Common Types of Chemical Fertilizer and How to Use Them

Animals need food to survive. Just like animals, plants also need food to survive. Animals survive on other animals or plants. However, plants make their own food. Plants use nutrients from the soil, water, and sunlight to make their own food. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are three major nutrients for the plants, which is generally referred to as NPK, where N stands for nitrogen, P for phosphorus, and K for potassium. Apart from NPK, plants also need a little amount of calcium, zinc, copper, carbon, sulfur, hydrogen, oxygen, boron, magnesium, etc.

Nutrients are available in the soil. The plant takes the nutrients available in the soil. Well, plants also take nutrients from the atmosphere, however, the plant is more dependent on soil for nutrients. Nutrients are produced in the soil by various microbes and during the decomposing of organic matter. Nutrients, water, and sunlight requirement for plants differ according to species. However, when the soil does not have enough nutrients the plants do not grow well. In the situation, you will have to feed your plants with compost, organic fertilizer, or chemical fertilizers.

Chemical Fertilizers for Plants

Discussion about whether it is ok to use chemical fertilizers or not can go long, however, the basic truth is when you do not have sufficient organic fertilizer, the only viable option is to use chemical fertilizer to increase your yield. Therefore, chemical fertilizers are very important substances that you can feed on your plants to improve nutrient supply in the soil thus making the soil fertile and you have a better harvest.

Soil is just a medium to grow, plats actually grow on the nutrients available in the soil. When soil cannot provide sufficient nutrients, plants do not grow healthy. Soil contains Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorous, Iron, calcium, etc. necessary for the plants to grow and bear flowers and fruits. These nutrients are either present in the natural state or produced by the microbes. Nevertheless, sometimes these plant nutrients are just absent or not in enough supply. Thus, when the soil has low fertility, fertilizers are introduced as a supplement to enrich the soil with necessary nutrients.

As mentioned above, the three major nutrients for plants are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, or NPK in short. Therefore, most of the popular chemical fertilizers are categorized as Nitrogenous fertilizers (fertilizer with rich nitrogen content), Phosphatic fertilizers (fertilizer with rich phosphorus content), and Potassic fertilizers (fertilizers rich with potassium). Examples of nitrogenous fertilizers are Urea, Anhydrous Ammonia, and Ammonium nitrate solutions. Some of the popular phosphatic fertilizers are ammonium phosphate and Super Phosphates. And the examples of Potassium based fertilizers are Potassium Chloride and Potassium Nitrate.

Nitrogenous Fertilizers

Urea: Urea has 46 percent nitrogen, it is one of the primary sources of nitrogen for plants. It is water-soluble and comes in granules form. Urea is either directly applied to the soil during the soil preparation or feed to the plants during the growing stage. When urea is applied to the soil, water molecules in the soil interact with urea to form ammonia, the plants get nitrogen from this ammonia. The composition of urea includes one-part carbon, four-part hydrogen, two-part nitrogen, and one part oxygen. Urea helps in developing shoots, foliage, and flowers.

Anhydrous ammonia: Anhydrous ammonia is pure ammonia without any water content, therefore, it is available in gas or liquid state. Anhydrous ammonia is used to make nitrogen-based fertilizer. Nitrogen content in Anhydrous ammonia is just about 82 percent. Anhydrous ammonia is directly applied to the soil.

Ammonium Nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is a compound formed from ammonia and nitric acid. It is used in commercial fertilizer as well as explosives. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer contains 33 percent nitrogen. Just like urea, Ammonium nitrate is also in granule form and directly applied to the soil while preparing the soil or topped during the growing period.

Phosphatic Fertilizers

Ammonium Phosphate: Ammonium Phosphate supplies nitrogen in small quantities and phosphorus in high quantity. There are three major variations of Ammonium Phosphate i.e. Ammonium polyphosphate, Monoammonium phosphate, and Diammonium phosphate. However, the most common Ammonium Phosphate fertilizer is Diammonium phosphate or DAP in short. This fertilizer improves yield in plants by developing flowers and fruits. The ratio of nitrogen and phosphorus in Monoammonium phosphate is 12:52, the ratio of nitrogen and phosphorus in Diammonium phosphate is 18:46, and the ratio of nitrogen and phosphorus in Ammonium polyphosphate is 11:3.

Super Phosphates: There are three major variations of this fertilizer Single Super Phosphate (SSP), Double Super Phosphate (DSP), and Triple Super Phosphate (TSP). This fertilizer is used for root development. Super Phosphate is good for plants like potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, etc. Super phosphates are applied to the soil while preparing the soil or during the growing stage. A common way to use super phosphatic fertilizer is by mixing it with urea or ammonium phosphate.

Potassic Fertilizers

Potassium Nitrate: Potassium Nitrate consists of 13.7 percent nitrogen and 46 percent potassium. This fertilizer is good for leafy plants like kale, spinach, and well as fruit-bearing plants like tomatoes, cucumber. Potassium Nitrate can be directly added to the soil while preparing the soil or during the growing period, or also used as a liquid fertilizer and sprayed on the soil or foliage and fruits.

Potassium Chloride: Also called Muriate of Potash (MOP), Potassium Chloride is common potassium-based fertilizer. Potassium fertilizers are commonly called potash and contain up to 62 percent potassium.

Is it Good to Use Chemical Fertilizers

Generally speaking, Chemical fertilizers are not a good choice for plants because the traces of toxins are present on the produce, which create health complications. However, chemical fertilizers also improve soil fertility, thus, giving a high yield. Chemical fertilizer is the answer to ending the world’s hunger as they help in the production of more food. Nevertheless, there are a couple of things you should remember while using chemical fertilizer. You should always use the right kind of fertilizer in the right amount. Plants have different requirements of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as other nutrients like copper, boron, zinc. etc. You need to remember, over-fertilizing is as bad as under fertilizing.

15 thoughts on “Common Types of Chemical Fertilizer and How to Use Them

  1. I am a hobbyist gardener, however, I am not a fan of using chemical fertlizer for my plants. In fact I have never used chemical fertilizer in my garden. I like to make my own compost and use in my garden. If you try, you can easily fulfil entire requirements of fertlizer by making compost from your kitchen waste

  2. I am not into gardening yet, however, in recent times I have been contemplating starting terrace gardening. Even though I plan to do organic gardening, I might also have to use chemical fertilizer. I might have to reuse the information provided in this article.

  3. My gardening experience is limited to growing a handful of flowers in vases. I use my kitchen waste, especially used tea bags and coffee grounds as fertilizer for my plants. This is a good guide and if I ever plan to grow too many plants, I will have to consider using chemical fertilizer.

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