How Synthetic Gardening Chemicals Kill the Soil

How Synthetic Gardening Chemicals Kill the Soil

How Synthetic Gardening Chemicals (Agrochemicals) Kill the Soil

Healthy living soils are the secret to having a successful and fruitful biological garden. With this and proper planning, there is absolutely no need for synthetic agrochemicals like pesticides and fertilisers. These products, while they may be tempting in desperate scenarios, are a death sentence to the biological balance you want in your garden.

Even a simple application of fertilisers can be a major step backwards in soil health, eventually making you dependent on these products. That’s because once you destroy the health of your soil, the only way to keep your plants productive may be with these chemicals. This is the treacherous cycle in which conventional agriculture works.

So be warned. While your plants may seem happy after applying these chemicals in the short term, the long-term effects are devastating.

So, Why Do Fertilisers and Pesticides Kill the Soil?

Let's start with synthetic fertilisers, what many people think to be the lesser of the evils. Some gardeners, even those who are trying to do good, can’t help but give their plants this extra boost. They figure “NPK” is present in organic fertilisers, so what's wrong with giving an extra little kick to their soil. One of the key antagonists in this is synthetic nitrogen.

Nitrogen fertilisers such as ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate (the “N” in NPK fertilisers) deplete organic matter from the soil by stimulating the decomposition process. Bacteria who actively decompose organic matter require nitrogen, so when it is in excess they quickly get to work and breakdown the organic matter.

While organic matter decomposition can be beneficial where free available nitrogen is rather limited, it can quickly deplete organic matter in an over fertilised soil. Remember, organic matter is a crucial ingredient to water holding capacity, nutrient retention, pH balancing, soil structure, and countless crucial roles of soil.

Furthermore, synthetic fertilisers completely alter the nutrient absorption process for the plants. It gives them the nutrients they need without them having to work for it, essentially making them “lazy” and losing the partnerships formed with beneficial microbes. Since the nutrients are essentially “bottle fed” to them, they don’t need to form alliances with fungi and bacteria who also provide important immune benefits that protect them against pests and disease.

This is when pesticides come into play. After depleting the organic matter and beneficial microbes in the soil, plants become more susceptible to pests and disease. Conventional farmers treat this with a whole swath of chemicals that may help in the treatment of the diseases and pests, but they will further destroy the microbial communities in the soil.

That's because fungicides, insecticides, and other pesticides not only affect the target, but also innocent casualties in the soil. This includes the beneficial organisms like worms, beetles, bacteria, and mycorrhizal fungi that are important to plant health.

Finally, it is important to mention that these agrochemicals are also harmful to human health. Many are known to be highly carcinogenic and have other health consequences. They not only affect workers who apply them, but also the consumers who eat the food. Some may become persistent in the soil, and others leech into streams and rivers, contaminating water and damaging sensitive ecosystems.

Thankfully, there is no need for chemicals in your garden. With high quality composts and regenerative soil practices, your plants are perfectly fine without these toxic substances. Afterall, gardeners for centuries have had glamourous gardens before these chemicals were even invented!


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