WHAT IS IN THE FERTILIZER?
ALL plants no matter where they are anchored and are growing well, they have an affinity to different types of nutrients. These are essential nutrients that favour their existence. Where they are in abundance it means there are adequate nutrients that favour them a lot.
This pertains to the suitable state of things in the soils on which they are surviving on.
Today we shall talk about the fertilizer. Fertilizers are artificially made compounds or mixtures which contain one or more major plant nutrients in a concentrated form. The most important plant nutrients in our Zambian soils is Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium. These are followed by minor nutrients of Sulphur, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Boron, Copper etc.
Major plant nutrients are those required in large quantities if the plant has to grow and yield well and these are Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium. The most important major nutrient lacking in most Zambian soils is Nitrogen because plants use it in large quantities and being volatile and it is easily leached. It is also easily lost by the action of certain soli bacteria. Organic matter rots down easily in Zambia and a lot of nitrogen is lost as a gas.
A straight fertilizer is one which only contains one major plant nutrient for example Sulphur of Ammonia. Coming to compound fertilizers, these are fertilizers that contain more than one major nutrients. Compound fertilizers are many because they are made for different crops in different places. The plant nutrient requirements differ from crop to crop and compound fertilizers supply the plant nutrients according to the needs of each crop in any area.
The advantages of compound fertilizers are many. Crops that are given this mixture receive the three major plant nutrients at the same time, this ensures that the crops do not ever suffer from a deficiency of the major plant nutrients. This also makes the fertilizer relatively cheap considering the fact that they supply more than one major plant nutrient. Indeed, the cost of applying fertilizer is reduced because the three plant nutrients are all applied at one time, on top of this they are simpler to apply because are often made in a granular form.
Major essential elements.
Nitrogen, when there is enough water and suitable temperature, the rate of growth of plants largely attributed to the available nitrogen in the soil. However, when deficiencies occur, early indication are yellowing of leaves and stunted growth. An excess of available nitrogen is commonly associated with vigorous vegetative growth and lodging especially grains for example maize will lessen food storage in the plants and hinder fruit and seed development.
Phosphorus, for this nutrient over 50% in a mature plant is located in the fruit and the seeds. Abundance in young parts of the plants. Deficiencies, of this element would result in stunted top growth of the plant and the plant would delay to mature and so would be poor fruit and seed development.
Potassium, this element plays a vital role in plant buds, young leaves, root tips and other growing parts of the plant and are rich in potassium. Its chief function is regulatory and its most abundant element in the mineral ash. Deficiencies of this nutrient is usually noted in stunted growth, may show or appear to be dull green leaves, edges and tips often scotched bronze in colored spots appear. In this case older leaves are affected first, yellow leaflet edges are very characteristic of starvation.
Sulphur, this is found in most plant tissues, it is an important constituent of protein. Much of it remain in an inorganic form such as sulphate. This element favour root growth in some plants, sufficient Sulphur favour chlorophyll development. Deficient of this element retards the development of the nitrogen fixing nodules in legumes.
Calcium, is important for neutralizing soil acidity. The major portion in most plants is in the leaves. Deficiencies result in the stunting of root growth in many plants. Equally there will be a tendency to shed blossoms and buds permanently, leaves become hard and stiff often yellow. Molting or brown spots on the leaves are common.
Magnesium, this is the only mineral element contained in the chlorophyll of the plant. When it comes to deficiencies would show pale sickly foliage unhealthy conditions. It affects first older leaves and later younger leaves. The top of the plant may be green and lower portion yellow and veins may appear green and the leaf-web tissue yellow or white.
After noting the above needed elements which are very essential to the wellbeing of any plant especially the plant we depend upon as our everyday food like maize, wheat, vegetables and others too numerous to mention. The farmer should know the needs of each crop that he puts in the soil. They all have various nutrient requirements, so it is important for every farmer to have the soils tested in order to know the needed nutrients a particular crop actually needs. This way the right type of fertilizer would be applied to the plant. Soils have to be boosted or made richer with the addition of other nutrients which may be unavailable in that locality. What has been mentioned above is what is available in all important fertilizers for the plant or crop to perform well. Farmers understand or know the fertilizer you are buying. Wishing you all the best as you prepare for the coming season.