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Banana Plant Soil, Additives, and Fertilizer This forum is an area where you may discuss the soil to grow banana plants in, as well as soil additives such as teas, composts, manures, fertilizers and related topics.


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Old 06-28-2009, 09:55 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Future of Fertilizer

Something to consider...

Fertilizers are derived from 3 sources: animal, vegetable, and mineral. Mineral sources have the highest concentration, on average 20% of the desired nutrient. They are the most cost effective and currently the dominant source of fertilizer in the world. Vegetable sources have low concentrations, around 1% to 5%. Natural animal sources such as manures are very low, less than 1% with a few minor exceptions. Municipal sewer systems have moderate concentrations, anywhere from 1% to 10% depending on the municipality and proportion of water in the system. Although petroleum is used to manufacture some pesticides and herbicides, it is rarely used in fertilizer.

Commercial agriculture is by far the largest consumer of fertilizer products: for every bag of 10 lb fertilizer sold to a homeowner, 10 tons are sold to the food production sector of agriculture.

Agricultural use of fertilizer will completely exhaust all known natural sources of fertilizer when the world population reaches 8 billion -- in approximately 50 years at current rates. To sustain agriculture, the source of fertilizer will necessarily come from municipal sewer systems. It will not be sludge, but rather highly refined extracts of specific minerals. This would coincide with drinking water being recycled from sewer systems as well.
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Old 06-28-2009, 10:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Angry Re: The Future of Fertilizer

Yuck!! Made me think of the soylent green movie from years ago. No milorganite on my vegetables please.
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Old 06-28-2009, 10:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

OK, Richard, how is that going to function in countries that largely don't use chemical-derived fertilizers? I'm going from the example here in Ecuador, which is food-sovereign (we eat almost exclusively what we grow here, with a few minor exceptions). Farmers here are of the mind that what the cows or chickens poop out is what is needed in the fields, and once a year they all go to Volcan Tungurahua and take a truckload of ash home to turn into the fields.

What happens in an economy like Ecuador's under your scenario? We don't sell ash or manure, we just use what the country produces, and since the soils are quite rich and good soil husbandry (fallowing etc) has been practiced here since pre-Incan times, it's likely to stay that way.
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Old 06-28-2009, 06:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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Yuck!! Made me think of the soylent green movie from years ago. No milorganite on my vegetables please.
I am not referring to milorganite -- or anything similar. Currently, the largest percentage of materials recycled from municipal sewage falls in the "soap" category. It is currently expensive to extract elemental plant nutrients from sewage. Unless the demand and supplies for agricultural plant nutrients both change dramatically in the coming decades, we are likely to see ammonical nitrogen being manufactured from reclaimed nitrogen in sewage, along with other elemental nutrients.

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OK, Richard, how is that going to function in countries that largely don't use chemical-derived fertilizers?
I gather you mean "in countries that utilize their own natural resources" ? It is just a matter of what alternatives will be used when the natural resources run out. I believe that Ecuador's population is growing faster than say, the U.S. population.

Notice that when the earth's population is to the point that all available plant nutrients in all their various forms are being used for food production, then the most effective intervention point for recycling is from sewage systems.
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Old 06-28-2009, 06:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

I just can't see all of our volcanoes going dormant any time soon, is all.
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Old 06-28-2009, 08:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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I just can't see all of our volcanoes going dormant any time soon, is all.
What forms of nitrogen are output or catalyzed into minerals by the volcanoes?
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Old 06-28-2009, 10:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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I just can't see all of our volcanoes going dormant any time soon, is all.
I wouldn't lose sleep over it, but ... no guarantees. Each volcanic chain, indeed, each volcanic event, can emit a different composition of materials. What a volcano blew out for the prior 100 years that was beneficial could be toxic (excessive sulfur or fluorine) the next time.

The materials ejected from a volcano do often make a good soil conditioner by adding trace minerals, and providing a light and porous substrate. Typically you will find silicates, calcium and aluminum oxides, and a few others in the rock (lava). On the other hand, ash is often quite acidic, contains a lot of sulfur and sometimes fluorine. Good when you need it, bad when you have it. But, volcanic soils typically are low in phosphorus, even to the point of absorbing it from fertilizer. But every volcano is different...

None of this provides nitrogen, which you currently say comes from dung. (And the atmosphere via a several step chemical process driven by soil microbes.)

