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Unit 3: fertilizers

1.What is fertilizer?
A fertilizer is any material, organic or inorganic, that is used to supply nutrients to the soil.
2.How and when were fertilizers invented?
Fertilizers were invented in early mid 19h century, It was invented by Justus Von Liebig who
demonstrated various trials in UK , these trials provided greater efficiency in plant growth
3.Why are mineral fertilizers necessary?

 They support and sustain agriculture

 They are necessary for plant growth due to added nutrients
 They add great amount of organic matter to the soil e.g humus
 They are able to increase productivity
 Increases the resistance of the plants to frost and disease

4.How are fertilizers produced

They are of two kinds;
 Naturally or biologically are produced as the end product or by product of natural
occurring processes. example decomposition or natural processes
 Some are chemically synthesized like NH4(H2PO4) where various processes are
used example for ammonium nitrate, nitric acid is used to make this compound
,where are mixed together in a tank and neutralized to form ammonium nitrate

5.Where do fertilizer raw materials originate?

Most are from natural sources like air , and minerals mined from the earth
 Sulphur for production of sulphuric acid used in production of many fertilizers
 Natural gas and oil
 For nitrogen; They are obtained from atmosphere i.e air contains nitrogen and the
 nitrogen fixing bacteria convert them into ammonia which is necessary for plant
 For phosphorous-they come from the phosphates originating in rock deposits as
fossilized remains of ancient marine life or from volcanic activity.
 For potassium; is derived from naturally-occurring ore deposits that were formed
when seas and oceans evaporated from rock phosphate

6.How long will the natural deposits of raw materials for fertilizers last?
Potassium and Phosphorous are the most abundant used nutrients which last about 90 years
although they are deposited every year their scarcity can limit plant growth.

7.Why manufacture soluble mineral fertilizers? Why not just grind up natural
This is because mineral fertilizers ;
 Due to their solubility in water they are rapidly absorbed in the soil this also contributes
to rapid growth because like for potassium and phosphorus are insoluble so due to
addition of water the nutrients are able to be available to plants to absorb them.
Unit 3: fertilizers

8. Why are manufactured fertilizers called “mineral fertilizers” and sometimes “chemical
This is because they are formed from natural minerals that undergo various processes mostly
chemical undergo many reactions and use of machines which leads to high quality fertilizers
that are soluble to be rapidly absorbed by the plant.

9.Which nutrients are most needed?

 Nitrogen
 Phosphorus ,
 Potassium
10.Why is adding sulphur to fertilizers more necessary now than previously?

 This is because phosphate fertilizers are now concentrated so their sulphur content has
been reduced which results in need of more.
 This is because now sulphur produced has been reduced based on the significant fact that
there is reduction in SO2 produced during fall of acidic rain
 This is because of sulphur demanding crops produced nowadays
 This is because yields are higher than previously so some nutrients have been removed
during the system

11.Organic fertilizers: Are they environmentally better or worse than mineral fertilizers?
- Organic fertilizers are environmentally better or friendly compared to mineral
fertilizers which destroy living organisms like for soil, they produce pollution and destroy
soil organisms (like those bacteria) and for humans they accumulate in their body as
- Mineral fertilizers are also better for productivity of crops because they balance
nutrients available for crops to absorb by replacing or compensating for lost nutrients.

12.Can nature make up for nutrient deficiencies?

It can but not in current intensive agriculture because of advanced agriculture when
during weathering or release of nutrients there is low productivity for high yielding crops
so there is replacement of other nutrients.

13.What happens to nitrogen fertilizer?

After the production of ammonium and nitrate both are taken up by the plant;
 Some are used by soil microbes and in soil organic matter
 The remainder is often lost through gaseous products and leaching and it’s
amount depends on quantity, time and type of fertilizer used
 Much is taken by the plant
Unit 3: fertilizers
14.Do fertilizers increase soil fertility (productivity)?
Yes , fertilizers replace nutrients that have been lost from high yield
crops so this and additional good agricultural activity increase
productivity for new crops.

15.How are fertilizer application rates derived?

By consideration of different factors on plant, soil status and the

requirement from the soil or crop and also other recommendations
although it’s difficult to estimate amount of nutrients available in soil
but this must be done to obtain best productive results.

16.How much fertilizer does a crop need?

It depends on the type of crop ,soil ,its management and the location
like for
crops which doesn’t have the residues need more fertilizers than
those which remain with it because for them example; potatoes their
residue store nutrients.

17.What constitutes balanced and timely applications of fertilizers?

