The truth is, that balanced soil nutrition, using nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium is necessary for growing healthy crops.  Without that balance, crops may grow quickly, taking on a deep green that makes them look healthy on first glance, but often they don’t mature properly, as plants spend their energy on foliage rather than on grain. These plants also have a tendency to attract more pests. This creates an additional challenge for farmers, and it may lead to an overreliance on pesticides.

Poor fertilization practices make it harder for others to eat because these miscalculations add up, affecting the food supply. The systematic misapplication of fertilizer causes India to grow less food than it should. One estimate claims that our corn yield lags behind rates in other countries by as much as 45 percent, all because the government provides an incentive for farmers to rely too much on nitrogen.

Just as a poor diet will have long-term health consequences, fertilizer mistakes have a way of lingering long past the moment of the error. It takes time, energy, and resources to restore damaged soil to an original condition. Inexpensive soil tests can help many smallholder farmers from making bad mistakes in the first place.  The results of those tests each season will help these farmers know what fertilizer must be applied to nourish the soil and maximize their yield.

Better soil leads to better living—and it all starts with a balanced diet, both for people as well as for the earth.

Mr. V Ravichandran owns a 60 acre farm at Poongulam Village in Tamil Nadu, India where he grows rice, sugar cane, cotton and pulses (small grains).  Mr. Ravichandran is a member of the Truth About Trade & Technology Global Farmer Network (www.truthabouttrade.org).

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