Understanding the Carbon Footprint of Organic Fertilizers

As agriculture moves towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, the worldwide use of organic fertilizers has become increasingly popular. Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials, such as animal manure and circular vegetal raw materials. Organic fertilizers are often considered a more environmentally friendly alternative to mineral fertilizers, which are made from non-renewable resources. But when it comes to understanding the carbon footprint of these fertilizers, the comparison is more complex.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the amount of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, that are released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities. The carbon footprint of a product or activity is measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) and includes emissions from the production, transportation, and use of that product or activity.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials and are generally considered to have a lower carbon footprint than mineral fertilizers. This is because the production of organic fertilizers typically involves less energy use and fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to the production of mineral fertilizers. However, to be able to calculate the exact carbon footprint, the origin and production methods of each raw material should be known.

In general organic fertilizers that consist of locally sourced ingredients have a lower carbon footprint compared to organic fertilizers that consist of materials that need to be transported for large distances. Also, animal manure and meals are known to have a higher carbon footprint compared to vegetal raw materials due to the release of greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than carbon dioxide.

MeMon mainly works with circular raw materials that are derived from the Northwest of Europe of which the majority comes from the Netherlands. The most used animal manure is derived from chicken farms that are located around our production locations. Dutch farms are known to be innovative and efficient and are using a broad toolbox to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower their carbon footprint.

Mineral Fertilizers

Mineral or synthetic fertilizers, on the other hand, are made from non-renewable resources such as natural gas, phosphate rock, and potash. The production of mineral fertilizers requires a significant amount of energy and results in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the mining, processing, and transportation of the materials.

It is worth noting that mineral fertilizers in general have a higher nutrient content than organic fertilizers and can provide more precise nutrient ratios for plants and predictive mineralization rates. This can result in a more efficient use of the fertilizers, which can offset some of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with their production. However, by combining different types of raw materials, MeMon is also able to create precise nutrient ratios in organic fertilizers. The sliders on the product page of organic fertilizers give the possibility to search for specific NPK-ratio’s. Formulas on demand or formulas with other nutrients and trace elements are also possible.

Organo-mineral fertilizers combine the positive effects of organic fertilizers with the predictive mineralization rates of mineral nutrients. This way, organo-mineral fertilizers can be added to ensure the right amount of nutrients at the right time while still increasing the organic matter content of the soil. A higher organic matter content increases soil health and the ability of the soil to hold and exchange positively charged nutrients (cation-exchange capacity), which also results in more efficient use of nutrients.


Organic fertilizers have a lower carbon footprint compared to mineral fertilizers. However, the comparison is not always straightforward and many factors should be taken into account. The carbon footprint of organic fertilizers can vary depending on their production method, transportation distance and the type of organic materials used. Similarly, while mineral fertilizers have a higher carbon footprint, their nutrient content can result in more efficient use of fertilizer. However, more complex organic fertilizers and organo-mineral fertilizers are also able to meet specific crop needs and enable more efficient use, while feeding the soil food web, increasing soil health and sequestering carbon at the same time.

Sustainable agriculture practices, such as using organic fertilizers and minimizing the use of mineral fertilizers, can help to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and contribute to a more sustainable and resilient food system.

Organic fertilizers feed the soil and the plant