>Frank Teuton said:
>>1) It seems to me conceivable that when you get down to subtle differences
>>that there might be a difference between synthetic N and natural N that
>>plants can distinguish; I say this even though I don't know a lepton from
>>leprechaun, sub-atomic particle-wise, although I hear there are quarks
>>classifiable as 'strange/charmed'...:-) This means to me that it could be
>>good for some people to be pure as the driven snow in the choice of their
>>N-sources, just in case....I say this even knowing that Ehrenfried
>>himself once wrote that nitrogen is nitrogen in the same way that four is
>>four...he may never have had New Math...:-) IOW, it may be that nitrogen
>>nitrogen synthetic or natural, or it may be that the natural stuff knows
>>secret organic handshake...<wink> The current dogma is what Pfeiffer says,
>>and many hold to it with religious fervor...
>I agree with Ehrenfried, N is N at the molecular level.
Well, sure. N=N is the dogma of the day and people who talk about the
uniqueness of each and every quark are considered to be a bit quirky, to say
the least...:-) My point is that if, one fine day, the science of the day
should find that N is somehow botched up in the Haber-Bosch process, only
the hidebound conservative die-hards in the organic agriculture circles will
get to dance the "I'm right" dance...(like the Jefferson scholars are doing
now who thought Tommy was the father...now that the DNA tests are done...but
So those who say, "Lips that have touched synthetic N will never touch
mine!" may one day be shown to be justified at the level of internal
differences. Or they may not be...
>What matters is
>*how* you get it, what are the effects on the soil and the rest of the
>environment, not to mention how much it costs (real costs) and who ends up
>benefiting and who pays the costs.
This was point #2 in my post. Let me play the Dale's advocate here for a
minute...If I live a thousand miles away from significant N, and I need to
import it, and N=N, then chances are good that at 46.6% N synthetic urea is
going to look really attractive to me compared to sodium nitrate at 16%,
feather meal or blood meal at 13%, cottonseed meal at 7%, or alfalfa meal at
3-5% or less....since transport is a major factor here.
OTOH, if I can get somebody to bring me N-rich organic wastes and pay me to
take them (ye old tipping fees) I may be less interested in the
synth-N...providing I'm willing to compost them, and that I don't have to
jump through too many flaming regulatory hoops to do that....
Yet my best purchase could likely be not alfalfa meal but alfalfa seed, so I
can grow my own N, assuming alfalfa will do well where I am; must remember
to inoculate...(and not to get the non-fixing kind...here let me wonder why
a nice hedgerow or shelterbelt, well diversified, wouldn't be better than
just alfalfa for protecting my groundwater against N...aren't there deep
rooting trees and shrubs that would also provide shelter for birds, so I
don't have to buy the Sonic Bloom CD for my plants?...but I digress
>The molecular level is a bit
>abstract--we live and work on the level of practice, economy and ecology
>and on those levels there is a *big* difference between synthetic and
>natural nitrogen--it's not a matter of dogma.
E=MC2 is pretty abstract too, and one could wonder at its practical
applications...except that the 'killer apps' started coming online more than
50 years ago...'mushrooms were never meant to be clouds' is a poster I
But I take your point, that N from synthesis is a problem because of
externalities; as far as we know, there is no reason to question the N=N
hypothesis...( I will now kiss the Bishop's ring...:-)
And, there is plenty of strong evidence that N-excesses in agriculture are
causing downstream problems while filling off-farm coffers...and that should
be our focus, not some wildly speculative (tho inherently conservative)
thinking about N not equalling N and there being potentially some
internality problem...though I still think there may be...
Frank Teuton (an N-trenched skeptic...:-)
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