Futral, J. G. Formerly, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station, Griffin, Georgia.
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Addition of elements or other materials to the soil to increase or maintain plant yields. For plants to develop, all the elements essential for growth must be supplied by way of the root system or, to a limited extent, through the leaves. The total supplies of elements in certain soils are often adequate for many years of crop production, but the rate at which those elements become available for plant use may be too slow. Therefore, each nutrient must be in adequate supply in intensity and capacity, and in a reasonably favorable balance with all the others, throughout the various ontogenetic stages of growth. If rooting into areas of nutrient adequacy is extensive (other factors being satisfactory), addition of fertilizer may not be essential. However, soil deficiencies must be corrected for optimum growth, and the application of fertilizers is warranted. Fertilizers may be organic (for example, urea) or inorganic (for example, ammonium phosphate and potassium nitrate). Organic fertilizers are usually manures and waste materials that provide small amounts of growth elements and serve as conditioners for the soil. Commercial fertilizers are most often inorganic. Fertilizer analysis and systematic application began about 1850 and marked the beginning of scientific crop production (Fig. 1). See also: Agricultural science (plant); Agricultural soil and crop practices; Agriculture; Fertilizer; Plant growth; Root (botany); Soil; Soil degradation; Soil fertility
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