Four Risks of Using Fertiliser without Testing your Soil

Did you know that global fertiliser use is expected to surpass 200 million tonnes in 2018? Fertilisers are increasingly popular because they successfully support plant growth and increase the yield. But what are the dangers of overusing fertilisers? Did you know that too much fertilisation might cause “fertiliser burn”? Read below more about the negative effects of using fertiliser without knowing your soil’s nutrient needs.

1) No optimal yield due to under- or over-fertilisation

Soil testing before applying fertilisers is recommended in order to determine the soils status and nutrient need. Only then you know the exact type and quantity of fertiliser you need to use. If you apply fertiliser without knowing what your soil needs, you risk using too little fertiliser (under-fertilisation) and not achieving optimal yield. If you apply too much fertiliser (over-fertilisation) or apply it at the wrong time, there is a chance of “fertiliser burn” - scorching of plant foliage as a result of excess nitrogen salts. Injudicious use of fertilisers may result in crop damage and yield loss.

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2) Wasting money on fertiliser your soil does not need

If you do not know what nutrients are already present in your soil, you might use fertilisers that your soil is already abundant of. That is simply a waste of money. The excessive fertiliser will not improve your yield and might have a negative effect on the environment.

3) Wasting limited resources

Nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium present in inorganic fertilisers are limited resources. Phosphorus for example is mined from phosphate deposits that are unevenly distributed around the world. The term “peak phosphorus” is used to describe the point in time when we reach the maximum global production rate of phosphorus. According to researchers peak phosphorus will be reached in approximately 2030, whereas phosphorus reserves are expected to be depleted within the next 100 years. Therefore, we need to be more efficient in our usage of phosphor-based fertilisers nowadays in order to prevent shortage in the future.

4) Causing environmental damage due to over-fertilising

Soil testing provides a fertiliser recommendation and enables farmers to apply the right fertiliser and quantity that will be utilised by the plants. This minimises the chances of applying excessive amounts of fertilisers and the resulting environmental damage. For example, excessive nitrogen-rich fertilisers might runoff from the field into water bodies causing excess of nutrients in the water and a rapid growth of plant life – a process known as eutrophication – with detrimental effects for water quality.

What can farmers do to prevent this?

The popularity of fertilisers is increasing due to the need to feed the world’s growing population; however the dangers of overusing them are often overlooked. At SoilCares, we promote responsible fertiliser use and sustainable soil management. As discussed above, testing your soil and getting to know its nutrient needs before applying any fertilisation is the best way to avoid over-fertilising your soil and wasting your money on unnecessary soil enrichers.

Read more about the importance of soil testing and find a testing lab near you!

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