Potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen are the top 3 essential nutrients for crop development and are responsible for photosynthesis and chlorophyll contents. The significance of soil nitrogen fixation for agriculture lies in the fact that although atmospheric air contains 78% nitrogen, it is not readily available for plant consumption. Providing nitrogen in a form that can be easily absorbed by plants is essential for maintaining crop health. While fertilisation is one approach, there exists a more cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and lucrative option-biological nitrogen fixation. This process is made possible through nitrogen-fixing organisms and crops.
This blog talks about the relevance of nitrogen fixing in Australian agriculture.
Is Nitrogen Fixation?
Nitrogen fixation involves converting the relatively unreactive atmospheric nitrogen into more reactive compounds like nitrates, nitrites, or ammonia. The significance of nitrogen fixation stems from the fact that these reactive forms are vital for supporting crop growth and facilitating healthy development. Contrarily, nitrogen deficiency can impede crop growth. Approximately 90% of natural nitrogen fixation in the world is carried out by biotic processes, mainly through soil microorganisms. Abiotic factors like lightning and UV rays also contribute to natural nitrogen fixation. Alternatively, nitrogen can be fixed through artificial means using electrical equipment or industrial processes.
Importance of Nitrogen Fixation in Australian Agriculture
Nitrogen fixation plays a vital role in Australian agriculture, contributing significantly to the productivity and sustainability of the country’s farming systems. This process is essential; as atmospheric nitrogen is abundant but not readily usable by plants in its gaseous form.
- Enhanced Crop Productivity: Nitrogen as we know is vital for plant growth and development. Through nitrogen fixation, crops get a consistent and accessible supply of nitrogen by converting atmospheric nitrogen into forms that plants can readily absorb. This in turn ensures that the plants get sufficient nitrogen available to support healthy growth, maximise yields, and produce high-quality agricultural products.
- Less Dependence on Synthetic Fertilisers: The ability to fix nitrogen naturally minimises the reliance on synthetic fertilisers in agriculture. Synthetic fertilisers are usually used to provide plants with nitrogen, but their excessive use can lead to environmental pollution and adverse effects on soil health. By harnessing nitrogen fixation, farmers can reduce the amount of synthetic fertilisers required, minimising the environmental impact and promoting sustainable farming practices.
- Ecological Sustainability: Nitrogen fixation facilitates nutrient cycling and promotes biodiversity by fostering the growth of nitrogen-fixing microorganisms and plants. These organisms build symbiotic relationships, like the partnership between leguminous plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which makes the soil rich in nitrogen. This, in turn, improves soil fertility, supports diverse plant communities, and enhances the overall health of the ecosystem.
- Improved Soil Health and Nutrient Management: Nitrogen fixation impacts soil health and nutrient management positively. As nitrogen-fixing plants grow, they add organic matter to the soil, enhancing its structure, moisture-holding capacity, and nutrient retention. The increased availability of nitrogen in the soil is beneficial to not only the nitrogen-fixing plants but also the neighbouring crops, leading to improved overall crop performance and reduced nutrient deficiencies.
- Cost Savings and Economic Benefits: By relying on natural nitrogen fixation, farmers can reduce the cost of inputs associated with synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. This leads to potential cost savings, especially for small-scale farmers. Additionally, nitrogen fixation can enhance the economic viability of agricultural systems by enhancing crop yields, quality, and marketability, thereby increasing farm incomes and contributing to the economic prosperity of rural communities.
By harnessing the natural process of nitrogen fixation, Australian farmers can enhance productivity, protect the environment, and build a resilient and prosperous agricultural sector for generations to come.
To know more about nitrogen fixation and how it has been benefitting several Australian farmers, contact us at KG2 Australia, the country’s largest independent farmer database that enables farmers and industries to leverage the country’s most comprehensive agribusiness database for beneficial outcomes.