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To grow healthy crops full of nutrients, farmers need to ensure they have healthy soil. Without fertilizers, nature struggles to replenish the nutrients in the soil. Chemical ingredients help create fertilizers that promote plant growth and are cost effective, too.
Often, the plants have few possibilities to avoid nutrient deficiencies without the help of fertilizers. Since plants are not capable of absorbing it from the air directly, the soil is their only means of acquiring this important nutrient. Fertilizers are needed to boost nutritional levels.
With the global population steadily growing, it is important that enough crops are produced each year to provide food, clothing and other agricultural products to people around the world. Crops such as corn, wheat and cotton receive nutrients from the soil they are grown in.
Plants need nutrients to grow which they absorb from the soil via the plant’s root system. Unless the nutrients are replenished, the soil’s productive capacity declines with every harvest.
Nitrogen-based products make up by far the largest fertilizer group, followed by fertilizers based on phosphorus and potassium. Fertilizers are available in straight and compound forms, based on one major nutrient or two or more nutrients respectively. Straight fertilizers account for the majority (78%) of total fertilizer use in Europe and are often based on meeting the needs of a specific crop. Compound NPK fertilizers account for the remaining consumption and primarily are available in two distinct types: blended and complex fertilizers.
Crop residues, animal manures and slurries are the principal organic fertilizers. Although they have varying nutritional values, they are generally present on the farm and the nutrients and the organic carbon they contain are recycled. Animal manures and slurries cover a wide range of nutrient sources with different physical properties and nutrient contents. Furthermore, their nutrient content vary regionally and depend on the type of livestock and the farm management system.
The most common phosphate fertilizers are single superphosphate (SSP), triple superphosphate (TSP), monoammonium phosphate (MAP), di-ammonium phosphate (DSP) and ammonium polyphosphate liquid. Different fertilizer products have different release profiles and need different spreader settings for efficient application.
Potassium is also available in a range of fertilizers which contain potassium only or two or more nutrients and include Potassium chloride (KCl), Potassium sulphate (K2SO4) or sulphate of potash (SOP), Potassium nitrate (KNO3), known as KN.
Today, a large number of special fertilizers are available to supply plants with important micronutrients such as iron, manganese, boron, zinc and copper. These can be either inorganic or organic compounds, with the inorganic varieties further divided into water-soluble and non-soluble products.
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