-The different nutrients are supplied in right proportion according to
the plant’s need.
-The total supply of added nutrients of all sources is just sufficient to fit
the plant requirement this avoids the deficiency that can arise to the

18.Does precision farming give any benefit to the farmer or the

Yes, it does benefit both because when fertilizer is applied using this

19.Is the condition of fertilizer spreaders important?

Yes, because there is poor fertilizer spreaders will not work accurately
spread fertilizer.

20.What is the effect of uneven spreading of

fertilizers and how can it be minimized?
-Effect is that the uneven spreading fertilizer is harmful because if there is
over fertilization or under fertilization the crop will grow badly or even
low productivity is yielded.
-It can be minimized by using good high quality fertilizer and good
spreader to be done successively.

21.How efficiently is fertilizer nitrogen used by crops?

Unit 3: fertilizers
Crop production in arable crop production is high example in cereals about
40 to 70 percent of crop is made of nitrogen and the rest remains in
the soil this shows that nitrogen is really efficient in crops.
22,What is the efficiency of different forms of nitrogen in crop
Nitrogen is among the most efficient fertilizer based on the fact that;
 They are quickly available in the soil example ammonia in the
 There is no volatilization release of nitrogen in air
 Low uptake of this nitrogen by microorganisms

23.Do fertilizers acidify the soil?

Yes, some do and others don’t, this is due to the fact that ammonium
oxidise to nitrate so nitrogen is released this increase acidity to the
For ammonium Sulphate there is decrease in pH which increases soil

24.Does fertilizer use make plants susceptible to

pests, disease and weed infestation?
Yes, because when the plants grow healthily there is risk of
competitive advantage where there is increase in humid condition
which encourage pests and diseases so that’s why the plant fertilizer
must be balanced to avoid those problems.

25.Do fertilizers cause soil compaction and/or

Not directly but due to heavy machines used in fertilizer application
can cause all of this but really fertilizers make the build up of organic
matter in the soil.

26.Does fertilizer use contribute to drought problems in agriculture?

No, fertilizer use contributes to more efficient use of water in crops because less water is
used mostly in high yielded area than more extensive system.

27.What environmental problems occur if application rates are well

below recommended rates?
When application rates are below the recommended rates there is destruction of soil
fertility as the plant are less dense plant cover this leads to soil erosion

28.What detrimental effects can excessive nitrogen application cause?

 Unnecessary ammonia emission in soil and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.
 It leads to lodging of crops and quality problems
Unit 3: fertilizers
 It leads to water acidification which can pollute drinking water
 It is costly so it is an expense to the farmer sometimes which is unnecessary
 It leads to soil acidification which kills plant growth.

29.Do fertilizers leach to ground water?

Generally it’s no, this is because good agricultural practices and fertilizers minimize this
and fertilizers like nitrogen are absorbed in the plants can cause this with also phosphorus
but not readily because it happens not often under certain conditions and during heavy
30.Isn’t there an increased risk of leaching when applying highly soluble
nitrogen fertilizers?
The risk is when excess nitrogen is applied but when there is a balance between all the
nutrients within fertilizer there is no bleaching.

31.Do fertilizers give off ammonia, which is an atmospheric pollutant?

Yes some do ,others don’t based on the type of ammonia like for urea, ammonia and
anhydrous ammonia are the ones which have highest potential to release nitrogen and
about 50% are lost to the air but also the soil increase of pH increases the nitrogen
32.What problems does ammonia volatilization cause?
It leads to eutrophication which is the increase in unwanted aquatic and terrestrial
organisms this results in oxygen degradation.
It leads to acidification, this leads to death of some living organism and also this
contributes to formation of dangerous rain like acidic rain

33.Is the economic optimum fertilizing intensity in conflict with

environmental consideration?
It’s not because at optimum fertilizing intensity its when the fertilizer is beneficial to
plants and no problem to environment but either when it’s low or maximum there is
environmental damage even to crops itself so at this point is fine no damage

34.Do we gain or lose useful energy by using mineral fertilizers?

We gain because based on the fact that fertilizers produce higher biomass in harvested
crops than that required to produce biomass so this shows that the additional fertilizers
added on solar energy results into higher productivity and health to crops example
nitrogen also that the fossil fuel benefits

35.Are fertilizers free of toxic substances and safe to handle?

Yes they are safe to handle but some of mineral fertilizers leads to dehydration , skin
damage even some release toxic fumes which are harmful to us. But an organization
called YARA has set ways to handle those few toxic fertilizers.

Thank you !!!

Unit 3: fertilizers