Why use fertilizers

Fertilizers and Bio Inputs are essential to meet the global demand for food. In order for a plant to grow and thrive, it needs a number of different chemical elements. The most important are:

  • Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen - Available from air and water and therefore in plentiful supply Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (a.k.a. potash) –
  • The three macronutrients and the three elements you find in most packaged fertilizers Sulfur, calcium and magnesium –
  • Secondary nutrients Boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc – Micronutrients

The most important of these (the ones that are needed in the largest quantity by a plant) are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as they are necessary for these basic building blocks.
For example:

  • Every amino acid contains nitrogen.
  • Every molecule making up every cell's membrane contains phosphorous (the membrane molecules are called phospholipids), and so does every molecule of ATP (the main energy source of all cells).
  • Potassium makes up 1 percent to 2 percent of the weight of any plant and, as an ion in cells, is essential to metabolism.

In soil, the nutrients most likely to be limited are nitrogen and phosphorus. When soil nutrients cannot produce a good crop yield, additional nutrients must be added. Applying too little nutrient will limit yield. Applying too much does not make economic sense and can harm the environment. If any of the macronutrients are missing or hard to obtain from the soil plant growth rate will be hampered. In nature nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium often come from the decay of plants that have died. In the case of nitrogen the recycling of nitrogen from dead to living plants is often the only source of nitrogen in the soil.

To make plants grow faster, one must supply the elements that the plants need in readily available forms. That is the goal of a fertilizer. Most fertilizers supply just nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium because the other chemicals are needed in much lower quantities and are generally available in most soils. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium availability is the big limit to growth. Because we get everything we need from the plants we eat or from the meat of animals that ate plants, humans don't need fertilizers to grow. Plants are factories that do all of the work to process the basic elements of life and make them available to us. One must understand that any natural or manufactured material that contains a significant amount of one or more of the three primary nutrients - nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), or potassium (K) can be considered a fertilizer. Industrially manufactured fertilizers are sometimes referred to as "mineral" fertilizers.

Nitrogen N

Improves the growth and yield of crops

Nitrogen is the motor of plant growth. It is taken up from the soil in the form of nitrates or ammonium. As the essential constituent of proteins, nitrogen is involved in all the major processes of plant development and yield formation.

Phosphorus P (Phosphate)

Speeds up crop maturity and improves quality

Phosphorous performs a key role in the transfer of energy. It is essential for photosynthesis and other chemico-physiological processes. Phosphorous is indispensable for cell differentiation, as well as for the development of the tissues that form a plant's growing points. Most natural and agricultural soils are phosphorus deficient. When there are problems with phosphorous fixation, its availability is also limited.

Potassium K (often referred to as Potash)

Helps fight crop disease and improves quality

Potassium activates more than 60 enzymes, (the chemical substances that govern life and play a vital part in carbohydrate and protein synthesis). It improves a plant's water regime and increases tolerance to drought, frost and salinity. Plants that are well supplied with potassium are less affected by disease.

There are several sources of plant nutrients. The two most important are organic manure and mineral fertilizers. When manure and crop residues are used, mineral fertilizers are additionally required to supply the outstanding nutrient balance needed for good crop yields. In most parts of the world the deficit nutrition to be supplemented is fertilizer usage is substantial due to deficient soils.

Fertilizer production entails gathering raw material from nature, treating & purifying it to increase concentration, further converting it to plant usable forms ,combining one or more of them into products that provide an array of nutrients.

Plants need sun, water and nutrients to grow. The nutrients can be taken from air or soil. If there is ample supply of nutrients in the soil, crops are more likely to grow well and produce high yields. Even if one of the nutrients needed is in short supply plant growth is limited and crop yield reduced. Fertilizers are needed to obtain high yields because they supply crops with the nutrients the soil lacks. By adding fertilizers, crop yields can often be doubled or even tripled. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Fertilizer Programme undertook extensive demonstrations and trials in 40 countries over a period of 25 years. The weighted average increase resulting from the best fertilizer treatment for many crops has been significant. Fertilizers ensure the most effective use of both land and water. Where rainfall is low or crops are irrigated, the yield per unit of water used may be more than doubled and the rooting depth of the crop increased through fertilizer application.

