The Breakdown and Benefits of NPK in Fertilizer

The Breakdown and Benefits of NPK in Fertilizer


NPK Explained - Fertilizer Processes and Benefits

NPK is the abbreviation or acronym for the three main components in all commercial fertilizer. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. These are considered the most important macronutrients in all plant growth. Although these ingredients are far from all the needs of a plant or growing cycle and tend to dominate all others when it comes to their popularity and usage. All NPK percentages displayed on any bag or fertilizer product is determined by the simple mass of N, P and K that is present in the fertilizer, with the percentage of Nitrogen typically being the highest. 

Nitrogen is responsible for the green push and overall growth and development you would see in any plant. Whether that be a blade of grass, or the smallest leaf on the tallest tree. Nitrogen is typically absorbed through the root system in the form of nitrites and ammonium ions. Soon after, are converted into essential amino acids and plant nutrients. In past times, Nitrogen was considered to be the most fundamental and important part of any fertilizer and growing cycle. However, in these modern times and as new knowledge and studies are being conducted, we are starting to learn that this may not always be the case. I’d like to mention with grave importance here that all fertilizer applications should be based upon your location, existing soil nutrients, composition and quality of soil. As well as your specific needs from that crop or plant. Personally, I would recommend higher Nitrogen applications for lawns, & commercial cropping purposes. However, even in these situations organic nitrogen forms will be the healthiest over time versus cheaper synthetic fertilizers; this includes practices such as cover-cropping, grazing (manure introduction), and a healthy crop rotation. 

This brings us to Phosphorus, the second letter in NPK and another extremely important component of all fertilizers. Phosphorus is known for two predominant functions in each plant; Rooting & Blooming. Generally, you will want a light Phosphorus push during the rooting development stage of your plant, and sequentially as the flowers are beginning to bud and bloom later in the plant's life. Phosphorus takes a big role in all plant growth yet can sometimes be difficult to intake for the plant, this is where important mycelia and fungi come in to assist the plant with the Phosphorus absorption in the roots. Hence why generally most “Rooting” fertilizers will contain some Phosphorus as well as Mycorrhizae and other beneficial bacteria. Phosphorus can also be absorbed through leaf tissue pores called stomata. However, this is typically a more common process in aquatic plants.

And last on the list, we have Potassium . I like to think of potassium as the most “General Health” nutrient in each plant. I mention it as such because sometimes its role can not be as clear as that of Nitrogen and Phosphorus. That being said, potassium still qualifies as one of the top most important macronutrients in the mix. Providing major support against diseases and pests, drought tolerance and other effects of drastic weather changes. Potassium can also assist in the final quality of the flower or cultivated crop, improving size, shape and grade upon harvest. Potassium, also being absorbed in the root system, does rely heavily on other micronutrients to completely reach its full potential and function. This depends on the ratio of activity with Calcium and Magnesium , other important micronutrients in each plant system. 

Although this article's primary purpose is to explain the functions and importance of NPK ratio in fertilizer, micronutrients still remain highly important. In fact, there are many more micronutrients than there are macronutrients necessary for successful plant growth. Including but not limited to; Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Sulfur, Calcium, Boron, etc. These remain vital to soil but make up much less PPM of the final plant composition. Beneficial bacteria and mycelia also play giant roles in getting all these nutrients converted and digested by the plant.

As mentioned before, it’s important to remember that all fertilizer requirements depend heavily on your location or growing zone, soil type, and existing mineral content. I highly recommend testing your soil via a soil sample kit before ever committing to your fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are also more biologically available to be broken down quicker and more efficiently by most plants. Making them a clear choice for improving your soil quality over time and who knows?.. Maybe one day alleviating the need for fertilizer and nitrogen supplementation at all. 

For any more questions about Fertilizers and NPK's call us here at Rivendell and we are happy to set you up with a soil test and the proper fertilizer regimen for your specific scenario. Until then, cheers, and happy growing!


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