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What is Fertilizer? – Example, Definition, Types, and Uses

Last Updated : 21 Feb, 2024
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Fertilizers are chemicals that are applied to soil or to plants to supply essential plant nutrients. The fertilizers contain nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, all of which are essential nutrients for plants. There are two types of fertilizers: Organic fertilizer is derived from plants and animals and Inorganic fertilizer is derived from chemicals and minerals.

Fertilizers enhance soil fertility, promote plant growth, and increase agricultural productivity. Biofertilizers are substances that contain living microbes that help promote the growth of plants by increasing the supply or availability of primary nutrients to the plant. In this article, we will study the use of fertilizers in agriculture, their types, and biofertilizers in detail.

What are Fertilizers?

Fertilizers are a substance added to the soil, which directly increases the productivity of the crop by supplying nutrients to the plant. Fertilizer sources can be both natural and man-made. These are essential for the growth and development of the plant. Their use increases the crop yield, improves water retention and increases the fertility of the soil, thereby fertilizers on plants enhances the growth.

The three main macronutrients (NPK) present in the fertilizer are:

  1. Nitrogen (N): Promotes the growth of leaf and plant.
  2. Phosphorus (P): Helps in the development of roots, flowers, seeds, fruit.
  3. Potassium (K): Improves the stem growth, and promote flowering and development of fruit.

Three secondary macronutrients present in the fertilizer are: Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S). Other micronutrients present are: Copper (Cu), Manganese (Mn), Iron(Fe), Molybdenum (Mo), Zinc (Zn), and boron (B).

Fertilizers Examples

The various examples of fertilizers are:

  • Nitrogen-based fertilizers – Fertilisers like urea, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium sulfate provide essential nutrients for plant growth.
  • Phosphorus fertilizers – Superphosphate and triple superphosphate fertilisers supply phosphorus for root development and flower formation.
  • Potassium fertilizers – Potassium chloride and potassium sulfate enhance plant resilience to stress and improve fruit quality.
  • Organic fertilizers – Compost and manure enrich soil with organic matter and micronutrients promote soil health and fertility.

Types of Fertilizers Used in Agriculture

Depending on the source from which it is produced, the types of fertilizers used in agriculture are classified into two types:

  • Inorganic Fertilizers
  • Organic Fertilizers

Inorganic Fertilizers

Inorganic fertilizers are chemical fertilizers that contain nutritional ingredients for crop growth and are produced by chemical processes. They contain concentrated form of fertilizer that provides readily source of nutrients to the crop. Inorganic fertilizers includes the following:

Nitrogen Fertilizers

Nitrogen fertilizers are made up of nitrogen as the primary ingredient, which is necessary for agricultural growth. It comprises calcium, ammonium sulfate, sodium nitrate, urea, etc.  Nitrogen is an important component of chlorophyll that helps to keep the photosynthesis process balanced.

Fertilizers high in nitrogen such as ammonium, nitrate, or urea, are commonly used to enhance crop yield and promote vegetative development. They boost agricultural productivity and quality which helps plants to grow fast and healthy. But if used in large quantity nitrogen may prove harmful to the crop for it may increase resistance to disease, and it may lower its quality. 

Phosphorus Fertilizer

In phosphorous fertilizer, phosphorous is the primary ingredient. Phosphorus fertilizers are manufactured from rock phosphat. phosphate is treated with sulfuric acid to yield monocalcium phosphate monohydrate and is known as superphosphate. About 85–90% of phosphate in superphosphate is water soluble. 

Phosphorus present in the soil enters the cell cytoplasm through roots and help in the growth and proliferation of cell. It promotes root development, flowering, and development of fruit in plants. It is applied to the soil in various forms, such as phosphate rock or superphosphate, to enhance crop productivity.

Organic Fertilizers 

Organic fertilizers are those derived from plant and animal products. It adds carbonic chemicals to the soil, which are necessary for plant growth.

Organic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizer can be obtained from agriculture waste, livestock waste and industrial waste. Organic fertilizers improve soil organic matter content, boost microorganism growth, and alter soil’s physical and chemical properties. Examples of organic fertilizer are compost, manure, and bone meal. As compared to inorganic fertilizers it provides a slow release of nutrients to the plant. It contributes to long-term health of the soil.

