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Nitrogen Fertilizers Cause Soil Acidification

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The over use of nitrogen based fertilizers is leading to soil acidification in many parts of the world.  China is the largest country facing this growing problem. Scientists from China, the UK and the United States measured the pH of soil samples taken from agricultural land across China in the 1980s and 2000s and found widespread acidification caused by nitrogen fertilizers. China’s soil ph levels have dropped to between 3 and 4, indicating higher acidic soil levels.  Normal crops grow in a neutral pH range between pH6 and pH8.  (Earth Friendly Products keeps it’s product pH range between pH of 6 and pH of 8.)  Scientists blame the growing acidification on nitrogen-based fertilizers. Nitrogen based fertilizers are used to increase crop yields, and have been shown to have extreme environmental consequences according to soil scientists that have conducted the Chinese studies.  Soil acidification not only impacts future growing yields, but impacts soil erosion as well.  Plants that cannot grow in acidic soil conditions expose topsoil to wind and water erosion.  China’s need to feed its growing population forces it to use fertilizers to increase crop yields.  The mismanagement of fertilizers in that country will only escalate their inability to feed themselves and look to other countries to fill their breadbasket.  The U.S. has an aggressive soil management program to prevent such occurrences here.  But, one of the strengths the U.S. has is a growing movement to organic farming.  Moving away from traditional nitrogen fertilizers to organic ones.  As the world’s population continues to grow unabated, the need to maximize crop yields will only add to the pressure of soil management.  Finding that balance of feeding a growing population and managing our finite resources will only get harder.  Moving to zero growth levels in population and improving soil management can continue to sustain our children’s children and us.

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