You, with uncharacteristic insistence, ask what this means to Ecuador. If the population remains steady, then Richard's comments mean nothing to you. You provide nitrogen with dung, and add trace minerals from volcanic deposits. In short, you recycle all the elements "the old fashioned way", not "the NASA way."

But populations don't remain steady in most cases. Human societies seem to expand or die out. Perhaps that should say expand then die out. Examples otherwise are rare. Anywho, expansion of Ecuador's population will at some time mean that chemical fertilizers are needed to increase yield per area of land to meet the need for food.

Richard makes the point (and I don't know enough whether to agree or disagree) that resources for chemical fertilizers (I assume that he means phosphate and potash) are finite and non-renewable. This would be a problem for "western" society which demands (and achieves) tremendous yields per acre. If western cultures run into this wall they will either find a way to overcome it (perhaps using the recycling Richard mentions, perhaps some other way) or famine will return to the west. With even a small amount of luck, Ecuador will have time to adapt since they are not stretching the "system" the way the US is.

Quote:
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Although petroleum is used to manufacture some pesticides and herbicides, it is rarely used in fertilizer.
It is only sort-of correct that fossil fuel does not make up a part of fertilizer (fossil fuels being various forms and purities of hydrocarbons, meaning made of chains of carbon atoms with attached hydrogen atoms, but containing very little nitrogen). However, we do use a tremendous amount of energy (today coming from many sources, but heavily hydrocarbons) to produce nitrogen compounds for fertilizer (ex. ammonia, NH3) from atmospheric nitrogen in what is known as the Haber process. Also, we currently use methane (derived from natural gas) as the source of hydrogen for the Haber process. Hydrogen could be obtained at higher cost from hydrolysis of water.

(Google "Haber process", but here is a start: Haber process: Definition from Answers.com )

So if we do run out of fossil fuels without a replacement energy source to power the Haber process for fixing nitrogen, we become dependent on natural supplies for not just two, but all three parts of the fertilizer trinity. (Nitrogen and potassium from salt petre (KNO3), phosphorus from rock phosphate, potassium from potash and its compounds, but potassium should be available from sea water (at greater cost) for quite some time.)
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

speaking of fertilizers, the price of 10-10-10 which I used to buy last year for $8 for a 10 pound bag has gone up to $17.00 and $10 for 5 pound bag at Lowe's.
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Old 06-29-2009, 01:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

Adrift, as I mentioned before, Ecuador is basically food-sovereign, and I'll mention now that our population growth is stable without being excessive, immigration included (we take on a lot of Colombian and Peruvian refugees).

I do agree that we're not stretching the limit of our productivity, the way the US is currently, nor is that anything that's in our immediate future.
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Old 06-29-2009, 05:46 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

i don't know if this is pertinent to mention but the high productivity levels of the US farm system have come about do to high world demand for food in general we are producing a fair amount of food to keep non self supporting country's form starving to death i think a noble cause but ultimately the ideal population for this planet is 1.9 billion a sum we have passed many times over if a system consumes all available resources to function then we are finely going to have to face are over population or die out its sad to think that many of the worlds mineral resources are now either in to the last stages of productivity or have had to switch to recycled sources in order to keep the relentless passe that over population demands in other words why do we keep having to pump out baby after baby and what kind of a life will are children have do we really want to condemn them to this kind of existents when this world could be a garden again if we would just stop!
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Old 07-09-2009, 03:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

I think we should all think more on terms of sustainability. I do not fear any shortage of nutrient supplementation anytime soon (bc thank heavens, nature has already provided what we need). What I do fear though, is the misuse of agricultural chemicals(ferts),pesticides and herbicides to the point where soil has no life, ie sterilized. Nature is SLOW and patient, humans by fault, are not. I must not have to remind anyone, that way before humans came along to start messing with natures delicate balance, plants were doing quite well on their own. Its the bigger, stronger, faster attitude that is so detrimental to the balance of nature, and we humans are the ones who get the finger of guilt. Which is why I support anyone who gardens within the systems of nature, allowing it to take its course, with supportive help along the way.
rock on organically!
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Old 07-09-2009, 09:20 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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... What I do fear though, is the misuse of agricultural chemicals(ferts), ...
Most chemical fertilizers are minerals mined out of the ground and entirely organic. If the nitrogen level is boosted with Urea Nitrate, then it no longer qualifies.

