Organic VS Chemical


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In modern agriculture and horticulture both have their place, but do not rely solely on manufactured chemical fertilizers. Replenish your soil regularly with compost and other organic material that will break down over time. This will provide both nutrients to the plants and other benefits to the tilth and fertility of the soil. Depending on needs, conditions, and plants grown, many gardeners only use organic matter to amend their soil. However, sometimes a chemical or mineral supplement will be beneficial, particular if a nutrient deficiency is identified in the soil.
 
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I am vegetable gardener only. If I can't eat it I don't grow it. Vegetable gardening needs a good fertile long lasting soil, a soil that gets better every year, year after year. Having said that I can see no reason to ever use a chemical/synthetic fertilizer and I can give you a few reasons why. First of all, chemical fertilizers deplete the soil of soil microbes and organic matter. The longer it is used the worse the soil becomes. Chemical fertilizers only feed the plant and do nothing for the soil. Another reason is solubility. Chemical/synthetic fertilizers leach out of the soil very easily whereas organic fertilizers cling to the soil. Runoff is another major concern. High nitrogen chemical fertilizers are a MAJOR pollutant in water ways and the ocean. Anecdotally, chemically grown plants are more susceptible to insects and their damage. It is also very easy to damage a plant by using a little too much of chemical fertilizers. It is difficult to use too much organic fertilizers so damage is basically non-existent.
Ammonium nitrate, the N in NPK was first invented in the mid 1600's but was not connected to fertilizer until after WW1. At this time there were literally mountains of ammonium nitrate left over after the war which was to be used in explosives but since the war ended they had to find something to do with it all, thus high nitrate fertilizers were born. Then WW2 happened and even more was available. Plus it is cheap to produce.
Organic fertilizers have been around for centuries. These include fish and manures but commercially made organic fertilizers are fairly new. I believe the first commercially made certified organic fertilizer was produced in the 1980's. Then in the 1990's manufacturers began adding minerals and fungi to the product. Today a bag of most commercially made organic fertilizer contains most if not all of needed trace minerals plus beneficial fungi such as mycorrhizae. I know of no chemical/synthetic fertilizers that do this.
The only reason I can think of to use chemical fertilizers is that they work a little faster and they are a little cheaper but these are far outweighed by the literal benefits of certified organic fertilizers.
 
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Think in terms of them being Degenerative and Regenerative.
In a chemical fertilizer system Raw materials and energy are taken, made into fertilizer, used, and then lost. That is degenerative, deposits are mined and not replaced, energy is used and enters the ecosystem as heat to add to global warming.
In an organic fertilizer system organic matter is taken, made into compost, used, and creates more organic material making a regenerative system.
Of course it is not quite that simple, heat and carbon dioxide will be produced by composting, but you will not be exhausting deposits like guano deposits or using up energy resources fixating nitrogen.

Looked at in those terms an organic system is preferable for the general good of the planet, you are following the same sort of systems that nature has spent billions of years evolving and which support the delicately balanced systems of a living planet. Inorganic systems will put 'waste' into the environment that will result in breakdowns like algal blooms and global warming.

On another level all the other organisms which live in your soil, from bacteria to worms, will do better with organic fertilizers than chemical ones, some may even find the chemical solutions destructive, and they will all contribute something to the general health of your soil.

I don't know if you are growing flowers or foodstuff, but thinking what is entering your own body by using chemicals is worthwhile. Take for example the 'organic' use of iron to poison slugs as compared to the use of metaldahyde. Iron is relatively harmless to you, metaldahyde causes brain damage, and can be inhaled as dust when you sprinkle the product on your plants, they don't have to be edible plants.

I guess you can see which side of the argument I take, I don't even use the 'organic' slug killer, I edge the plot with boards which give the slugs a natural 'Home' and take them up and stomp on them every so often :)
 
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Plants don't care. Use what you want. Chemically fertilized plants are neither more nor less susceptible to diseases and insects. They do not poison the soil or change the structure appreciably. They don't deplete the soil of microbes and organic matter. They DON'T add any organic matter either, obviously. A combination of both would be the best; using compst to loosen soil and feed microbes and using synthetics to treat deficiencies, promote faster growth and increase productivity. Plants don't care. Use what you want.
 
