10 Things I Didn't Know About Nitrogen Fertilizer

24 thoughts on “10 Things I Didn't Know About Nitrogen Fertilizer”

  1. Thanks for the link to the BBC programme. I haven’t watched it yet but look forward to doing so when I have a spare half hour. Environmental history of nitrogen fixation must be very interesting and something that is not covered in much depth – going to ask my environmental history tutor about this.

  2. The nitrate story may have another angle too. I believe dietary nitrate, as well as being responsible for blue baby syndrome, can also be converted to nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. So 110 million tons a year sounds like a bad plan!

  3. I learned a lot about nitrogen fertilizers from the book Fatal Harvest. I did not know that fertilizer companies use industrial waste to produce fertilizers so while yes, there is nitrogen, there are also heavy metals and who knows what – they aren’t required to disclose all the other stuff, just the elements.

    Just like nutritionism, we rely too much on the individual nutrients and don’t really understand the system.

    If I remember correctly, synthetic fertilizers kill off the nitrogen fixing bacteria rendering soil tests misleading. Organic soil may test lower than recommended for nitrogen yet perform much better anyway because of the healthy attributes of the bacteria.

    Synthetically fertilized soils do not have the bacteria and also lose their ability to retain water over time. Healthy soil holds water like a sponge thereby not being as parched by drought.

    I’ve read on conventional farmer’s message boards concern about the general population learning about synthetic fertilizers making it difficult and/or expensive to obtain soon.

    Too many issues…

    1. Oh that is fascinating about synthetic fertilizer killing off nitrogen fixing bacteria! Isn’t it funny that the more research and technology we have available in agriculture, the less the majority of farmers seem to understand (or care for, or act in accordance with) the natural processes? I’ve been reading a selection of Wendell Berry’s works and he already advocated for the sustainability and profitability of farmers that stick to a natural production process in the 70s and 80s. But so little people listened to what he had to say..

      1. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if it’s the fertilizer or the pesticides, or the combo of all that strips the soil, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. One always follows the other… It’s been a while since I read Fatal Harvest – time to revisit.

    1. When I read it, it was like ‘The Circle of Life’ started playing in my head or something. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘we are what we eat’…

  4. Reblogged this on Natural Living Mamma and commented:
    This is an awesome post about nitrogen and how it naturally occurs in soil. We plan on planting a lot of legumes this year, not because we eat a lot of them, but because they fix nitrogen in the soil. I am loving this explanation by Food Policy For Thought.

  5. I reblogged this on my blog. Thank you for this great information! We planted a lot of legumes for the nitrogen fixing properties but I am so happy to get some easy to read information about how it all works.

    1. Thanks for reblogging! Yeah it’s fascinating although once you get into the whole nitrogen cycle it gets very complex all of a sudden and it’s all the more surprising that it just all ends up working… nature is ingenious!

  6. I recently read an article (“Our Fertilized World”) in the May issue of National Geographic on agriculture via commercial (nitrogen) fertilizer and some case studies comparing Africa v China. I’m sure you’ve come across the majority points on the nitrogen fertilizer issue but it was still an interesting read! Thought I would pass it on!

  7. This is a great post Janina. Except I disagree with your last sentence. I don’t think the process (fixing organic nitrogen through crop rotations etc.) ‘has been shown’ to be equally profitable’. Mainly I just object to using the phrase ‘equally profitable’ because I think it’s a bit misleading.


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