Natural Fertilizer Cost Comparison:
Let’s compare two identical 5,000 square foot plots sitting side-by-side with the same soil characteristics and identical solar exposure. The plot on the left is treated with 20 pounds of 30-5-10 chemical fertilizer, while the right side of the property is treated with just one quart of Liquid Organic Fertilizer. We’ve only added .092 pounds of nitrogen and .065 pounds of phosphate to the plot on the right, while the chemical plot gained 6 pounds of nitrogen and a pound of phosphate.
So far the numbers aren’t looking very good for our natural plot, but there’s more to the story. For starters, our Liquid Organic Fertilizer cost us less than $20 at the time we wrote this article. Try finding a 20 pound bag of 30-5-10 anywhere for that price! Then you have to look at the long-term picture. Is the higher nitrogen content in chemical fertilizer really a good thing? Do plants absorb it? What will it do to my soil next year? We look at all these factors before reaching a conclusion about natural fertilizer below.
Less Nitrogen in Organic Fertilizer. Does it Matter?
Higher levels of nitrogen might cause a sudden burst of growth, but the high concentrations are toxic to soil microbes. Microbes are a farmer’s biological allies fighting to keep plants well fed and drought resistant. Microbes serve many functions like breaking down inorganic minerals into a form the plants can uptake through their root systems. Without a health soil biome, our chemical plot will require more irrigation than our natural plot does over time.
In addition to mineral uptake and drought tolerance, our soil microbes feed earthworms and other larger animals that help till the soil and prevent compaction. This further complicates nutrient uptake by encouraging erosion over in our chemical plot. Erosion leaches nitrogen and other nutrients from the topsoil overtime. This begins the cycle of needing more and more fertilizer each season over in our chemical plot. We simply do not have these issues with natural fertilizer. Getting back to the bioavailability issue, research shows that around 96% of all high-analysis chemical fertilizers are not used by plants. They simply have a hard time utilizing the product. In the other field, our foliar feeding of liquid organic fertilizer is immediately absorbed by the leaves of our plants and used to promote growth and vigor.
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Organics: The Only Choice if You Plan to Keep the Farm
So, in the short-term you will see better results immediately after applying the chemical fertilizer. It’s a numbers thing. You get more nitrogen by volume in a 20 pound bag of chemical fertilizer than you will with natural fertilizer products like kelp. In the long-term, you might lose an entire crop to drought or face diminishing yields due to erosion with chemicals.