Advantages of Fertilizers

The advantage of fertilizer are as follows:

  • Fertilizers provide essential nutrients and promote plant growth and increases the crop yield.
  • It provides balanced nutrient to the soil.
  • They are simple to apply, store and transport.
  • Fertilizers protect against the pest.
  • Fertilizers ensures efficient absorption and utilization as it directly provides nutrient to the plant.
  • It reduces soil erosion.
  • Ensures the livelihood of Farmers.
  • They have a direct effect on the crops.

Disadvantages of Fertilizers

The disadvantages of fertilizers are as follows:

  • They are expensive, and the fertilizer ingredients are toxic to the skin and respiratory system.
  • Fertilizers can cause Soil Pollution.
  • Fertilizers use may lead to soil acidification, nutrient imbalances, and reduced microbial activity.
  • The fertilizers leak into the streams and cause eutrophication.
  • Long-term use cause pH fluctuations in the soil.
  • Crops that use excessive fertilizers can enter our food chain.

Uses of Fertilizers

Uses of fertilizers are as follows:

  • They are used to complement the nutritional needs of the plants.
  • They are used to boost crop yield.
  • Organic fertilizers improve the texture and fertility of the soil.
  • Fertilizers are used by gardeners to meet specific plant needs, such as nutritional requirements.
  • Fertilizers are used to add nutrients to the soil that have been lost in potted plants.

Importance of Fertilizers in Agriculture

Soil pollution or excessive usage of soil decreases the crucial nutrients and elements from the soil, which declines the productivity of the soil. Because the increasing population and the need for food requirements are increasing day by day it is very essential that the productivity of the soil stays above the arc. Fertilizers play a very significant role in the below-mentioned ways:

  1. Fertilizers have essential nutrients like nitrogen which is essential for the formation of chlorophyll. Nitrogen also helps in the growth of the plant.
  2. Phosphorus strengthens the plant and helps in root growth and seed formation.
  3. Fertilizers containing potassium help in the regulation of stomata.
  4. It improves the water-holding capacity of plants.
  5. It helps in resisting plants from pests and insects. Because of that plants grow properly and healthier. 

What is Biofertilizer?

Biofertilizers are natural fertilizers containing living microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, or algae, that enhance soil fertility and plant nutrient absorption. Features of the biofertilizers include:

  • They provide crucial nutrients to the soil which help in the growth of plants.
  • They help to increase the fertility of the soil.
  • They fix atmospheric nitrogen, and make it available to plants.
  • It reduces reliance on chemical fertilizers.
  • It ensures sustainable agriculture.
  • Biofertilizers are symbiotically associated with the plant and the interaction is (+,+).
  • Their application enhances crop yield, quality, and resistance to diseases.
  • Examples: Azotobacter, Rhizobium, blue-green algae.

Conclusion – Fertilizers

In conclusion, fertilizers, whether organic or inorganic, supply essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to plants, enhancing soil fertility and boosting crop yield. While fertilizers offer benefits such as increased agricultural productivity, they also have harmful effects like soil pollution and nutrient imbalances. Biofertilizers, containing living microorganisms, provide a natural and sustainable alternative, improving soil fertility and promoting healthier plant growth.

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FAQs on Fertilizers

What is Fertiliser?

Fertilizer is a natural or industrially produced substance that is applied to the soil or plant tissue to supply plant nutrients. It promote plant growth and increase crop yield.

What are the Different Types of Fertilizers?

Fertilizers are of two types: Organic Fertilizer derived from organic decomposition of plants and animals, for example Agricultural, Industrial Waste and Inorganic Fertilizer derived from chemical process, for example Nitrogen and Phosphorous Fertilizer.

What are the Main Components of Fertilisers?

The main component of fertilizers are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Other nutrient present in the soil are Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur.

What are the Drawbacks of Using Fertilisers?

Fertilizers use can cause various types of pollution like soil and water pollution. It may lead to soil acidification, nutrient imbalances, and reduced microbial activity.

What is the Significance of 10-10-10 in Fertilisers?

10-10-10 in Fertilisers indicates a balanced fertilizer with equal proportions of the essential nutrients. It shows the percentage by weight of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

What are Natural Fertilisers?

Natural fertilizers, like compost and manure, are derived from organic sources such as plants and animals, providing essential nutrients to the soil and promoting healthy plant growth in an eco-friendly way.

What is a Balanced Fertilizer?

A balanced fertilizer contains a mix of essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in proportions suitable for overall plant growth and development, ensuring optimal soil fertility and crop yield.

What are the 2 Main Types of Fertilizers?

The two main types of fertilizers are organic fertilizers, derived from natural sources like plants and animals, and inorganic fertilizers, manufactured from chemicals and minerals.

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