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Plants don't care. Use what you want. Chemically fertilized plants are neither more nor less susceptible to diseases and insects. They do not poison the soil or change the structure appreciably. They don't deplete the soil of microbes and organic matter. They DON'T add any organic matter either, obviously. A combination of both would be the best; using compst to loosen soil and feed microbes and using synthetics to treat deficiencies, promote faster growth and increase productivity. Plants don't care. Use what you want.
Perhaps you should read this:
If you need more:

And there is a lot more on this subject if you care to research it. The ONLY reason commercial agriculture uses chemical fertilizers is, as of now, it is cheaper than organic fertilizers. jBut do the farmers actually save money by using chemical fertilizers. It is debatable because the cost of pesticides may out weigh the costs of cheap fertilizers.
Have you ever heard of worn out soil/farms? A direct result of chemical fertilizers. The same thing will happen to any soil when the soil microbes are depleted. Compost is great but without microbes to break it down it is not nearly as effective.
 
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Sorry to wind up the granolas.:sneaky: As Marck stated in his post, it's best to use both, organics for soil structure and synthetics as a 'booster'. Synthetic fertilizers do not, in and of themselves, wear out soils and decrease organic matter. That is mostly due to complete removal of organic matter in harvesting without replacing it afterwards. If you keep subtracting you end up with less. Phosphate and nitrate pollution in lakes is due to large-scale farming and any input from homeowners is insignificant, to say the least. So Chuck and Oliver, we're ALL correct.
 
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I agree that plants don't care if they're receiving natural or synthetic nutrients; however, the environment does suffer from overuse of synthetic amendments. Synthetic amendments destroys the symbiotic relationships between the plants and the soil biome. Furthermore, plants lose its nutrient density when fed synthetic nutrients, because of this fracture in the symbiotic relationship.

Just look at the first 5-minutes of this video, which shows how the soils are suffering from use of synthetics. Dustbowl events are not a thing of the past -- look at the pictures

 
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I agree that plants don't care if they're receiving natural or synthetic nutrients; however, the environment does suffer from overuse of synthetic amendments. Synthetic amendments destroys the symbiotic relationships between the plants and the soil biome. Furthermore, plants lose its nutrient density when fed synthetic nutrients, because of this fracture in the symbiotic relationship.

Just look at the first 5-minutes of this video, which shows how the soils are suffering from use of synthetics. Dustbowl events are not a thing of the past -- look at the pictures

I haven't had the time to watch the entire video so I don't know if he mentioned this or not but the one thing that synthetic fertilizers always leave behind after their use are mineral salts. These salts do not go away and they build up in the soil over time. They stay in the soil and this is the reason for worn out soil. Nothing will grow there and thus the need for a larger volume of synthetic fertilizer to maintain high levels of production. And as we all know, or should know, is that plants do not grow in salt.
 
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To a chemist "salt" is the dehydrated form of an acid. To blame "mineral salts" for poor soil conditions is simplistic and demagogic. These salts can be any of the necessary elements for plant growth. What is most important to determine is WHICH elemental salt is present that impedes proper plant growth. They are present in unfertilized soils as well as fertilized soils. This is where soil testing is key to determining where the problem lies.
The most frequently applied nutrient in production agriculture is the most soluble one, nitrogen. It is not one of those "mineral salts" that are "built up" in fertilized soils.
I agree that organic matter is important for soil health, but the lack of it in production agriculture is not due to the use of synthetic fertilizers. It is due to the removal and non-replacement of said organic matter. This is more of a problem for intensive mechanized agriculture than less intensive home gardening. Comparing the effects of incredibly small-scale home gardening to those of large-scale mechanized farming is unfair and not equivalent. As long as you add organic matter on a regular basis there should be no problem.
 
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Meadowlark

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... To blame "mineral salts" for poor soil conditions is simplistic and demagogic. ...
I'm not aware of any definition of the word "demagogic" that is applicable here. As for "simplistic", it seems to me that its use in this context is intended as a pejorative term.

Of salt, you previously asserted
Salt in a garden is generally a horrible idea.
 
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Poor choice of words, my bad. To blame "mineral salts" without indicating which ones are the problem is simplifying a fairly complex system. Are they phosphorus salts? Magnesium? Potassium? Sodium? Each one causes different problems and has a different solution. But yes, adding organic matter can be one step in changing soil chemistry and structure. It's just that stating that only organic techniques will solve the problem is a rather narrow point of view. A better approach is a combination of tactics.

The salt we were speaking of before was sodium chloride - table salt- specifically and I still maintain it's not a good thing in a garden. Neither sodium or chlorine is a frequently deficient element in soil.
 
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I am glad I took chemistry in college. Chemically there is no difference from organic NPK or manufactured NPK. If you remove 36 lbs of filler from a 40 lb bag of 2% organic fertilizer you get a 4 lb bag of 20% fertilizer concentrated like factory made fertilizer. Factory make 20% NPK is 10 times stronger than organic 2% NPK.
 
