Fertilizer or Manure may be defined as plant and animal materials added to the soil to improve its fertility. Naturally, soil has its inherited fertility but due to some processes, it depletes. For any crop to grow well on a soil, the soil has to be fertile that is, the soil must be able to supply the adequate proportion of the nutrients needed for the plant growth.
However, a farmer should not rely solely on the inherited soil fertility. The farmer must enhance the soil fertility to have good yield from the soil. There are different kinds of manure namely:
• Compost manure: this consist of the remains of the plants and animals heaped together to decay and form manure.
• Green manure: this consist crops, primarily legumes, planted to add fertility for the soil.
• Artificial manure:This is the synthesis or inorganic manure used to add fertility to the soil. Example is the NPK.
• Farmyard manure: This is the talking point, this is the best manure to apply to the soil before planting is done.
Farmyard manure is the mixture of livestock droppings with plant materials like straw used for animal bedding. The bedding is normally removed once or twice in a year. Having been trampled upon by animal with the mixture of both solid and liquid excreta, it can be used directly on the farm.
Examples of farmyard manure are dropping from cattle, swine and chicken. Sometimes especially in cases where the pen has not been provided with litter, the droppings are removed daily and heaped. This heap may be turn once or twice and then used. Farmyard manure is the best complete manure provided it is properly handled. The composition of Farmyard manure depends on the following factors:
- The type of animal whose dropping is used:
The nature of the digestive system of individual animal determines the nutrient content of the dropping. In this case, poultry manure is the best because of their digestive system. Poultry birds basically eat concentrate feeds which are very rich nutrient wise. This makes poultry manure the best among the rest.
Ruminant animals like sheep, cattle feed on roughage. Roughages have low nutrient content, they have high fibre content which make them nutritionally poor, making the droppings of animal fed on roughages poor. The physical condition of an animal places it in the condition to extract much of the nutrients in its feed therefore secreting out droppings that are practically low in nutrient. Pregnant and lactating animals fall within this group, also rapidly growing animals also belong to this group. Cow dungs or droppings are poor, goat and sheep are good followed by pigs then horse manure.
- Type of feed the animal eats:
What the animal eats reflects in the richness of the droppings. Animal feed is divided into two, the Roughages and Concentrates. The latter contains sufficient and adequate proportion of nutrients required for the animal growth. While roughages have low nutrient content. Animal fed with concentrate produce rich droppings and these droppings are good for adding nutrient to the soil, unlike Roughages with low nutrient value.
- The method of storage and handling:
The method of storage and handling of the manure also determine how rich it would be. Farm yard manure should be made under cover because the nutrients are volatile, they can easily escape to the atmosphere by the action of the sun and wind leaving the debris. Also, if rain falls, it is possible the nutrients are washed away by the rain. Too much exposure of farm yard manure facilities its deterioration.
When a very absorbent material is used as litter, nearly all the urine and droppings of the animals may be collected thus making it a more complete manure than a less absorbent one. Farm yard manure is best applied before tillage so that it is incorporated in the soil and should be done when the soil is moist or wet.