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A fertilizer (American English) or fertiliser (British English; see spelling differences) is any material of natural or
synthetic origin (other than liming materials) that is applied to soils or to plant tissues to supply one or more plant
nutrients essential to the growth of plants. Fertilizers enhance the growth of plants. This goal is met in two ways, the
traditional one being additives that provide nutrients. The second mode by which some fertilizers act is to enhance the
effectiveness of the soil by modifying its water retention and aeration. This article, like many on fertilizers, emphasises
the nutritional aspectThe nutrients required for healthy plant life are classified according to the elements, but the elements
are not used as fertilizers. Instead compounds containing these elements are the basis of fertilizers. The macro-nutrients are
consumed in larger quantities and are present in plant tissue in quantities from 0.15% to 6.0% on a dry matter (DM) (0% moisture) basis.
Plants are made up of four main elements: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are widely available as
water and carbon dioxide. Although nitrogen makes up most of the atmosphere, it is in a form that is unavailable to plants. Nitrogen
is the most important fertilizer since nitrogen is present in proteins, DNA and other components (e.g., chlorophyll). To be nutritious
to plants, nitrogen must be made available
in a "fixed" form. Only some bacteria and their host plants (notably legumes) can fix atmospheric nitrogen (N2) by converting it to ammonia.
Phosphate is required
for the production of DNA and ATP, the main energy carrier in cells, as well as certain lipids.
The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others. Among these, organochlorine (OC) insecticides, used successfully in controlling a number of diseases, such as malaria and typhus, were banned or restricted after the 1960s in most of the technologically advanced countries. The introduction of other synthetic insecticides – organophosphate (OP) insecticides in the 1960s, carbamates in 1970s and pyrethroids in 1980s and the introduction of herbicides and fungicides in the 1970s–1980s contributed greatly to pest control and agricultural output. Ideally a pesticide must be lethal to the targeted pests, but not to non-target species, including man. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so the controversy of use and abuse of pesticides has surfaced. The rampant use of these chemicals, under the adage, “if little is good, a lot more will be better” has played havoc with human and other life forms.
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