Every plant nutrient, whether required in large or small amounts, has a specific role in plant growth and food production. Taking into consideration all the above factors , Effaa over the years has evolved the HSFS ( High Tech Integrated Farming Solution to address all aspects of crop productivity with its wide range of fertilizers and agro products.

Effaa's Nutrient Management Planning

Our Nutrient management planning is the fulcrum of Effaa's HSFS - a best management practice that aims to optimize crop yield and quality, minimize fertilizer input costs and protect soil and water. Our principles of this are simple and include:

  • Applying fertilizer only to make up the difference between what is there and what is required to achieve the target yield, which ensures cost-effectiveness for the producer
  • Ensuring that the added nutrient is available to the crop.

Effaa's Nutrient Balance Equation:

Nutritional Elements of the Soil + Added Nutritional Elements = Soil Nutrients Crop Requirement + Added Nutrients Excess Nutrient (should equal zero)

In a layman's language this translates to The Right Amount, The Right Product, In The Right Place, At The Right Time.

The Right Amount

The first step in determining the amount of fertilizer to add is to estimate how much is required for a target yield. A realistic yield goal takes account of climate, soil and management limitations. Remember that water is the limiting factor in most areas. Large fertilizer additions are wasted when a crop is short of water.

Good yield forecasting relies on understanding how crops respond to fertilizer under different conditions. A target yield should also be based on the projected selling price and a decision about the financial returns for each cost unit of fertilizer. As soil fertility increases beyond what is required, the amount of yield increase begins to decline. Economists refer to this as diminishing returns.

The next step is to determine nutrient levels in the field. This can only be done by soil testing. Our on site, easy to use soil testing kits provide this information. Test results are the best approximation of the level of nutrients that are available to plants before fertilizers are added. The right amount of fertilizer to be added is determined by the difference between the requirement for a target yield and the nutrients that are already in the field. This is the other service provided by our agro experts team. When fertilizing, it is important to keep equipment well-calibrated to ensure that the intended application rate is maintained.

The Right Product

Once the amount of nutrient to be added is established, the type of product has to be chosen. This is where Effaa fits in perfectly by offering the best selection of a variety of blends to choose from based on the balance of the nutrient requirement.

If our manure or organic fertilizers are used we offer tailor made solution to achieve the desired results. All our organic fertilizers are standardised in terms of nutrient content and their availability to crops is greatly enhanced by use of our Bio – Input range.

For nutrients to be available to plants, they must be transformed into inorganic forms in the soil. The rate at which this occurs varies greatly. The organic fraction remains in storage in the soil and is released in plant available forms over time. Our Agro Experts team help farmers plan their fertigation protocols in a very scientific manner.

The Right Place

Generally nutrient additions should be placed as close to the growing plant as possible without damaging the crop. The greater the distance between the plant and the fertilizer, the greater the chance that it will be lost before it can be taken up. Where nutrients should be placed is governed by many factors.

To make sure effective placement happens all our formulations of fertilizers and crop protection products are made in the most acceptable forms delivered to plants using appropriate irrigations systems to ensure that our growth promoter products reach the roots of a crop.

The Right Time

The right time to apply fertilizers is as close as possible to the time that plants need the nutrient. Loss of nutrients increases with time. Oue team guides all our HSFS clients with detailed application protocols.

Generally, crops require the greatest amounts of nutrients at the times of fastest growth and seed production. Some nutrients, if applied too early in the season, may be transported out of the root zone with runoff or infiltrating water prior to the time of peak demand. Our Post-seeding treatments and slow-release products offer some alternatives to traditional applications at the time of seeding.