Countless generations of farmers have relied on natural sources to replenish the natural nutrients present in the soil. Growing plants must consume considerable quantities of essential elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium until harvest time. It could take years to replace these fully if left to natural processes alone. Traditionally, farmers ploughed animal manure and decaying vegetation into the soil, which, assisted by bacterial action, readied the ground for future plantings. However, for just over a century, chemical or conventional fertilizer has offered growers a faster and more efficient means to revitalise the soil.
There can be no doubt that adding manure and compost will help enrich and condition depleted soils. However, plants’ nutritional requirements vary markedly between species and at different stages in their life cycle. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the precise concentrations and relative proportions of the essential nutrients in these natural sources. Consequently, although helpful, these raw organic materials lack the precisely formulated composition necessary to guarantee optimal crop yields. Modern intensive farming practices would not be possible without the benefits of conventional fertilizer.
Concerns regarding the environmental impact of the chemical industry and its products have prompted a resurgence of traditional farming practices. However, while the demand for organically-grown vegetables remains relatively small, high yields are not essential, offering a niche market for smaller farms. That said, there have also been some changes in the methodology for producing synthetic plant nutrients. Initially, these manufactured products were created by the action of strong acids on inorganic compounds, often leading to widespread pollution. However, manufacturers are sourcing essential nutrients from natural organic sources to synthesise conventional fertilizer more recently.
The new approach offers benefits for both the farmer and the manufacturer. The former retains access to potent and precisely formulated products designed to promote either root or foliar growth or fruiting, as required. The latter can rest assured that their production methods comply with the increasingly stringent regulations governing air and water pollution. Sustainability has become the new holy grail for most industries, and agriculture is no exception. Sourcing and refining the primary, secondary and trace nutrients naturally present in animal and plant byproducts has seen sustainable conventional fertilizer become a reality.
One company in South Africa has established itself as a leader in the complex field of plant nutrition. Founded in 1919, Kynoch is known worldwide for its many groundbreaking innovations, vision and ongoing mission to uplift farming communities. In its ongoing efforts to promote more sustainable agriculture, the company has developed a wide range of standard and tailor-made eco-friendly products. These include specific biostimulants and conventional granular fertilizer.