It has been said that the externalized cost of chemical agriculture is being paid in the form of resource deletions, contaminated water, co2 emissions and greenhouse gases, soil depletion, and loss of species. The human cost is equally large. Loss of family-run farms and agriculture, the extermination of small towns and local economies, the sickness and cost caused by unregulated chemical and pesticide use, the loss of nutritional value in our food, and the hunger, and death of poor countries who produce for export instead of feeding it’s own people.
With this knowledge, it’s no wonder people are looking for alternate forms of farming. Organic is the next logical step. From the soil to the table there are organic options for every level of gardener. This article will discuss the virtues and options in organic fertilizers.
For the organic purist, organic fertilizer is something that comes from the surrounding land (manure from your own livestock or “waste” from your own garden). The fertilizer is recycled, often composted. Organic purists focus on soil health and use rotations, fallows, green manures and compost to maintain fertility.
For the not so purist, resources used in organic fertilizer must be sustainably used, and come from natural resources.
Whatever your reason for choosing to go organic, it is important to know that there are organizations which have strict international guidelines to deem an item ‘organic’. This includes fertilizers and food.This Organic Guarantee System (OGS) brings together the organic world through common standards, verification, and market identity. These organizations are very important in setting standards for a guaranteed organic product.
Organic foods and other products are made from organically produced ingredients that are processed primarily by biological, mechanical, and physical means.Natural, renewable, biological and regenerative resources are the basis of organic production and processing systems. Organic matter is recycled to maintain the soil fertility of organic agriculture. Availability of nutrients in the soil is primarily dependent of its own soil organisms. Cultural and local practices manage the problems of pests, weeds and disease. As well, livestock is managed with organically produced feed, and kept in living conditions conducive to natural behavior, and lack of strain.
This Organic Guarantee System (OGS) lists these as the acceptable natural organic fertilizer choices.
Plant and Animal Sources:
• Farmyard manure, slurry and urine
• blood meal, meat meal, bone, bone meal
• hoof and horn meal, feather meal, fish and fish products, wool, fur, hair, dairy products
• biodegradable processing by-products, plant or animal origin, e.g. by-products of food, feed, oilseed, brewery, distillery or textile processing.
• Crop and vegetable residues, mulch, green manure, straw
• wood, bark, sawdust, wood shavings, wood ash, wood charcoal
• seaweed and seaweed products
• peat (prohibited for soil conditioning) (Excluding synthetic additives; permitted for inclusion in potting mixes.)
• Plant preparations and extracts
Most countries follow these strict guidelines, some with their own discrepancies. For instance Canadian standards are more stringent than some other countries. Raw manure and human sludge are not permitted on their organic fertilizer list.
Mineral Origin organic fertilizers
• basic slag
• calcareous and magnesium amendments
• limestone, gypsum, marl, chalk, sugar beet lime, calcium chloride
• magnesium rock, kieserite and Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
• mineral potassium (e.g. sulfate of potash, muriate of potash, kainite, sylvanite, patent kali) (Shall only be obtained by physical procedures but not enriched by chemical processes)
• natural phosphates
• pulverized rock, stone meal
• clay (e.g. bentonite, perlite, vermiculite, zeolite)
• sodium chloride
• trace elements
Microbiological organic fertilizers
• Biodegradable processing by-products of microbial origin. For example – by-products of brewery or distillery processing.
• Microbiological preparations based on naturally occurring organisms