Organic vs Inorganic Fertilizers

This Article deals with one of the most fundamental question every gardener asks, What is the difference between Organic and inorganic fertilizers, in general let us try to answer Organic vs inorganic fertilizers.

Table of contents for Organic vs Inorganic Fertilizers

  1. Organic Fertilizers
    1. Advantages of Organic Fertilizers
    2. Disadvantages of Organic fertilizers
  2. Inorganic Fertilizers
    1. Advantages of Inorganic fertilizers
    2. Disadvantages of Inorganic fertilizers
  3. Making a choice for Organic vs Inorganic fertilizers
  4. Further reading

Organic or Natural Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers consist of material that has been minimally processed rather than being extracted and refined so that the materials can retain their natural forms. Organic or natural fertilizers are typically made of plants, animal waste, and minerals. These can be purchased or made by yourself as they don’t require any special equipment.

Organic fertilizer sources include Animal waste, Slaughter house waste, plant residue, agriculture residue, natural minerals, salts (natural like MgSO4, FeSO4, CuSO4, Potassium Sulphate, MnSO4 etc. but not the synthetic salts), Fossilized remains (peat).

Organic Fertilizers may sometime include Bio-solids, Sewage Sludge etc, Human excreta is not allowed as an organic fertilizer. There are certain agricultural residues that are sometimes not allowed in Organic agriculture for example Tobacco processing waste is sometimes not allowed.

Advantages of Organic Fertilizers

  1. Improves the structure of your soil which will lead to gardens over time.
  2. Organic fertilizers naturally contain all the plant nutrients, be it Primary, secondary or micro nutrients. Although percentage constituents may change from material to material.
  3. Organic fertilizers are by nature slow release type, i.e the nutrients are released to plant over time as the fertilizer breaks-down or decomposes or is digested by soil microbes and organisms. This results in more value for money as the nutrients do not get wasted with water.
  4. Organic fertilizers when used overtime also help soil retain more water, hence can be extremely helpful in mitigating drought conditions.
  5. Organic fertilizers help conserve the soil micro-environment thereby ensures that soil becomes more fertile as it supports beneficial microbes and organisms .
  6. Organic crops tend to be more nutrient dense and are more flavorful due to the nutrients they are pulling from healthy soil that hasn’t been depleted of minerals and nutrients.
  7. You won’t have to deal with a toxic buildup of chemicals in your plants because the organic material will fully decompose.
  8. Since they are the ultimate slow-release fertilizers, it’s very difficult to over fertilize (and harm) your plants.
  9. Gardens where organic fertilizers are used, plants show less nutrient deficiency symptoms.

Disadvantages of Organic fertilizers

  1. Nutrients are not immediately available to plants because they need time to break down. You may have a period of time where the plants struggle before the fertilizer starts working its magic.
  2. They can typically be more expensive and less available than inorganic options.
  3. Although Ecotika mentions designed N-P-K and Ca-Mg-S ratios on all its fertilizers, the final amount of nutrients going into your soil can only be a guess as there are many factors to consider such as the age of the raw material, where it came from, condition of soil and weather conditions.

Chemical or Inorganic Fertilizers

Chemical, or inorganic fertilizers are widely available and are used more commonly than their organic counterpart. Manufacturers of chemical fertilizers refine materials in order to extract nutrients before combining with chemical fillers. Common ingredients used are petroleum products and rocks, but organic sources are also used in many cases. While these fertilizers may use organic product, they are not considered organic because the materials are stripped down to their pure state and stripped of substances that control their availability and breakdown, which rarely occurs in nature .

Advantages of Chemical or Inorganic fertilizers.

  1. Unlike organic fertilizers, nutrients are available to the plants right away because the materials have been stripped down. You can see improvement within days.
  2. They are an affordable and widely accessible option.
  3. Because of the process used to make the fertilizer, you will know the exact ratio of nutrients you are giving your lawn and garden.

Disadvantages of Inorganic fertilizers

  1. Chemical fertilizers are primarily made from nonrenewable sources, including fossil fuels.
  2. They grow plants but do nothing to sustain the soil. The fillers do not promote life or soil health, and even packages labeled “complete” do not include the decaying matter necessary to improve soil structure. In fact, chemical fertilizers don’t replace many trace elements that are gradually depleted by repeated crop plantings, resulting in long-term damage to the soil.
  3. Because the nutrients are readily available, there is a danger of over fertilization. This not only can kill plants but upset the entire ecosystem.
  4. Chemical fertilizers tend to leach, or filter away from the plants, requiring additional applications.
  5. Repeated applications may result in a toxic buildup of chemicals such as arsenic, cadmium, and uranium in the soil. These toxic chemicals can eventually make their way into your fruits and vegetables.
  6. Long-term use of chemical fertilizer can change the soil pH, upset beneficial microbial ecosystems, increase pests, and even contribute to the release of greenhouse gases.
  7. Chemical fertilizers can deplete the nutrients and minerals that are naturally found in fertile soils which leads to food that will be less flavorful and nutrient dense.
  8. The chemicals in the fertilizer can potentially damage the root of your plants.
  9. Chemical fertilizers do not give you the value for money, as the nutrients get washed away with water and than pollute the water bodies.

Organic Vs Inorganic Fertilizers

This brings us back to our fundamental question, In my view it will help if we change our attitude (my favorite part) and compare fertilizers to food. All of us eat a balanced and natural food in our daily diet and do not prefer capsules as an alternative to natural food. Similarly Organic fertilizers can be compared with our natural diet and chemical fertilizers as capsules :-), at times we do have to resort to supplement capsules when our bodies suffer from deficiency of a nutrient, but it in conjunction with Natural diet. I conclude with, it is recommended to feed your plants ( actually soil) with Organic fertilizers and use of Chemical fertilizers should be the last resort limited to only cure the deficiency symptom. Hence the answer for Organic Vs Inorganic fertilizers.

Further Reading