We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Nitrogen Fertilizer?

By Douglas Bonderud
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At HomeQuestionsAnswered, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Nitrogen fertilizer is a compound that is added to plants or lawns to stimulate growth. The nitrogen stimulates chloroplasts in plants, which are responsible for the process of photosynthesis. Plants that do not have enough nitrogen will turn yellow and eventually perish from a lack of food.

The development of nitrogen fertilizer began in 1905 with the German chemist Fritz Haber. Haber discovered a way to fixate nitrogen from the air. Fixation is the process by which a gas, such as nitrogen, is converted into a usable compound. In this case, Haber was able to convert gaseous hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia. He received a Nobel prize for his work in 1918.

Originally, Haber's process was used to synthesize nitrates for Germany during the First World War, to aid in the production of explosives. A refinement of his method led to the ability to create ammonium sulphate for use in soil. Once this process was adapted to work on a large scale, nitrogen fertilizer was born.

There are two common forms of nitrogen used for plant growth. The first is natural nitrogen, which is found in decaying plant or animal matter. This is why compost is used on lawns or gardens — the manure and other material in it releases nitrogen into the soil.

The second form of nitrogen fertilizer available is commercially synthesized. In this case, the nitrogen is present in the form of ammonium or nitrate. Ammonium-based fertilizers bond securely with soil, but release their nitrogen slowly into a plant. Those based around nitrates are quickly absorbed by a plant, but can be easily washed away by water in a process known as leaching.

Natural nitrogen takes longer to be used by a plant than either commercial form, but does not come with the same risks. Improper application of commercial fertilizer can lead to groundwater contamination. The widespread use of commercial nitrogen fertilizer is now a serious environmental concern as contaminated runoff water has begun to adversely affect sea plants around the world. Extra nitrogen present in the water has caused unrestrained algae growth in some bodies of water, which then results in massive algae death and decay. This happens because, as water in the immediate area is depleted of oxygen, the algae die. subsequently, this kills large amounts of animal life that need it for food.

Nitrogen lawn fertilizer also contains phosphorous and potassium, since phosphorus assists in root growth and potassium is needed for water movement. A bag of fertilizer will list the percentage of each compound present in the fertilizer. One marked 10-10-10 means that each compound accounts for 10% of the bag by weight, and the other 70% of the bag is simply an inert chemical.

Properly applying nitrogen fertilizer is important. Too much will kill a lawn as surely as too little. Bags will list suggested amounts to use, based on the size of lawn being fertilized. Ideally, apply the material when the lawn is wet and likely to stay that way for a while. This can prevent the nitrogen from burning the grass, or making it yellow and brittle.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon148170 — On Jan 31, 2011

does use of high nitrogen fertilizers (above 30 percent) contribute to high acidic soil base.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

HomeQuestionsAnswered, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.