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Fertilizer is used to enrich the growing medium of plants with essential nutrients. It differs from compost in that compost is used as soil or mixed into soil, while fertilizer is added solely as a source of nutrients. Fertilizer can be made with organic waste and enriched with chemicals like Ammonia (for Nitrogen). The purpose of fertilizer is to allow plants to reach essential elements more easily, or to supplement nutrients absent from certain soils.

Plant composition

Element Corn silage notes
ppm, dry wt. %, dry wt.
oxygen 450,000 45 In water, lignine, cellulose, carbohydrates
carbon 440,000 44 In carbohydrates
hydrogen 63,000 6.3 In water and carbohydrates
nitrogen 13,000 1.3 DNA, ATP
silicon 12,000 1.2
potassium 9,000 0.9 Part of ATP
calcium 2,500 0.25 Element of cell walls and enzymes
phosphorus 1,600 0.16 Part of ATP
magnesium 1,600 0.16
sulfur 1,500 0.15
chlorine 1,500 0.15
aluminum 1,100 0.11
sodium 300 0.03
iron 90 0.009
manganese 60 0.006
zinc 30 0.003
boron 10 0.001
copper 5 0.0005
molybdenum 1 0.0001

Average elemental composition of corn tissue (silage). From Troeh, Frederick and L. M. Thompson. 1993. Soils and soil fertility. Oxford University Press. New York.

This table is for corn silage, so it may be dryer than most plants, and already separated from some biomass. Exact composition for plants will vary, but will generally be in similar proportions.


The most important fertilizer is nitrogen(N), followed by potassium (K) and phosphorus(P). Calcium(Ca) and magnesium(Mg) can be supplied by limestone, if it is found on Mars. Silicon is the most abundant element on Mars after oxygen.

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