May 18, 2008

Should We Ever Use Chemical Fertilizers?

 Should We Ever Use Chemical Fertilizers? Our basic stand on chemical fertilizers has two legs. The first is that chemically produced nitrogen comes from oil and has a tremendous carbon footprint-6.7 pounds of carbon go into the atmosphere for every pound manufactured. The second is that chemical fertilizers kill microbes that breakdown organic material in the soil, basically rendering topsoil dead and inert. Kind of like bypassing the human stomach and intestine  if people were chemically fed.

 

Those seem like two excellent reasons to never use chemically produced nitrogen, except when one considers potted plants. Potted plants are not really part of an ecosystem when you consider how they are used. Larger pots that contain trees and shrubs may be the exception, but generally potted plants are either plants adapted to interiors, or filled with annuals that wont survive the year.

 

In the case of interior plants, none of thee plants are grown organically to begin with. As seedlings they are raised and managed with chemicals in Florida, Hawaii, California, South America, and Africa. They are not even grown in soil as we know it, but instead are raised in “growing medium”, often mixes of mulch, pearlite, vermiculite, and some sand. Then they arrive eventually in our homes and or offices pumped up with fertilizer and pesticides. Converting them to organic fertilizers takes a year of intensive work and often means smelling up the home with fish emulsion, manure, and the like.

 

In the case of annuals, again, just like interior plants, these are chemically raised, fed, and maintained. Since they won’t last the year, is it worth it to convert them from chemical to organic soils? On the other hand, we will have no oil, and therefore no chemical fertilizers in the next forty years, so we better wrap our minds around this one. Now it is arguable, that one can keep a stock of live organic soil on hand at all times, particularly if one is composting, and convert these poor chemically addicted waifs over with intensive therapy. The question is, is there value in this approach?

 

Posted in: Organics, Sustainable Gardening