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The use of fertilisers in farming

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Introduction

The use of fertilisers in farming Fertilisers are the largest item of discretionary expenditure in most arable farm budgets and have been used for centuries to maintain or improve soil fertility. How well the fertiliser pound is spent often has a large impact on farm profitability, which in a modern world is a very important factor. All plants require nutrients to survive, as do animals, so it is only natural that plants gather these nutrients from the ground via the roots, by active transport for movement of mineral ions (e.g. nitrate) against a concentration gradient or by osmosis for movement with the concentration gradient. In a natural environment, with no human intervention plants would usually be eaten by animals, most would die, decompose and return their nutrients to the ground. However, humans break the nutrient recycling chain by removing the entire crop and along with it all the nutrients that the plant had taken up from the soil, leaving it deprived of nutrients, so in order to re-use the same piece of land over and over again and still have an acceptable level of production the nutrients must be replaced. ...read more.

Middle

So if a farmer notices these characteristics he can act quickly and add nitrogen fertiliser to make sure the crop doesn't die. Phosphorus (P) is a critical component of nucleic acids, so it plays a vital role in plant reproduction, of which grain production is an important result. Considered essential to seed formation, this mineral is often found in large quantities in seed and fruit. Adequate phosphorus is characterized by improved crop quality, greater straw strength, increased root growth, and earlier crop maturity. Meaning the farmer should be able to gain an edge over competitors and get a higher price. Potassium (K) is not an integral part of any major plant component, but it does play a key role in a vast array of physiological processes vital for plant growth, from protein synthesis to maintenance of plant water balance. Reduced plant growth and reduced straw or stalk strength, reduced disease resistance, and reduced winter hardiness of perennial or winter annual crops are indicators of potassium deficiency. Potentially whole crops could be lost if one or more of the major nutrients are not available for the plant. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a factor that causes run-off of fertiliser containing nitrates, phosphates and ammonia that if washed into lakes or other water bodies can cause eutrophication. In most freshwater lakes the limiting nutrient is phosphorus, so an input of phosphorus in the form of phosphate ions (PO43-) results in an increase in biological activity- the plants are able to grow and reproduce faster which can cause plant blooms, (e.g. an algae bloom). There are many regulations being introduced that farms are required to follow as an attempt by the environmental agency as to reduce the occurrence of eutrophication. (Source's 2 & 3) Summery Although fertilisers can prove an invaluable tool for farmers they can also be a hindrance to the environment and ultimately farmers have to pay the price for clean up operations or fines if they are found to have broken regulations on how much fertiliser they are allowed to put onto their crops. Fertilisers are also very expensive and can also be expensive to spread on the crops, for example the cost of equipment needed may be extremely expensive, especially if an air dropping method is used, as the fertiliser is blown down wind and much falls away from the crops, resulting in wasted fertiliser which means wasted money. ...read more.

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