Pricey Fertilizer Grows Greener Farming Practices

by Vivian Diep in February 17th, 2023
person in yellow jacket holding black soil

Thu Feb 2

Noticed a jump in fertilizer prices at the garden supply shop? How about the price of groceries? We're all upset but farmers are especially frustrated by the price of fertilizer, which is already 40% lower from last spring but still double what it was two years ago. For anyone growing corn, that means fertilizer is now 40% of the cost.

  • Why did fertilizer prices soar globally? Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Both countries are major producers of fertilizer so the sanctions and trade route disruptions from Russia’s invasion have limited trade and pushed up costs.
  • Prices of natural gas: Natural gas is used to make nitrogen-based fertilizer. The US saw high prices due to high demand for exportable natural gas, decreased supply capacity, and extreme weather. Europe can still fully blame Russia for this one, though.
  • Opportunistic industry: Fertilizer companies (at least in North America) saw farmers bringing in 14% greater profit and bumped their prices accordingly, offending many farmers, who are beginning to fear concentration of the industry. Many fertilizer companies have reported triple-digit profit increases. One company reported over 1,000% higher profit.

While high grocery prices would eventually make up for the high costs (assuming a successful harvest), many farmers had to reduce acreage or find cheaper ways to grow. This has led to a burst of interest in regenerative farming practices (aka Indigenous agriculture approaches). These practices focus on improving the biology and health of the soil, which promises:

  • Greater crop yields
  • Healthier crops
  • Land and water conservation
  • Independence from chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides
  • Cost savings
  • A more resilient ecosystem, and more.

In contrast, an overuse of fertilizers has led to degraded topsoils, nutrient runoff, and dead zones in water bodies where the runoffs lead. Nitrogen fertilizers, applied improperly, can also be released into the air as a greenhouse gas. And these issues only skim the surface of the environmental impact of fertilizers. Much more has been said by health and policy researchers who have reported on the inadequacy of farmworker protective equipment and dangers of chronic exposure.


Don’t Buy Bats on eBay and Etsy 

Woolly bats are on the list of “near-threatened” animals with their numbers continuing to decrease thanks to the “souvenir trade.” Their corpses are showing up on eBay and Etsy as framed specimens or on hats, barrettes, and garter belts. Specialists are worried because these and other bats (which may be falsely sold as woolly bats) reproduce slowly. And if the threatened numbers aren’t enough deterrence, here’s a reminder that the potential for disease transmission between species rises dramatically when wild animals are crammed together in unsanitary conditions.

>> Read More

Nigeria’s Fate Lies in a UK Court 

A battered Nigeria may be further hurt through the abuse of the UK legal system. A firm registered in the British Virgin Islands, P&ID, was supposed to refine gas for Nigeria, but neither party did anything to fulfill their obligations. Then, P&ID took Nigeria to a London tribunal, which ordered Nigeria to pay $6.6B to P&ID. Nigeria refused and the debt is now $11B. Experts say the corrupt government officials were in cahoots with P&ID to exploit the poorer country through the UK legal system. The trial will end next month, but low public interest has cemented doubts this will prevent similar future cases.

>> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week 

If you want to try your hand at urban farming using regenerative practices, check out this guide from the Almanac. For non-gardeners, you might be interested in stretching that grocery budget by keeping some kitchen scraps to make broth. And for those interested in doing more research on regenerative farming, check out Regenerative Farmers of America.



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What are you chirping about?

I’m just letting everyone know I’m no woolly bat.

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