We know that all living organisms require food which is converted to energy to carry out all essential life processes. Human beings are heterotroph which means we cannot produce our food. Hence, we must gather food from other sources, such as plants and animals, to fulfil our nutritional needs. For this purpose, we grow crops and raise livestock.
In contrast, plants can produce food on their own by drawing essential nutrients and water from the soil, which enable them to grow. Consequently, if the soil is infertile or contains insufficient nutrients, they will slowly wither and die. Hence, fertilizers are used to add essential nutrients to the land to promote growth.
What is Agriculture?
The term agriculture has its origin in the Latin word ‘ager’ which means land and ‘culture’ refers to cultivation. Thus, agriculture can be defined as the process of cultivating the soil, growing food crops, and raising livestock. It is one of the most primitive activities in the world.
In addition to producing food crops, agriculture also involves dairy, fisheries, poultry, beekeeping etc. Apart from food, it also provides fodder for domestic animals and raw materials for several vital industries such as medicine, cotton, jute, sugar, oil and so on.
Agriculture can be classified into two main groups – subsistence agriculture and industrialized agriculture. A brief explanation of these two types of agriculture is given below –
- Subsistence Agriculture – When a person farms on a small piece of land and grows crops to meet his or her family’s food requirements, it is known as subsistence agriculture. In case of any excess food, it is usually sold locally.
This type of agriculture is labour intensive and employs simple technology during the cultivation process. The leftover crop is used as fodder for farm animals. Subsistence agriculture makes use of polyculture, which means different plants are grown on the same land.
- Industrialized Agriculture – In this type of agriculture, livestock is reared, and crops are grown in large quantities for commercial purpose. Top of the line machinery along with fertilization and pesticides is used to increase the amount as well as the quality of crop yield, since the main aim is to bring in more profit. Industrialized agriculture relies on monoculture where only one type of soil is chosen for growth.
What is Fertilizer?
Soil fertility refers to the capacity of soil to facilitate plant growth by supplying all the essential nutrients. However, several factors can affect the productivity of soil such as excessive rainfall, monocropping and continuous farming on the same piece of land. In such cases, external nutrition in the form of agriculture fertilizers is added to soil to improve its quality and to replenish the lost nutrients.
Types of Fertilizers
There are two types of fertilizers used in agriculture – organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers are those that have been derived from plants and animals. Examples of such kinds of fertilizers are manure, vegetable compost and crop residue.
Apart from adding nutrients, other uses of fertilizers include – enhancing of soil structure and helping it to hold in more water and nutrients. Organic fertilizers are also more cost-effective than inorganic fertilizers.
On the other hand, inorganic or synthetic fertilizers are made from minerals and are manufactured artificially. Unlike plant fertilizers, these supply the soil with required nutrients quickly, thus facilitating crop yield in the short run.
However, one should be careful with the quantity of inorganic farm fertilizer as a large concentration of the same may burn the roots. It can also lead to accumulation of toxic salt content in the soil.
Inorganic fertilizers can be in either single nutrient formula, meaning they are made up of only one nutrient. Or, they can also be a multi-nutrient formula which contains all or most of the essential nutrients, making it a balanced fertilizer.
Inorganic fertilizers can be divided into three broad groups. These types of fertilizers are as follows –
- Phosphorus Fertilizers – these are available as ammonium phosphate, nitric phosphates, rock phosphate, phosphoric acid
- Nitrogen Fertilizers – these include urea, nitrate fertilizers, ammoniacal fertilizers, amide fertilizers, ammoniacal-nitrate fertilizers
- Potassium Fertilizers – some examples of this fertilizers are potassium sulphate, potassium magnesium sulphate
Additionally, you can refer to our study materials to learn more about this topic, such as more use of fertilizers in agriculture.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
- What are the Types of Fertilizer used in Agriculture?
Ans. Fertilizers used in agriculture can be classified into two types – inorganic and organic fertilizers.
- What is the Importance of Fertilizers in Agriculture?
Ans. Farm Fertilizers are important as they improve soil quality by replenishing the chemical elements already present in the soil.
- What are the Major Contributions of Fertilizers and Pesticides in Agriculture?
Ans. Fertilizers facilitate the growth of crops by providing essential nutrients to the soil. Types of Fertilizers in agriculture can be organic or inorganic. On the other hand, pesticides are chemicals that are sprayed on crops to kill insects and weeds that are harmful to plants.