Organic vs. Inorganic Fertilizer: What’re the Pros & Cons?
If you bite into a juicy ripe tomato, can you tell if it was grown with organic fertilizer or something more chemical-based? We doubt it. And the plants can’t tell, either. Both are designed to give your plants exactly what they need, just in different ways. The prescribed outcome, though, is still the same; healthy, thriving plants.
When comparing organic to inorganic fertilizer, the answers are not always cut and dry. Just because one does a faster job than the other doesn’t mean that necessarily makes it the wisest product to pick. The only way to choose the right one for you is to have all the facts, and we will give them to you here so you can make the sound, educated choice for our plants.
Read on for a full comparison of organic versus inorganic fertilizer and everything that goes along with it.
When growers, gardeners, and farmers plant with organic fertilizer, they know they are making a trade-off, but it is one many of them can live with. The most critical factors in growing anything are light, water, and soil. While light is natural, and water can be filtered or altered, the earth will retain whatever goes into it as a plant food source.
The problem lies with the long-term effects of that food item, and that is why organic fertilizers, while more expensive, are so popular with growers. They contain no chemicals that can harm the soil and everything in them is natural and already comes from the earth. Naturally, the ground is happy to welcome it back with open arms.
Organic fertilizers have the right balance of nutrients plants crave. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and plenty of others, make up a diet that gives plants the strength and stamina to grow healthier and greater durability. But, since natural fertilizers are created, not manufactured, they have a higher markup than chemical versions.
The other aspect that might give a grower pause is the slow release factor of most organic fertilizers. This type of fertilizer requires patience, and the environment must be just right for it to work correctly. The soil must be moist and never cold for the organic nutrients to break down properly.
This does have one significant bonus. Slow growth reduces something many growers know as “leaching.” Leaching is when nutrients are moved out of the plant’s reach, so the plants get all the essentials without fear of losing them to speedy growth.
Inorganic fertilizer is not cultivated over time but engineered in a lab. It is genetically designed to give the fastest and most impressive results and does so every single time. They are mass-produced and cost substantially less than organic, and use quick-release methods to make plants grow more quickly.
Instead of minerals, inorganic fertilizers consist of chemicals and are made from petroleum and natural gas. They consist of ammonium nitrate, ammonium sulfate, potassium chloride, and many others. Every chemical that makes up each bag is clearly measured and printed on the label and their precise application.
The concentration is essential. If you use too much, you can do more harm to the plants than good. And leaching is a possibility with all quick-release fertilizer compounds. Leaching can potentially damage water sources in and near the soil, causing a significant environmental impact.
The health of your soil might suffer if the leaching is too severe. If you have ever heard the term “salt the earth,” this is essentially what can happen if too many chemical compounds infect the ground due to oversaturating your plants to propel growth. And some of these chemicals can translate with toxicity levels that will infect your plants, making them harmful, even deadly, to consume.
The final blow is the carbon footprint these chemical fertilizers create. Not only does it have environmental potential at the soil level, but because it is made using petroleum and natural gas during its manufacturing, it produces more greenhouse gasses, which we all know we don’t want more of.
Which Do You Choose?
Long-term experienced growers know that plants cannot be rushed. Give them light, water, nutrients, plenty of time, and keep those bugs and weeds away, and your crop will be pretty close to perfect. Farmers space out their crops based on the times of the year. They recognize it is not worth the rush.
Mass production facilities that have orders to fill, on the other hand, need to push the envelope to get the most of a crop in the fastest amount of time. They aren’t wrong for doing this; they just can’t wait. It’s business, not farming, and the difference is made with inorganic fertilizer. The upside is most of their crops don’t grow in the same soil as everything else.
When picking what type of soil you need, you need to determine your patience level, your motivation to grow in the first place, and your willingness to scrap the whole crop if it is going sour before it has a chance to germinate properly. You have to factor in conditions, environmental impacts, and cost-benefit ratios.
In short, you have to decide if you are doing it for business or commerce. A farmer will grow as a way to ensure his livelihood, and it is mostly a business decision and a lifestyle choice. He is in it 24/7. A commerce grower is a 9-to-5er because they know the plants will take care of themselves, be harvested, and do it all over again.
In both schools of thought, quality is vital. It’s the additional variables and, in some cases, personal values that will put you into one camp or the other.
There are ways to grow your crops faster, even with organic means, but they are still an expensive alternative and more time consuming than the inorganic option. Weigh the pros and cons before you choose. Yes, inorganic is faster, but the long-term deficits are also more pronounced. Yes, your product might be less crisp or shiny, but you will have perfect soil again and again with organic plant food. Pick a balance you can live with when it comes to choosing the best fertilizer for you.
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