pH scale. When Ca(OH)2 or lime is added to the soil, it will become alkaline.

Liming of Acidic Soils

Liming means addition of any compound containing Calcium alone or both calcium and magnesium, that is capable of reducing the acidity of the soil. Lime correctly refers only to Calcium oxide (CaO), but the term as applied in agriculture is universally used to include various other materials also, like Calcium carbonate, Calcium hydroxide, Calcium - magnesium carbonate (marl) and Calcium silicate slags.

The effects of liming on the soil and plants are as follows :

  • Lime neutralizes soil acidity,

  • Beneficial soil bacteria are encouraged by adequate supplies of lime in the soil,

  • Lime makes phosphorus more available,

  • Liming helps the availability of potash and molybdenum,

  • Lime furnishes two essential elements, namely calcium and magnesium (if lime is dolamitic) for plant nutrition,

  • Lime reduces toxicity of Al, Mn and Fe,

  • Improves soil physical conditions.

Fertilizers and Environmental Pollution

  • Fertilizers are relatively safer than pesticides which exhibit toxic properties on living systems. However, all the quantities of fertilizers applied to the soil are not fully utilized by plants. About 50 per cent of fertilizers applied to crops are left behind as residues. Though, inorganic fertilizers are not directly toxic to man and other life forms, they have been found to upset the existing ecological balance. The nutrients escape from the fields and are found in excessive quantities in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

  • Algae blooms occur when the nutrient load is high, and these smother other aquatic vegetation and also interfere with the oxygen regulation in the water bodies. This phenomena may lead to loss of fish. Among the major synthetic plant nutrients, nitrogenous fertilizers cause most harm. Contamination of the environment arises because not all the fertilizer applied is taken up by the crop and removed at harvest. In tropical climate the maximum recovery in dry land crops is 50 to 60 per cent and 40 per cent in rice because much of nitrogen is lost as ammonia into the atmosphere.

  • Eutrophication of water bodies due to higher nitrate and phosphate concentrations, increasing levels of nitrates in drinking water sources, accumulation of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium in soils and water resources are the principal causes of environmental concerns due to fertilizer use in agriculture. In the a national wide survey it was found that many streams and more than 20 % of wells contain 10 to 50 mg or even more of nitrates per litre of water. The contamination is caused by domestic sewage leaking to the ground water. The nitrates in drinking water can lead to several ailments. Blue - baby syndrome in infants and gastric and other forms of cancer have been related with nitrates in drinking water or diet.

  • Another hazard associated with excessive use of fertilizers is the gaseous loss of nitrogen, into the atmosphere. High doses of carbon dioxide and ammonia that escape into the atmosphere both from fertilizer manufacturing plants and soils affect human health. Further the oxides of nitrogen have been reported to adversely affect the ozone layer, which protects the earth from UV radiation and heating up of earth.

  • The oxides of nitrogen cause respiratory diseases like asthma, lung cancer and bronchitis. Arsenic, ammonia are waste stream components of nitrogen manufacturing plants while fluoride, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and manganese are waste stream components of phosphatic fertilizer industry. If these waste stream of components are not properly disposed they cause harm to human beings and animals with contamination of air and water.

  • The keeping quality of perishables like vegetables and fruits get declined with excess use of fertilizers particularly nitrogenous fertilizers.


Tips for high fertilizer use efficiency

  1. Priority should be given to crops which have controlled irrigation as compared to unirrigated crops.
     
  2. Most responsive and best suited crop variety should be selected to get maximum benefits of fertilizer.
     
  3. High yielding varieties give better yield response to fertilizers than local varieties. Therefore high-yielding varieties should be preferred.
     
  4. Planting/sowing of crop should be done at the normal time suited for the tract to get maximum benefit from applied fertilizers.
     
  5. Proper plant spacing has to be ensured.
     
  6. It is desirable to add organic waste and organic manure to built soil fertility and its water holding capacity of soil.
     
  7. Leguminous crops are taken in rotational and as inter crop and use of bacterial and algae cultures play important role in meeting the fertilizer need of the crop.
     
  8. If possible, green manuring with dhaincha or sunnhemp should be practiced in low land paddy cultivation.
     
  9. Irrigation rate should be controlled by using just enough water at different physiological growth stages of crops.
     
  10. Balanced fertilizer should be practiced based on the soil test.
     
  11. Fertilizer recommendation should preferably be based on crop sequence for multiple cropping.
     
  12. All the phosphate and potash should be applied as basal dose, while nitrogen should be applied in split doses. (2-3 times).
     
  13. Phosphate should be placed 4 to 6cm. below and away from the seed to ensure maximum availability to the crop potash should be broad casted then mixed with the soil.
     
  14. Urea must be applied with soil for top dressing to reduce nitrogen loss by mixing 1 part of urea with 5-10 parts of moist soil and keep it for 24 hours for getting best results. For rice crop, whenever possible mix urea with locally available nitrification inhibitors such as neem cake and karanj cake (1kg cake + 5kg urea). This will reduce N losses from soil.
     
  15. Under adverse soil and climate conditions application of fertilizers such as nitrogen through foliage along with insecticides and pesticides will lead to higher utilization by plants.
     
  16. When soil is acidic, saline and alkaline appropriate amendments viz. Lime, Gypsum etc. should be applied before using fertilizers. In alkali soils 3 to 5 tonnes of gypsum per acre should be applied.
     
  17. Weed control, particularly during early stages of crop growth is essential.
     
  18. Proper control of pests and diseases is a must for realizing maximum effectiveness from fertilizers.

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Have a lot of fun and success.
yours kheteshwar
always with you...

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