Fertilizers support crop production by enriching the soil with certain nutrients that plants require for growth. The three nutrients which are most crucial to this growth cycle are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Without the presence of these three nutrients, plants cannot grow. Fertilizer is especially important in modern crop production because industrial growing practices, which often promote intensive cultivation and improper soil management, often deplete the soil of its nutrients.
However, while fertilizers do support crop production, it is not always the case that they promote a healthy environment, especially in the case of artificial fertilizers. Improper fertilizer application (especially over-application) can lead to chemical runoff into nearby waterways, promoting excessive algae growth and creating “dead zones.” In addition, much artificial fertilizer is petroleum-based. On the other hand, natural fertilizer such as compost or manure can support crop production while also promoting a healthy environment.
Natural and organic fertilizers can also lead to eutrophication (excessive plant growth) and have other harmful environmental effects. Even natural fertilizers, like manure, contain phosphorous and nitrogen which cause the algae blooms that revolutionetc mentioned, and can also leach heavy metals into groundwater.
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