Monday, October 1, 2012

Organic Fertilizers–Part 3–Plants Sources

Plant Parts are High In Nutrients

alfalfa plant   Alfalfa plant

Plants, specifically plants grown for grain, are used in the organic cycle.  Grains that are grown for livestock and human consumption, or grown for seed, are plants that are used for organic fertilizer.  Little or no food is sacrificed in the fertilizer process.  The grains are harvested, and the remaining parts of the plant – the stalks, stems, and leaves – are ground into the organic fertilizer product.

fertilizer - palmPalm tree waste
coir planting mix  Coir planting mix

Palm trees are a source for organic fertilizers.  They also provide coir, a fiber made from the coconut shell. Coir can be used in place of  peat moss as a more sustainable product. Peat moss bogs have taken 100+ years to  create. These bogs are not sustainable at the rates they are harvested.  Coconuts are highly sustainable year after year.    In soil, coir is slightly acidic, holds moisture, and loosens soil as peat moss does. Although the N-P-K of coir is .5-.08-1.9, ( good Potassium source) it helps in holding nutrients in soil for plants to use.

palm oil tree  2 yrs old   2 year old palm
images  palm oil nuts

Another palm product is palm oil waste powder. The life span of the oil palm is about 200 years. As the oil is harvested, the hulls are processed.  The product is humic acid which is not a fertilizer, but enhances the nutrients by supplying organic matter. Palm oil waste powder can be used on cereal and bean crops, and on turf.  This product encourages deep roots, and increases yields of crops.  

Rice husks are also used in the fertilizer industry.  The husks have little value in feed for livestock or human consumption.  N-P-K for rice husks is minimal at .2-.4-.2, but, here again, the organic matter added to soil is valuable.  Zinc is a trace mineral found in rice husks.  rice hulls Rice hulls


Alfalfa has a long tap root that penetrates deeply in the ground and draws nutrients into the plant. A good amount of trace elements are found in this fertilizer.  A natural fatty-acid called trianconatol, is an element in alfalfa.  The trianconatol is a growth stimulant that helps plants grow larger, and provide higher yields.  N-P-K for alfalfa meal is 2-1-2.  Because of the long tap root, alfalfa prevents soil erosion.
Alfalfa is a member of the pea family and is a Nitrogen fixer in the soil. 


Plants in the pea family, Fabaceae, are many and include the alfalfa, various beans, and peanuts (legumes)  They fix nitrogen into the soil from the atmosphere.  A colonizing bacteria attached to the roots draws in nitrogen from the air and converts it for food for the bacteria.  Any remaining  nitrogen is used by the plant for growth.  The nitrogen doesn't come to the plant from  fertilizer, but from the bacterial activity.
flax seed plantcanola seeds
Canola Plant and Seed Pod

Canola is processed for two different consumer markets, the oil for food and for livestock feed. The by-product of the livestock feed is a canola meal that is used for fertilizer. The oil food by-products are used for bio-fuels.  There is no waste of any part of this versatile plant.

Flax is very similar to canola meal.  Flax seed meals are the by-products of fiber production and livestock feed production.  N-P-K is about 6-3-2 for both oil seed fertilizers.

Soybean meal is also primarily used for feed for livestock.  It’s 7-2-1 nutritional values indicate high nitrogen.  Soybean meal is a by-product of the food industry, and cosmetics manufacturing.

soybean soybean-meal-organic-fertilizer

Cottonseed meal is another high nitrogen product.  N-P-K is 6 – 0 .4 - 1.5. Because cotton attracts pests that can ruin or reduce the crop, cottonseed meal may contain pesticides.  Pesticide free cottonseed meal is available, but you may need to check labels.

Molasses is a sugar cane or sugar beet by-product and can be dehydrated to become an organic fertilizer.  The high carbs in the molasses are ‘good food’ for microbes in the soil. molasses Dried molasses is easy to apply because it is bonded to dry grain to stay ‘grainy’ for applicators.  The grain adds another layer of nutrition and organic material.  Molasses also comes in a liquid from some suppliers.dutch organic beet extract molasses  This product is a Dutch organic beet extract – molasses.

The last organic fertilizer that comes from plants in this article is Corn Gluten.  This 9-0-0 product is the by-product of the corn industry for livestock feed, and food processing.  High in nitrogen, this product also acts as a pre-emergent for seeds.  Applied in the spring, it can keep crabgrass seeds from germinating.  Applied in late summer, it may keep summer weeds from getting established before fall.  This product is not recommended on newly seeded lawns but will green up an existing lawn well.

  corn gluten applied to prevent weeds
Plants are a great resource for organic fertilizers.  The processing is minimal.  Use of a ‘waste’ product is cost effective. 

We will talk about Animal sources of organic fertilizer next time.  Thanks for your interest.  Please leave a comment.  I love to hear from you.


Christina said...

Great information, as a top dressing or mulch I can also really recommend cocoa shell. Added bonus it smells of chocolate.

Claudia Fugate said...

Thanks Christina - the cocoa shells are a great mulch. Who doesn't like chocolate?