Fertilizer overuse can acidify soil

Another reason to dislike the N-word: Fertilizer overuse creates many problems, like aquatic dead zones, resource depletion and blue-baby syndrome. One impact that has been mostly out of sight is soil acidification. A group of scientists from China, the UK and the US has been examining soil in China, where synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use increased by 191% between 1981 and 2007 (with application rates generally higher than in North America and Europe). The scientists found that much of the hydrogen in commercial fertilizers is not processed or absorbed by plants or soil, leading to the acidification of the soil. This can make the soil unacceptable or reduce yield for acid-disliking plants. The team recommends that new efforts be employed to optimally use nitrogen fertilizer (environmentalresearchweb) Related: Grist’s series on nitrogen and an article from Christian Science Monitor

One Responseto “Fertilizer overuse can acidify soil”

  1. Interesting. A long time ago we had a pasture walk on our farm with a pair of ag extension agents. I had gotten the soil test back and it said to add a lot of fertilizer and specified all the synthetics I would need. I was not fond of the idea. I didn’t like the synthetic fertilizers or the high costs – quite frankly I didn’t have the money on that second point. The large amount of liming that they were recommending at the soil analysis was also a problem – again it was prohibitively expensive. I just couldn’t do it.

    The ag extension agents said I could take a longer term, slower approach and simply fence the fields and put out livestock. Over seed with clovers and alfalfa. That over time this would bring the soil pH up and increase the soil fertility. It would take longer but give a better long term result. They were right as time has proven.

    We buy in winter hay and the plants are sucking CO2 and nitrogen out of the air so our farm imports fertilizer for free. A bit slower than some might like but it works.