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    Ammonium vs. Nitrate Fertilizers: Understanding Nitrogen Sources for Plants

    Over the past three seasons, I tended to garden plots and flower beds. In turn I have tried various souvenirs from the land, public clothing, and planting crafts. Two frequently used air gifts are ammonium and soil nitrate. Although both provide the much-needed air for growth, their different ways will be most useful for the gifted on earth.

    In this article, I aim to separate the main points between ammonium and nitrate air administration clearly. My hope is to provide enlightenment but avoid slippery talk and hard-as-a-rock learning. Being myself who is just an expert at writing for people like me, I will make the news easy to understand.

    By the end of my story, you will have a solid understanding of the differences between these soil treatments, and which one best suits your soil and planting needs.

    Two Nitrogen Sources: Ammonium and Nitrate Fertilizers Explained

    Let's start with a brief look at air and its function in plant life. Air is one of the three greatest needs, along with soil and potassium, for growth to develop. This is painful for the green dye - the substance that gives the growth a greenish tint. Air also supports stems, roots, and living earth materials. In short, without a stable supply of air as fuel to carry out economic activities, there will be no growth that can grow properly.

    And with this step 'n gift the earth. Whether containing ammonium or nitrate, these materials provide additional air to complement what is in the soil. Both air dissolves in water, so rain and soil wetting can cause both so that plant roots can absorb them. But this is where the similarities end. Ammonium and nitrate air are very different in the way growth and small life access and form the air.

    Ammonium Fertilizers

    Ammonium nitrogen, denoted by the chemical symbol NH4+, is the nitrogen form found in urea and ammonium sulfate fertilizers. When ammonium fertilizers are applied to soil, one of two things can happen to the nitrogen. First, soil microbes may convert it to nitrate (NO3-) through the process of nitrification. This makes it available for plant uptake. Second, the ammonium ion may remain in the soil where it can still be absorbed by plant roots.

    Ammonium Characteristics

    Let me now address some important points regarding air ammonium:

    • More resistant to acidic soils - Ammonium ions are less easily depleted by acidic soils than nitrate air. Therefore, applying soil ammonium provides the best benefits for acidic soils.
    • It is the tiny life that takes over this work - 'This soil' is the tiny community, not the growth, that forms the ammonium into a form of nitrate that can be absorbed by most plants. This two-step craft takes time to complete.
    • Slow release of air - Because of the way small living things work, applying soil ammonium provides air for growth over a longer period of time rather than all at once. This reduces the risk of air loss through exhaust ducts or escape of earth air.
    • Some growth draws directly - In addition to nitrates, growth such as berry plants, shrubs and camellias can suck air ammonium directly through the root framework.

    In dry land where air circulation is slow, the application of ammonium provides a stable air supply for plant growth through absorption by plants and roots by small living creatures. Its slow release is less likely to contaminate groundwater if excess air is not used for cultivation.

    Nitrate Fertilizers

    On the other hand, nitrate (NO3-) is the predominant form of nitrogen found in sodium nitrate and calcium nitrate fertilizers. Unlike ammonium, nitrate nitrogen does not require microbial conversion - plants can absorb it directly through their roots once it dissolves in soil water.

    Nitrate Characteristics

    Some key attributes of nitrate fertilizers:
    • Immediate plant availability - Since nitrate is directly bioavailable, plants have access to this nitrogen source soon after application without waiting for microbial processes.
    • Leaching potential in wet soils - Because nitrate is water-soluble and not bound to soil particles, heavy rain or irrigation after application can carry excess nitrate nitrogen below the plant's reach where it may contaminate groundwater.
    • Best for alkaline soils - The nitrification of ammonium to nitrate occurs more rapidly in neutral or alkaline soils with a pH above 7.0. These conditions favor nitrate-based fertilizers.
    • Fast release of nitrogen - All nitrogen from nitrate fertilizers becomes available to plants shortly after application. There is no gradual, prolonged release from microbial conversion like with ammonium products.

    In summary, nitrate fertilizers supply nitrogen immediately for rapid plant uptake. But their highly soluble nature increases the risk of nitrogen loss in wet conditions versus the slower-releasing ammonium form. Nitrate works well where soils allow for quick nitrification, such as in neutral-to-alkaline environments.

    Ammonium vs. Nitrate Fertilizers: Matching Nitrogen Source to Soil and Crops

    With the key differences identified, how can a home gardener determine which nitrogen source - ammonium or nitrate - is best? Here are a few guidelines:
    • Soil pH - Ammonium performs better in acidic soils below pH 7.0 where nitrification is slowed. Nitrate works well in neutral-to-alkaline conditions above pH 7.0.
    • Leaching risk - Nitrate poses more risk of nitrogen loss through leaching. Use ammonium where heavy rain or irrigation may carry nitrogen below the root zone.
    • Crop needs - Fast-growing crops requiring quick nitrogen uptake suit nitrate fertilizers. Ammonium works for slower-growing plants that can utilize nitrogen over an extended period.
    • Soil texture - Coarse, sandy soils drain quickly and favor ammonium to reduce leaching losses. Finer-textured, moisture-retentive soils perform well with either source.
    • Application timing - Apply nitrate fertilizers when plants are actively growing to utilize the readily available nitrogen. Save ammonium for earlier or later stages when microbial conversion is still providing nitrogen.

    With some experimentation, you'll get a feel for which nitrogen source meshes best with your specific soil conditions, crop selections, and garden practices. Don't be afraid to try both and compare results. Understanding the differences between ammonium and nitrate fertilizers will help optimize your soil fertility program.


    In closing, I hope this breakdown of ammonium versus nitrate fertilizers has given you valuable insights into these important nitrogen sources. While seemingly similar, they differ substantially in how soil microbes and plant roots access and process nitrogen. With some know-how on soil pH, leaching risk and crop needs, you can choose the best nitrogen match for your garden's unique characteristics. As always, happy fertilizing and good growing! Be sure to check back soon for more organic gardening tips and tricks.

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