Have you wondered
- when was synthetic fertilizer invented
Dead fish, seaweed, manure — those are just a few things farmers had been putting on their fields for thousands of years to make their crops grow better. These natural fertilizers worked, although no one knew why.
In the 1600s, scientists began studying what plants need to grow. They soon discovered that nitrogen is a vital nutrient. Later, scientists found that phosphorus is also very important.
Irish inventor James Murray knew that his milk of magnesia factory produced a lot of waste phosphorus. Could there be a way to use it to feed plants? In 1842, he succeeded in turning his factory’s phosphorus waste into chemical, or synthetic, fertilizer.
Agriculture took another leap ahead in 1909 when German chemist Fritz Haber figured out how to make ammonia in his lab. The ammonia could then be used to make nitrogen for fertilizer.
Combined with phosphorous, synthetic nitrogen boosted plants’ growth.
RIPPLES: Greater food production has raised the world’s population from 2 billion in 1900 to 7.5 billion in 2012. Almost half of all people on Earth are now fed by food grown with synthetic fertilizers. Without synthetic fertilizers, many people would starve. It’s easy to see why some people think synthetic nitrogen is one of the most important inventions ever.