Despite all of us needing it multiple times a day, we usually have no idea where our food comes from. Depending on what you’re eating, it could be just down the road or across the world. There are some crazy advancements happening in the area of tracking food from produce to plate but we’re more interested in just how it starts. How can we go from a single seed and an open field to growing enough food to feed 10 billion people?
These plant-steroids are so vital to global agriculture, they enable half our food supply. As in, we can double our food output through using fertilisers. They provide essential plant nutrients and supercharge the output we need to feed our growing population.
So, they’re basically this amazing plant food that helps them grow? Why do I care?
A lot of reasons.
Firstly is that (like pretty much everything these days) they contribute massively to climate change. This is because over 99% of the fertilisers we use are artificial.
To know why this is a problem, we need a little chemistry background. In order to grow, just like us, plants need food. In the case of plants, food is sunlight, water and lots of chemical nutrients! With the right food, they can absolutely shoot up, and for plants, it doesn’t get much better than nitrogen, potassium and phosphate (NPK).
Artificial fertilisers contain these nutrients in extremely dense, either liquid, powder or solid form, delivering a hyper-concentrated dose of growth.
Manufacturing these fertilisers is terrible for the environment. In the case of nitrogen, it needs to be literally sucked out of the air and transformed into ammonia using massive amounts of natural gas. Phosphorus and potassium aren’t any better either. They’re mined from phosphate and potash rock and just like fossil fuels, they’re actually running out.
Yes, the fertilisers that grow half our food supply are running out. Phosphorus is up first, with existing reserves predicted to be effectively depleted as early as 2040.
Once these artificial chemicals have been applied to the land, the problems don’t stop there. Because it's so easy to apply, in almost every case, there is more than the plants can process. This leads to run-off, which leads to waterways which causes all those algae blooms and eutrophication and mass fish deaths we always hear about.
But at least they grow food faster, right? Yes and no! Artificial fertilisers work great on land the first time, utilising the additionally nutrients to get big and strong, but NPK isn’t all plants eat. They also need micronutrients, such as copper and zinc, in super small, but super important, doses. In that first crop, they’re typically all used up and artificial fertilisers don’t replace them, meaning you need increasingly more to get the same yield.
So what does all of this have to do with us at EarthOffset? Well, there's a certain something that can solve the major problems of artificial fertilisers. You guessed it - compost.
The end product of compost is actually an organic fertiliser that can, in many cases, replace artificial! Otherwise, in large, broad-acre agriculture that needs the easy-to-apply artificial alternatives, annual or bi-annual application of compost to crop land reduces the amount of fertiliser needed, increases plant nutrient up-take and retention, improves soil composition and so many other benefits.
Truly, compost is the answer to everything (or at least everything that we care about). It has so much potential to change the world and we love being a part of it. If you're as much of a compost crazy as we are, make sure you're following our socials (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn) and subscribe to our mailing list!