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The Dark Side of Fertilizer

Inspired by: http://www.popsci.com/fertilizer-nitrogen

Synthetic fertilizers are one of the biggest reason the human population is so large today. We can take atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and with some water we can make hydrogen gas. Combine atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen gas under high heat and pressure, and bam! Liquid ammonia (NH3). And ammonia is the basis for most fertilizer. Without this ability to synthetically create ammonia, scientists estimate our population would be much smaller, less than 4 billion people today (under ideal circumstances, even with today’s organic farming methods).

And while this achievement is great, it has led to environmental catastrophe. Runoff nitrogen creates algal blooms, turning healthy ocean and rivers into anoxic, deadly environments for waterfaring creatures. Every improvement can have its pitfalls.

What do you do to protect the environment? Do you recapture runoff from your plants? Do you farm only organically? Tell me more.

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Hunter,
I have been in commercial floriculture for over 30 years and have only grown plants using synthetic fertilizers so I can only speak from my own perspective and experience.
Without getting into a philosophical debate, I will say that I have never met anyone in farming who doesn’t care about their land, their crops or the well being of the world around them.

I can also say that our growing techniques have evolved over the years and we use much less fertilizer than we used to.

Our fertilizers are much different formulations than they were just a few years ago and we can grow with much lower rates. We typically have 0% runoff, test our EC and PH on a regular basis and give the plants only what they need to meet their needs.

Back in the old days we used much higher rates and tried to get 10% leachate with every watering.

So while still evolving, and with continued focus on better growing practices even growers who are not highly motivated to protect the environment are doing a better job of it.

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