If U.S. agriculture were to stop using mineral-based fertilizers and switch to those from plant sources, then 3/4 of the U.S. and about 1/4 of the world would starve. These mineral resources are finite and no longer abundant. Just as with oil, we will have critical shortages some decade in the not so distant future.
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Old 07-10-2009, 06:33 AM   #13 (permalink)
 
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

This is all very interesting I was just bidding on taking the sludge from our local sewer plant to the new pelletization plant being built in West Palm Beach, Florida. I wanted to buy the fertilizer coming out of the plant but it was already purchased by New England Fertilizer. The EPA has stopped all spreading of sludge cake in the Okeechobee water shed and has requested that we take phosphate out of the fertilizer because it cause algae blooms in local waters. Our local sewer plant sells more reclaimed water than it takes in. Even in Florida, the swamp state, water is in short supply and talk of "recycling" water for human consumption has been mentioned in close circles. Before, deep well injection was the method of disposing of sewage. But Deep well injection resurfaces some where. Here it was in the Florida Keys. We will need some good insight and technology or as care takers of the planet we are in deep manure.
In my business we call the same crap day after day, "Déjà Poo."
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Old 07-10-2009, 04:47 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

Quote:
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Most chemical fertilizers are minerals mined out of the ground and entirely organic.
This road has been traveled down many of times, and I must have to say, with respect, I disagree with this statement Richard.
Chemical fertilizers may be based off of natural occuring mineral deposits, but it is the treating of these mineral deposits with harsh acids for extraction, that takes them out of the category of "organic". Natural gardening relies on bacteria, fungus and the whole soil food web as means of supplement. Plants do not take in guano, bonemeal,kelp, etc. etc.. It is the roots that produce exudates (and dead root cells, shedding) which attract the microbial & fungal action that the nematodes and protozoas feed off of, unlocking the nutrients, in their waste. The waste by nematodes and protozoas are actually what the plant can uptake. This is a cycle in the rhizosphere that is constant, allowing nutrient cycling. I think that is a better distinction on organic vs. inorganic. The harsh extracted minerals are not friendly to our microbial warriors. Which is why we feed the soil, not the plant.
So cheers, and lets learn from one another!
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Last edited by OrganicBananac : 07-29-2009 at 09:53 PM. Reason: had my microbe names mixed up. Sorted.
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Old 07-10-2009, 05:46 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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The harsh extracted minerals are not friendly to our microbial warriors. Which is why we feed the soil, not the plant.
I agree completely if we are talking about triple-15. But the majority of agriculture is using water-soluble majors, minors, and micros which are a different scenario.

I also agree with you that we need sustainability. That was possible with low-percentage nutrients when the planet population was 2 billion. We are quite a bit past that now.

The purpose of this thread was to alert people that the current nutrient stream which generates the vast majority of food on the planet is going to reach critical levels in most of our lifetimes. The current solution on the table is to recycle the nutrients that go into our foods by reclaiming them from sewage. Other ideas are certainly welcome and needed.
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Old 07-10-2009, 06:50 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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The purpose of this thread was to alert people that the current nutrient stream which generates the vast majority of food on the planet is going to reach critical levels in most of our lifetimes. The current solution on the table is to recycle the nutrients that go into our foods by reclaiming them from sewage. Other ideas are certainly welcome and needed.
Reality, ahhh not fun to have to deal with.
I feel much responsibility needs to be taken with each and every person.
Too many rely on the actions of few (farmers). If everyone would just use the waste EVERYONE produces, to sustain each and every persons consumption, we would be in a good place. But lets get back to reality because we all acknowledge laziness is a large majority of the BIG problem. People do not want to be responsible for their actions, or even remotely educate themselves on common sense with sustainability, much respect to the ones THAT DO! I agree with the recycling of nutrients, why be wasteful?? Nature (and the One that created it) has provided us all we need. It is time now to educate and learn from all mistakes we have made. I find much solution in aspects of compost and vermicompost teas. Its an ability to take a small proportion of a waste product and stretch it by 100's of times, all the same time unlocking many of the wonders of nature locked up in the soil. Its amazing how waste can turn into something so valuable with just a small amount of work and commitment. My one concern with the use of sewage is the amount of pharmaceuticals and other nasty nasty things our bodies excrete as waste. But beyond that, we are all humans, no need to be scared of some poo. .
BTW, its FRIDAY!
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Old 07-10-2009, 07:38 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

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I find much solution in aspects of compost and vermicompost teas. Its an ability to take a small proportion of a waste product and stretch it by 100's of times, all the same time unlocking many of the wonders of nature locked up in the soil.
Yes, I agree. Vermicompost and humic compost are critical to the soil mixes I make.

