The key difference between biofertilizer and chemical fertilizer is that biofertilizers contain living microbes, whereas chemical fertilizers contain chemical substances.
Fertilizers are materials of natural or synthetic origin, and when applied to soil or plant tissues, they can supply plant nutrients. We can identify them distinctly from liming materials and other non-nutrient soil amendments. There are different sources of fertilizers. In modern times, the three major macronutrients that are important for plants include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, collectively named NPK. Occasionally, we need to add rock dust as a micronutrient as well. The application of the fertilizers can also differ from one to another, e.g., pelletized or liquid application, use of large agricultural equipment or hand-tool methods, etc.
What is a Biofertilizer?
Biofertilizers are living microbes that can enhance plant nutrition by mobilizing or increasing nutrient availability in the soil. There are many different microbial taxa that are living in the soil. These are beneficial bacteria and fungi forms that can be used as fertilizers. This is because these microorganisms can successfully colonize the rhizosphere, rhizoplane, or root interior.
Generally, biofertilizers are able to improve soil fertility. However, these fertilizers cannot replace chemical fertilizers conventionally used in agriculture. This is because translating the knowledge of microbes and their function to capitalize on plant nutrition in agricultural practices is still a challenge.
Typically, the soil and plant-related microbes tend to play a significant role in ecosystems as they carry out various biological cycles and organic matter degradation processes. Therefore, we can consider biofertilizers as crucial components of sustainable agriculture, which have a long-lasting effect on soil fertility.
Moreover, a biofertilizer consists of a mixture of living microbial cells, which are either in a single strain or multiple strains. These microbes can promote the growth of plants by enhancing nutrient availability and acquisition.
The most common types of biofertilizers that have been used for a long time include Rhizobium, Azotobacter, Azospirillium, and blue-green algae. The Rhizobium species is typically suitable for leguminous plants. Similarly, Azotobacter is useful for crops such as wheat, maize, mustard, cotton, potato, etc., and Azospirillium is useful for sorghum, millets, maize, sugarcane, and wheat. Finally, blue-green algae are important for making inoculations for paddy crop growth under upland and lowland conditions.
Benefits of Biofertilizers
- Able to fix the nutrient availability in the soil
- Can symbiotically associate with the plant,
- Useful in producing a large quantity of crops through nitrogen fixation and phosphorus solubilization
- Advancement of root and shoot growth that implements new seed growth
What is a Chemical Fertilizer?
Chemical fertilizers are chemical-based substances consisting of one or more nutrients required for the enhancement of plant growth and soil fertility. Typically, chemical fertilizer is an NPK fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Moreover, fertilizers can add secondary nutrients, including sulfur, magnesium, and calcium, to enhance the growing media.
There are three major types of chemical fertilizers: nitrogenous fertilizers, phosphatic fertilizers, and potassium fertilizers. Each of these fertilizer types has different chemical compositions.
- Nitrogenous fertilizers; contain nitrate, ammonium ions, both nitrate and ammonium ions or amides
- Phosphatic fertilizers; contain calcium dihydrogen phosphate, ammonium phosphate, or ammonium hydrogen phosphate
- Potassium fertilizers; contain potassium chloride, potassium sulfate, or potassium nitrate
Benefits of Chemical Fertilizers
- Predictable and reliable
- Can be used for poor soil to make it fertile immediately
- Can add a sufficient amount of nutrients to the soil
- Contain nutrients required for plant growth and development
- Cheaper than organic fertilizers
- Easy to use
- Allows the growth of the same vegetable plants in the same area
- Can be custom-made to achieve the requirements of the soil type, etc.
Disadvantages of Chemical Fertilizers
However, there are some disadvantages of chemical fertilizers as well. These fertilizers can affect the microbial flora in the soil. They add high acidity to the soil. Then the pH of the soil changes, which can destroy some important bacterial types. Moreover, these fertilizers are highly water-soluble, so they can leach away into groundwater without giving any benefit to the plant. Moreover, chemical fertilizers can encourage plant diseases. If we use a lot of chemical fertilizers on the same soil for a long time period, the soil gets damaged.
What is the Difference Between Biofertilizer and Chemical Fertilizer?
The two major forms of fertilizers that are available for different soil types are biofertilizers and chemical fertilizers. The key difference between biofertilizer and chemical fertilizer is that biofertilizers contain living microbes, whereas chemical fertilizers contain chemical substances. Biofertilizers do not directly supply nutrients to the crops, while chemical fertilizers provide the soil directly with the nutrients.
Summary – Biofertilizer vs Chemical Fertilizer
Biofertilizers and chemical fertilizers are very important, and they have many differences between them. The key difference between biofertilizer and chemical fertilizer is that biofertilizers contain living microbes, whereas chemical fertilizers contain chemical substances.
1. Mitter, Eduardo K., et al. “Rethinking Crop Nutrition in Times of Modern Microbiology: Innovative Biofertilizer Technologies.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 1 Jan. 1AD.