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Soil fertility is the ability of soil to produce and sustain high crop yield for a long period of time. Longtime ago the cradle land could support plant growth so well without addition of chemicals to it. After cultivation of the same piece of land for a long period of time, the mineral content starts depreciating. There are several aspects that can contribute to the distribution of minerals in the soil which are based on to determine the fertility of the soil. This discussion majorly looks at several aspects that affect soil fertility (both human and nonhuman activities). It will also describe how fertilizers have affected the production of food in the US. All will be related to the earlier theories that were put forward by ancient scholars like Marx and Malthus.
Factors that Affect Soil Fertility
As in the introduction soil fertility is the ability of a particular type of soil to produce and sustain high crop yield for a long period of time. Soil has numerous nutrients that are required by the plants to grow. These nutrients include nitrogen, potassium phosphorus, manganese, sodium among others. Soil that has all the nutrients and can release to the crops as required is termed as fertile where as the soil that do not have the required nutrient to supply to the crops is seen as infertile. There are different factors that affect soil fertility. These factors range from human activities to non human activities. They include cultural practices, soil temperature, soil moisture, soil PH, light, microbial association, the nature of the soil and soil aeration.
Cultural practices are the activities that are done on the farm during preparation of the farm, planting and harvesting of the crop. Cultivation that involve crop rotation, gypsum and liming application, the use of fertilizer and manure increase the ability of soil to produce high yields. Crop rotation makes it possible for the farmer to plant crops on different plots at different seasons. The other cultural activities like bush fallowing and shifting cultivation enable soil to regain the minerals that were lost as the farmer moves to the other plot to carry out his activities. Mixed cropping helps the soil to get some nutrient and supply to the other crop that requires the same nutrients. For example, maize and beans can be planted on the same farm. Nitrogen fixing bacteria in the root nodules of the bean helps in fixing nitrogen in the soil which can be readily used by the maize plant. Cultural activities like mono-cropping and overstocking disadvantage the soil as it strains the soil to the very last of its nutrients.
Moisture is just water in a gaseous state. When there is water in the soil the nutrient are able to dissolve, and the plants can absorb the nutrients. This also provides the plant with oxygen that is much important during respiration in plants. When there is less water in the soil the plants cannot absorb the nutrients thus making the soil be unproductive. During dry seasons, crops cannot do better since the level of the soil moisture is normally very low. Irrigation becomes important during this particular period of time.
Presence of Micro-organisms
Microorganisms are small animals. Some may live on land or water. Those animals that live on land are very much beneficial to the soil in one way or the other. These are the organisms’ that breakdown dead materials into their simpler constituent minerals. The minerals can then be used up by plants during the growth period. The soils that have living organisms like the moles get enough air since they make some holes as they move through the soil. These enables air to move freely in the soil making it possible for the crop roots to grow faster and get fresh air.
Use of fertilizers and other chemicals
Fertilizers are organic or nonorganic matters that are added to the soil to improve soil fertility. The organic matter is referred to as manures while the inorganic matter is normally manufactured in industries by the use of chemicals. They are also called the chemical fertilizers. All the fertilizers contain important minerals required by the plant to grow. If the chemical fertilizers are excessively used they increase the soil PH leading to low production of crops. The crops may be burnt due to more chemicals that are used on the farm. The use of manure has no negative effects on the soil thus being the best to use although it takes longer to release the nutrients to the crops.
Food Production by Use of Synthetic Fertilizer
Synthetic fertilizer became known by the US people just after the second world ware. The remains of large ammonium nitrate quantities were sold for agricultural purposes. In the 20th century, nitrogen was combined with hydrogen at high at high pressure and temperature to form anhydrous ammonia, which is basic, for making all the fertilizers. When these fertilizers were sold to the US farmers, they realized bumper harvests since the fertilizers provided readily available nutrients to the plants. The increased population had enough food to eat. It was a great innovation that brought food to the people of US during that time.
Despite the fact that the fertilizers give rise to high produce, they also have negative effects on the soil and plants. It was observed that only a very little portion of the synthesis fertilizer is taken up by the plant and used the res remain in the soil or drain in water sources. The excess synthesized anhydrous ammonia causes soil and water pollution. It is from the scholars that synthetic fertilizer has failed to enhance proper plant root formation. The roots formed while using synthetic fertilizers are just too weak and the plants do not produce to the required standards. It is better to use organic fertilizers than the synthesized fertilizers due to the long-term effects that they pose to the environment as a whole.
According to Malthus human being need food. This food must come from the earth or natural soil. As the population increases, the food production also should go high. It’s true that the human being population tends to grow faster than the ability of the earth to produce the subsistence food. So the use of fertilizer is an innovative way to counter the effects of population growth. His counterpart Marx also feels the same in reaction to population pressure on the resources. The theories that were put forward by the earlier scholars are true since we can see the US carrying out agricultural developments. These developments are geared towards feeding the population that is growing. Malthus also observed that due to fewer resources that are available human beings get the urge to reduce the population increment. He used the positive and the negative checks to bring out his arguments.
The use of chemical fertilizer came into existence after the Second World War. It really boosted the agricultural sector to get more harvest to feed the growing population of the US. This was predicted by earlier scholars who looked at the population and food production. The synthesized fertilizers have both negative and positive effects. The organic fertilizer has more benefits than the disadvantages. This makes it more convenient to be used in the soil than the commercial fertilizers.