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I am glad I took chemistry in college. Chemically there is no difference from organic NPK or manufactured NPK. If you remove 36 lbs of filler from a 40 lb bag of 2% organic fertilizer you get a 4 lb bag of 20% fertilizer concentrated like factory made fertilizer. Factory make 20% NPK is 10 times stronger than organic 2% NPK.
Yes, but the 'filler' is pretty important too. I am collecting leaves to make leaf mold at this time of year, which is probably pretty poor nutritionally, but will retain water on the one hand and allow excess water to drain rapidly on the other. Run off from chemically fertilized fields around here is the colour of the clay, farmers are losing soil at an alarming rate, that 'filler' helps retain it.
Also the 4lb bag of fertilizer will not truly be like factory made fertilizer, what comes out of the factory will be relatively pure, what could be extracted from organic matter will be 'polluted' with all sorts of trace elements, unless your extraction process leaves them behind in the 'filler' or filters them out. Some might not be beneficial, but most will be if they originate from organic matter.
Also note what I said in my post above about degenerative and regenerative processes.
Admittedly the effects from my small garden are tiny compared to a hundred acre farm, but there are an awful lot of small gardens and only so many large farms.
 
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Yes, but the 'filler' is pretty important too. I am collecting leaves to make leaf mold at this time of year, which is probably pretty poor nutritionally, but will retain water on the one hand and allow excess water to drain rapidly on the other. Run off from chemically fertilized fields around here is the colour of the clay, farmers are losing soil at an alarming rate, that 'filler' helps retain it.
Also the 4lb bag of fertilizer will not truly be like factory made fertilizer, what comes out of the factory will be relatively pure, what could be extracted from organic matter will be 'polluted' with all sorts of trace elements, unless your extraction process leaves them behind in the 'filler' or filters them out. Some might not be beneficial, but most will be if they originate from organic matter.
Also note what I said in my post above about degenerative and regenerative processes.
Admittedly the effects from my small garden are tiny compared to a hundred acre farm, but there are an awful lot of small gardens and only so many large farms.

About 25 years ago I raked Oct damp tree leaves and filled about 10 large 30 gallon trash bags. I put them in the garage and saved them for summer. I was going to till them into the garden soil about May 15 but when I opened bags 7 months later leaves had turned to potting soil. WOW I never expected that but it was just what I wanted. Compose makes nice soil when tilled into the garden soil, soft soil makes sweet bell peppers grow very large.
 
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Like I've said before, I agree plants don't care where they get their nutrients from, but the eco-system does care. Furthermore, I do believe that plants grown in healthy soil are far more nutritious than plants fed nutrients by us humans. Humans don't fertilize the redwood forests, yet the grow to enormous proportions.

Here's another example of someone that practices regenerative gardening, not organic gardening, which I'm not a fan of....

BTW, I'm not trying to convert anyone, but this is the way I do things and I've had much success. My real motivation is to do things that actually improve the environment, especially water quality.

 

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The difference, in my experience and verified by soil testing, is the extra added nutrients that are so critical to plant growth that you get from the consistent application of non-synthetic fertilizers.

I rely on alfalfa and field peas for 95% of my fertilizer needs. The side benefits of rotation and weed control and soil conditioning can not be overstated.

You can argue 'till the cows come home, but you will never convince me that synthetic fertilizers provide those benefits. They just don't.

Here is my next spring's garden area currently smothered by a thick alfalfa cover over 12 inches deep.

I'll run another soil test next spring and I fully expect continued 200% plus improvement in soil nutrients.

alalfa christmas 2021.JPG
 

Meadowlark

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Can you consistently grow cabbage this large and tasty in garden soil that has been planted for 40 plus consecutive years? (note the alfalfa in the background).

If you can and have, please post up pictures.

I will say "I can't" and wouldn't be gardening here in this same space without using natural fertilizers and soil conditioners.

cabbage 2021.JPG



Same question for cauliflower? I could post many, many pictures asking the same question...always with the same answer..." I can't"

cauli 21.JPG
 
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I only started gardening this year. I have been doing some extensive peer reviewed research on what soil health means and why it is so important. Admittedly, it took me a while to comprehend the basic principles of it.

I have a question relating to indoor plants. How important is soil health when it comes to indoor plants. For example I have an indoor potted orchid and A rubber fig plant. The orchid is Potted in a mixed growing medium including bark, Peat Moss, sphagnum moss and perlite. The rubber plant is grown in mostly Peat Moss and perlite I believe. Most indoor plant guides says to apply a “balanced” synthetic fertiliser every now and then. I understand If we were to garden outdoors, we should be feeding the soil with organics and compost which in turn will feed the plant with the nutrients it needs.

Can the same concept apply to indoor pot plants? For plants like the orchid which are quite picky in terms of growing medium will adding organic fertiliser or compost be a detriment to its growth? should the concept of soil health to indoor pot plants too?
 

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