Artificial nitrogen products are often petrochemical in origin.
The application of artificial nitrogen, to grassland and to other agricultural and horticultural crops, has been a method of ‘boosting’ plant growth and productivity, in modern times. The benefits in terms of weight of product are undeniable.
Equally undeniable is the concept that quantity is not necessarily quality. Traditional methods of cropping restrict productivity in order to enhance quality, in many spheres of food and commodity production. There must be a reason for this.
Artificial nitrogen treatment of crops does several things to our food and our environment:
- It raises levels of potentially toxic nitrates, nitrites, amides, amines and other non-protein nitrogenous (NPN) compounds in the plant.
- It raises sugars (non-structural carbohydrates – NSC) in the plant.
- It decreases fibre in the plant. These three factors can increase the risk of laminitis in horses, ponies and donkeys.
- It raises Potassium and lowers especially Magnesium (this is very dangerous for ruminants that eat grass treated in this way, making them prone to ‘grass staggers').
- It lowers the levels of trace minerals in the ground, thus impoverishing the soil. The crops are also short in these valuable nutrients.
- It raises the level of nitrogen in drainage water (ditch water), thus increasing harmful algal overgrowth in rivers and streams.
- It raises nitrates etc. in our drinking water.
- It damages vital soil microflora.
- It reduces plant diversity (biodiversity) in pasture land.
- It is a factor in decreasing habitat quality for many insects and therefore birds such as skylarks and lapwings, who depend upon such species and who have now virtually disappeared from our pasture land and meadows.
These effects are highly undesirable for horses that eat grass or hay from ground treated in this way. These adverse effects may be sufficient to negate the benefit of herbal medicine, homeopathy etc.
These effects are also undesirable to humans who consume food (fruit, vegetables and cereals) grown in this way.
Poor nutrition results and health inevitably suffers.
Because these effects are so serious to horses, we recommend that horses should not be given access to grass, grass products and grass conservation products that have been treated in this way. Traditional methods of returning nutrients to the soil are advocated. For this reason, the AVMC offers advice on pasture management to clients. More traditional methods and, especially, organic methods, are infinitely preferable, provide better nutrition and do not adversely affect the quantity of grass ‘keep' for horses.
Soil health, plant health, animal health and human health are inextricably linked.