As plants grow, they have a need for nutrients. In highly cropped areas, fertilizer is required to replace used nutrients to prevent plant death or limited growth. Chemical fertilizers are made by mixing chemicals together to create a solution high in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, with little micronutrients, nutrients plants use in small amounts, to inhibit their use.
Nitrogen, the main components of most chemical fertilizers, has the potential to leak into groundwater or lakes, causing an increase of nitrates, according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. High nitrate levels, 10 milligrams of nitrate per liter of water, can poison wildlife and human infants, causing blue baby syndrome, a fatal disease that affects hemoglobin levels. Correct application of fertilizer will prevent run off into local water supplies.
Phosphorous, one of the main macronutrients found in chemical fertilizer, may runoff into nearby lakes and streams if used incorrectly, causing an effect called phosphorous enrichment. Chemical phosphorous does not move quickly through soil, report scientists at the University of Minnesota, but over-application will cause phosphorous to escape the soil. Phosphorous causes the growth of algae and weeds at such a great rate in bodies of water that oxygen is depleted, causing the death of wildlife and the destruction of entire ecosystems.
Fertilizer provides essential nutrients to a soil when added properly. Fertilizer is capable of raising the acidity of soil to the correct level for ideal plant growth, invigorating the growth of plants in the landscape and garden. Nitrogen, one of the main ingredients of most chemical fertilizers, causes plants to grow lush, and is especially important in the production of fruits and vegetables.
Effective Nitrogen Use
Nitrogen in chemical fertilizers is readily available because micronutrients do not inhibit their absorption into the soil. Also, nitrogen from chemical fertilizers does not leave nitrogen residue in the soil, which can build up and change the soil pH.
Chemical fertilizers give greater control over when nutrients are released into the soil. Slow-release as well as fast-release chemical fertilizers are available. Fast-release fertilizers help start new plants, as well as encourage fast growth in lawns, flowers and vegetables. Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of the major macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) to plants as they need them.