Growers using industrial farming practices have long relied upon chemical fertilizers as a way to maximize crop yield, but there are side-effects that do long term damage to the soil. Through the use of synthetic fertilizers and other practices, the percent of organic matter found in soil has dwindled to a meager 1%. What does that mean for growers? Nothing good. Here are two of the major threats to soil health posed by chemical fertilizers.
1.) Damage from Nutrient Run-Off
Chemical fertilizers oversaturate the soil they are designed to feed. Any excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus not absorbed ends up in the earth and wreak havoc with local microbes. When nitrogen levels spike in the soil, the butterfly effect takes flight. Beneficial bacterial and fungi communities in the soil decrease in diversity, deviate from their functions and change in composition. The weakening of this safety net makes plants less resilient and more reliant upon chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides to thrive.
Then, the remaining nitrogen leaches into the water table, spreading to rivers, lakes and oceans. Within these nitrogen-filled waterways, algal populations bloom with a vengeance. As a result, they consume oxygen with ravenous disregard, creating dead zones where marine animals struggle to survive. The Gulf of Mexico now hosts a New-Jersey-sized range of water where shrimp and fish, once prevalent, have vanished, hurting fisherman and coastal communities, thanks in part to industrial agricultural practices.
2.) Exhaustive Farming Practices
The surplus nutrients in synthetic fertilizers has long buoyed up the practice of monocropping, appealing to growers who want to increase their crop yields like gangbusters. The long-running success of this practice has discouraged some growers from considering the ecological cost – and whether other practices are more sustainable in the long run.
One major risk? If we continue with industrial farm practices, there is a very good chance that we’ll run out of topsoil in less than 60 years. It’s in part due to the oversaturation of synthetic fertilizers that has prevented more growers from considering regenerative farming practices sooner.
Crop rotation and cover crops prevent topsoil erosion by protecting soil from the wind and binding it in place with their root structure. Consider the fact that these practices also help to retain nutrients and nitrogen within the agricultural system, and it’s clear that growers ignore these practices at their own peril.
All-Natural Amendments Contribute to a Sustainable Future
How can growers transition over to regenerative agricultural practices without risking greater losses to their crop yields? Many are finding that all-natural seaweed amendments are an essential part of the sustainability equation.
For example, Acadian Kelp® products help to provide crops, soil and local ecosystems with bioactive compounds that enable them to flourish without damaging and depleting side effects. Moreover, they’re a more economical choice, helping to cultivate healthier and more stress-resistant plants with fewer additional inputs.
Want to explore the potential ROI of an all-natural kelp soil amendment on crops in your region? Request your sample and more information.