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In my point of view I think that fertilizers are of use to the environment in some ways but can also be potentially damaging in others. The term fertilisers is stated as ” A substance usually added to soil to increase its ability to support plant growth” by Encarta. This shows that fertilisers are needed to keep soil in good conditions to allow the maximum productivity for plant growth. This is why they are important to the agricultural industry because they allow maximum productivity and higher yields, meaning more money for the farmer.

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But fertilisers can also be potentially hazardous to the environment; they can pollute local water supplies, harm humans and animals and can add to the amount of volatile gases being added to the atmosphere. Firstly fertilizers are potentially good for the environment in ways that they improve the soil structure and nutrient content, this therefore improves plant growth. Fertilisers are needed to allow a farmer to have maximum productivity in the crop that they are growing.

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So they are vital for economic reasons to allow the most productivity the land can give, (high yield) so the most money can be got from selling the high yield amount of crops. Also fertilisers help the condition of the plants to be top condition by providing them the first hand nutrients, which are vital for good growing that may not already be in the soil. Fertilisers normally consist of macronutrients (the main nutrients in mass quantities) and micronutrients (e. g. copper, zinc etc), which are also found, in fertilisers but in smaller quantities because they are not so vitally needed by the plant.

Nutrients normally are known as NKP mixtures because these are the symbols of the elements, which the plant mainly needs for maximum growth. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient it is needed for the making of amino acids and proteins, which is needed for growth, but nitrogen can easily be leached out of the soil. Nitrates are negatively charged and do not stick to the negatively charged clay particles, this means they can easily leach out of the soil and cause harm to the environment. This could lead to eutrophication (explained later on).

Also ammonia on the other hand is NH4+ ,which means that it is held by the negative charges in the clay and cannot be directly used, so fertilisers are not always very useful. Phosphorus (P), is also needed by plants for ATP, nucleic acid and phospholipid’s. This is not held in the soil for very long so is often added when the seeds are sewn called banding this is to ensure that the nutrient is in the soil when it is needed for growth. This element can become fixed in the soil it is not freely moving allowing problems with uptake from the plant.

And potassium, which is mainly, lastly needed in large quantities from the plant the role of opening and closing the stomata in the leaves. There is often a lack of it in the soil. So fertilisers add these vital nutrients in the soil, to allow the plant to be in a healthy condition and have maximum productivity for farmers for agriculture and flower growing. This has many economic benefits, which Is why I believe that fertilisers are needed and sometimes the environmental issues have to be overlooked.

Because if fertilisers are used carefully and correctly they do not harm surrounding environment they only help improve nutrients in the soil, which are good for plant productivity. This is such, as good farm practice doesn’t allow any misuse of fertilisers. Firstly to do this farmers can set up mineral book keeping systems, this allows farmers to keep a check on the minerals, which are inputted into the soil, so no misuse. Systems like advanced advisory computer programmes have specially been set up to monitor fertiliser input and suggest good farming techniques so as not to harm the environment.

Also precision farming (involving satellite communication to help farm practices by offering detailed information for fertilisers and general practices) is used to help farming. Integrated crop management is another system, which strikes a balance between the environmental and economic effects of farming to ensure that maximum profit is gained without harming the environment. Plus soil management is becoming quite popular, which analyses the soils, so only the nutrients needed are added to the soil by fertilisers, this reduces any extra nutrients in the fertiliser, which could potentially harm the environment.

All these practices include fertilisers in growing crop by agriculture and are all very environmentally friendly which shows that equilibrium can be struck between the two. I think that in this situation where fertilizers are used correctly by good farm practices, then fertilisers are vital and do not harm the environment so can be used to produce healthy and high yield crops. But on the other hand when fertilisers are not used correctly then I think that the use do not outweigh the environmental aspects.

Firstly if too much fertiliser is added to the soil, leaching can occur. This is when like nutrients such as nitrates are not held correctly in the soil by being the wrong charge, and can easily be washed through the soil by rain infiltrating. This rain gathers the nutrients as it goes through; this carries the fertilisers into the local stream supplies and is potentially very hazardous for the wildlife around this area. This is because of when the nitrates or phosphates enter the water supply they immediately absorbed by plants (such as algae) to improve their growth.

This means that the algae population will suddenly massively increase, and coat the top of the water supply and use up much of the remaining oxygen in the water supply. This means that plants at the bottom die of lack of sunlight and animals can die through lack of oxygen, which has been used up by the algae. This ruins the ecosystem of the water supplies and the food chain around that area is dramatically effected because animals which used fish to feed off.

No longer have these animals as there food supply so in turn decreases amount of plant dwelling animals. This is called eutrophication, nitrates and phosphates polluting water supplies. This is a strongly negative reason why fertilisers should not be used in the environment, because they are very hazardous to surrounding wildlife. And when not used correctly like this the risks of using them are too high on the treat to the environment, so practices to monitor their content in the soil is vitally needed if they should be used.

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Kylie Garcia

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