Food is essential for our growth, development and well-being. Just like all living organisms, plants also require nutrients. These nutrients are provided by water, air, sunlight and soil.
What are Nutrients?
Plants require some nutrients in large quantities called macronutrients while some in smaller quantities known as micronutrients. Gases such as carbon dioxide and oxygen are provided through the air while hydrogen is provided by water. Soil supplies thirteen additional micronutrients(Iron, copper, zinc, chlorine, boron, manganese) and macronutrients (calcium, magnesium, potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous).
Deficiency of these nutrients inhibits the growth of plants, affects their life cycle, processes and decreases their immunity against diseases. Soil’s fertility can be increased by providing nutrients in the form of manure and fertilizers.
What is Nutrient Management?
Nutrient management refers to the efficient use of crops to improve productivity. It is necessary to balance the soil nutrient input with the crop requirement. If the nutrients are applied at the right time and in adequate quantities, optimum crop yield is obtained. If applied in huge amounts, it will harm the crop, and if applied in small quantities it limits the yield.
The nutrients that are not utilized by the crops leach into groundwater or nearby surface water.
Integrated Nutrient Management
Integrated nutrient management is the combined application of chemical fertilizers and organic manures for crop production.
Its main aim is the maintenance of soil fertility and the supply of plant nutrients in adequate amounts. It is ecologically, socially and economically viable.
Concepts of Integrated Nutrient Management
- The nutrients stored in the soil.
- The nutrients purchased from outside the farm.
- Plant nutrients present in crop residues, manures, and domestic wastes.
- Nutrient uptake by crops at harvest time.
- Plant nutrients lost from the field during crop harvest or through volatilization.
Manures and Fertilizers in Nutrient Management
- Contains small quantities of nutrients and large quantities of organic matter
- Formed as a result of decomposition of plant wastes and animal excreta
- Enriches soil with nutrients and organic matter thereby increasing its fertility
- Bulk organic matter improves soil structure, which increases water-retaining capacity in sandy soil, helps in drainage and water clogging in clayey soil.
- Manure contains biological wastes obtained as a result of recycling and is preferred over the use of fertilizers.
Manure can be classified into two types based on the kind of biological material used: Compost and vermicompost
Composting is carried out using farm wastes. Vermicompost is prepared using earthworms.
Green manure: Some green plants are mulched into the soil while sowing seeds, which helps enrich the soil with nitrogen and phosphorous.
- These commercially produced plant nutrients provide macronutrients to ensure good vegetative growth. They yield more crops and results in high-cost farming
- Use of fertilizers needs to be monitored properly as excessive fertilizer gets washed away without being absorbed by the soil, resulting in water getting polluted.
- Continuous use of fertilizers causes harm to microorganisms that live in the soil. These are beneficial in carrying out agricultural processes.
- To yield optimum crop production we have to minimize the use of fertilizers and maximize the use of manure.
Importance of Nutrient Management
Nutrient management is important for the following facts:
- Nutrient management helps to reduce contamination to waterways by plant nutrients.
- Improve soil fertility.
- Enhance plant productivity.
- Reduce the cost of chemical fertilizers.
- Providing balanced nutrition to crops.
- Promotes carbon sequestration and prevents the deterioration of soil, water, ecology, and also leaching of nutrients from the soil.
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