Every organic gardener knows that compost is much better for plants than inorganic fertilizers. The compost is carefully made by combining “browns” (high-carbon fibrous ingredients like fallen leaves) with “greens” (high-nitrogen ingredients like animal manure, green grass clippings, etc.) then waiting as microbial growth heats the pile. After turning and aerating for a few weeks, the rich, brown compost is teeming with soil and absorbs water like a sponge. It’s great for plants since the tilth of the soil is improved and the balance of nutrients is perfect for the plants.
People have been using these techniques since time immemorial.
Factory-scale mechanized farming is less conducive to this labor-intensive, time-consuming process. Large machinery distributes concentrated chemicals which provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to huge fields. This has provided high yields which feed the increasing population. The downside is gradual destruction of soil fertility and tilth and pollution of ground water and eventually ocean dead zones.
Russia is a huge exporter of chemical fertilizer. The sanctions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine is driving up the price.
**Record Fertilizer Prices Drive Investors, Farmers to Microbes**
**Startups pitch alternative fertilizers for crops as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option**
**By Patrick Thomas and Amrith Ramkumar, The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 30, 2022**
**Startups marketing alternative crop fertilizers said they are gaining traction among U.S. farmers and investors, pitching themselves as a potentially cheaper option as prices for traditional [chemical] fertilizers surge....**
**Companies such as Pivot Bio, Kula Bio and Anuvia are pushing development of farm fertilizers by harnessing microbes or plant-based products to deliver nutrients that corn and other crops need. They aim to replace traditional fertilizers produced from natural gas [ammonia-based nitrogen fertilizers] or mined underground [phosphate and potassium], prices of which have hit records this year due to supply-chain constraints and Russia’s war on Ukraine....**
**Pivot develops microbes that can be applied to fertilize crops.... Traditional [chemical] fertilizer makers said microbe-based alternatives are promising but can’t fully replace existing products. While emerging alternatives can offset some nitrogen-based fertilizers, they don’t replicate others such as potash and phosphate...** [end quote]
Many industrial sectors, such as factory farming, produce gigantic amounts of waste material (animal manures) that could be used as fertilizer if only there was a way of transforming it and transporting it in the forms and quantities the factory farms need. Part of the problem of any biological-based process is that the majority of the mixture is water which must be separated eventually. That’s why algae-based fuels are not economically feasible.
I hope that the new microbe-based fertilizers find a use, perhaps in organic farming.
As a home gardener, I get best results from a combination of compost and Miracle Grow which contains many trace micronutrients as well as the standard N-P-K formulation.