In the current methods of mass agriculture, it takes about 1 acre total to support one U.S. adult. If we were to keep all the mechanization we have and revert to low-percentage nutrients such as plant sources, composts, etc. the number of acres required per person would increase by 4 or 5 times. Consumer prices for food would rise in direct proportion, using today's prices as a baseline.

For more details on what it takes to support a person or a family, a good reference is a 1940's or 1950's edition of the Kerr Bluebook (a book for canning!). There you will find a complete guide to crops to grow, how much to grow per person of a certain crop, etc. Further, notice that the farming methods assumed in the book are low-nutrient with mostly hand-labor and perhaps a modest tractor.

Another baseline worth looking at is the vast Mennonite community in the Homestead area of Alberta, Canada. For the most part they are masters of utilitarian farming, averaging about 10 acres per person -- which is remarkable considering their winter weather. For a birds-eye view, enter "Grand Prairie Alberta" into Google Earth.
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Old 07-10-2009, 07:53 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

I can tell you from personal experience that the Homestead Colony is an amazingly efficient farm, Richard; I did some work-study with them back when I still lived up there in the the frozen northland. They're very very very good at maximizing yields and crop rotations, so that the plots are rarely in full (unuseful) fallow. I'm actually using a number of their methods down here, particularly as regards grain crops (barley, wheat, maize.)
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Old 07-10-2009, 08:40 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Cool Re: The Future of Fertilizer

Not to be a thread-wrecker...

Note: (Opinion Alert)

While it is good of us to do what WE can as individuals...90% of what has happened to the 'poisoning' of our food & soil, (I will only opinionate on America), is due in part to the greed of Corporations. The drive for the almighty dollar, the patenting & ownership of seeds & their derivatives...being only offered genetically altered seed($$$) that will only produce yields as advertised for the farmer if using a special fertilizer($$$) that will get diseased if not treated with a particular treatment($$$). And then Mills that only take certain grains, because the processed food industry will only buy the particular ones, because that is their sister company that sells the seed($$$$$$$$$). Thereby perpetuating their own golden parachute with Supply & Demand.

Ok - my point made...

We can all stand to be more responsible in our use on what we produce, use & dispose of everyday. The One, G-D, has given us magnificent brains, by which we have heavily advanced in MANY things in the past 150 years. Inclusive of this is transportation, medicine, education, engineering and manufacturing, amongst many, many other things. I enjoy the fruits of human technological advancement, i.e. bizjets, computers, e-mail, multi-link suspension systems & Harley Davidsons, as well as what occurs in nature, i.e. Bananas, horses, walking in the rain...

I do my part where I can: recycling, carpooling, buying of meat/products from humanely raised animals/certified organic/local farmers, etc. However, everyone makes their own choices, accountability and responsibility is up to the individual.

I think you and Richard have both made point in fact. I applaud you both in maintaining the civility in the thread.

What all of this has shown me is that there are many paths in which we are advancing in Plant Soil, Additives, and Fertilizer & many choices we can make to use or not to use what is presented to us in the name of advancement.

I will continue reading this thread as others are & make the best decisions for myself.
Thank you for presenting me with options and food for thought!! ~Cheryl
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Old 07-10-2009, 09:37 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: The Future of Fertilizer

Well thanks Cheryl, I would agree that a lot of corporate greed is present in the pasture to product chain: food is even more addictive than tobacco!

In the fertilizer part of the equation, the Canadian company Agrium is doing a good job of establishing a monopoly on some nutrient lines and will soon have the Scotts-MiracleGro Marketing company on its knees. My colleagues would sarcastically say that it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. However, the rest of the suppliers would soon follow in the same position. Note that Agrium owns both the raw material supply lines and the wholesale distribution outlets (e.g., Crop Production Services).

And Lorax, I'm glad you reminded me of your experience with the Mennonite communities. It would be hard to find a lazy bone among them.

What concerns me in this thread though is our ability as people on the planet to sustain a food supply for the population. Note that even if we were as efficient as the Mennonites, have a longer growing season, and included our mechanization: we don't have the land, water, or economy to use low-percentage nutrients; i.e., "natural" methods. Nutrient recycling from sewage or some other means will be necessary. Also, you notice that serious population control measures will also be necessary. Well, of course there is always the alternatives of famine, disease, and war. I'd rather not go that route, especially to the tune of 3/4 of the world population.
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