What Are the Harmful Effects of Using Excessive Fertilizers?

Video Discussing the Harmful Effects of Using Excessive Fertilizer

What Are Fertilizers and Why Are They Beneficial?

Lisa Peterson, Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering and Expert Regarding the Harmful Effects of Using Excessive Fertilizer
Lisa Peterson is highly qualified to comment on the harmful effects of using excessive fertilizer. Lisa is a professional Sustainability, ISO 14001, and Continuous Process Improvement Consultant with a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering

Fertilizers are

  • concentrated nutrients that are in a form that makes it easy to add to the soil physically;
  • typically a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, commonly known as NPK; and
  • lastly, intended to influence plant growth for root strength and top growth positively. Top growth means things like
    • larger foliage;
    • a lusher, thicker, and greener yard; and
    • more flowers, fruit, and grain.

What Are the Harmful Effects of Using Excessive Fertilizer?

Too much fertilizer can

  • result in stunted growth and withering or death to the plants commonly known as leaf scorch;
  • decrease the organic matter in the soil leading to soil acidification;
  • deplete the soil of essential nutrients resulting in less vitamin and mineral content in food crops; and
  • lastly, release the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the air.

What Are the Harmful Effects of Misapplying Fertilizer?

If you apply fertilizer

  • to compacted soil,  the fertilizer will lay on top and run off with the next rainstorm; and
  • right before a rainstorm, the fertilizer will go with the water.

Either case results in nutrient surplus in the water. Those nutrients fuel algae growth, resulting in a Harmful Algal Bloom or HAB.

Harmful Algal Blooms

  • reduce oxygen in the water causing fish to die (known as a fish kill event);
  • can sicken people and their pets when contacting the water; and
  • lastly, stink and are unpleasant to look at.

Ways to Reduce the Harmful Effects of Fertilizer

Modern farming methods used to mitigate the impact of fertilizers on the environment include

  • designing custom applications based on the needs of that area of the field which assures
    • crops get just the right amount of fertilizer; and
    • in addition, that the farmer isn’t wasting money on excess fertilizer;
  • using buffer strips between fields and waterways to catch excess nutrients from fertilizer that might drain off the field.

Mindful Use of Fertilizer Begins in Your Backyard

In conclusion, take personal responsibility for using fertilizers. When fertilizing your backyard, consider how much you need to apply and when to apply it. If the fertilizer doesn’t stay where you applied it, you’re sending your money down the river and into the bay.

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