Why fertilisers are bad for the environment, and what are the alternatives?
April 19, 20191 min read
Fertilisers, though currently essential to Australia's agriculture industry, are being over-used in order to extract as much profit from the land as possible. Excessive consumption results in devastating consequences to our surrounding environments as these often harmful chemicals are carried by runoff into local waterways.
Why are fertilisers an environmental problem?
When fertilisers are flushed into a waterway they alter its balance of nutrients. This creates room in an ecosystem for the bloom of a singular species. The species uses the excess of nutrients to reproduce at a rapid rate, disturbing the pre-existing eco-system. These blooms smother organisms through a variety of mechanisms such as reducing light availability - constraining the ability of photosynthesis to occur. This destabilises the entire ecosystem by creating knock on effects up the food chain.
What are the solutions?
It is clear that the use of fertilisers have negative environmental impacts, so how do we reduce or eliminate their impact?
Organic farming - uses no industrial fertilisers. This would see the health of the soil being a primary focus.
Permaculture (permanent agriculture) - setting up land such that crops do not need maintenance once they have been planted.
Optimising fertiliser dosing so that plants are not over-supplied
Aquaponics - Utilising the waste from fish poo to feed plants that filter water for the fish.
Hydroponics - Growing food in water with the use of nutrients means you can grow food using 90% less fertiliser/nutrient than conventional agriculture. As most parameters can be controlled and kept within an enclosed environment, the resources are well utilised and production is easy to optimise.