Oil and fertilizer

Reader Michael writes in to say:

Sorry, Joe, but corn is, in fact, primarily fertilized with a petroleum product. Mass scale corn production requires a massive infusion of fixed nitrogen fertilizers. The primary fertilizer of choice for use with corn is anhydrous ammonia, which is a primarily petroleum based product. So, corn is, in fact, drenched in oil, if you want to put it that way.

Of course putting it that way is exactly what I have a problem with — and fertilizer, though it’s derived from oil, isn’t actually oil. To my broader point, however, many, many other types of crops require the application of nitrogen fertilizers. Corn is no particular offender in this area.

UPDATE: There’s been a TON of response to this particular post on both sides of the argument, with critics claiming that corn does consume a greater amount fertilizer per acre, and defenders claiming that on a per bushel/per calorie basis, the statement is correct. Complicating the issue is that fertilizer applications vary according to the type of farming you’re doing. Down the middle of the road are still others who say that while corn does consume more fertilizer, not all of it is petroleum-based, so the argument about oil still holds. I clearly have more investigating to do in this area. Thanks to all who weighed in!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *