History of bone meal
As long as humans have been growing plants for food, there has been an understanding that natural products could be added to the soil to foster better plant growth. Over time as technology advanced in the sciences there became a switch to using commercial fertilizers
to supplement the soil.
Around 1840, the idea of dissolving animal bones in sulfuric acid to extract phosphorus nutrients where within was suggested by Justus von Liebig, who is often described as the “father of the fertilizer industry”. Liebig promoted the idea of essential nutrients needed for all plant growth and the law of the minimum — how plants relied on the scarcest nutrient resource instead of the total resources available. He also recognized that plants could benefit from substituting chemical fertilizers for the natural products being used at the time and is credited for developing the first nitrogen-based fertilizer.
The theory of plant essential nutrients is a fundamental aspect of plant nutrition today. There are a set of nutrients that are essential for plant growth to occur: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the major nutrients; calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are the secondary nutrients; the micronutrients are boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. All of these nutrients play specific, sometimes overlapping and sometimes different, roles within the plant. If any of them are deficient the plant will be affected.
Over time the levels of plant essential nutrients found in the soil profile deplete for a variety of reasons: plant uptake, water runoff, soil erosion to name a few. As these levels are reduced plants will show deficiency symptoms if they don’t have enough of the essential
nutrients available for uptake. Hence why it’s important to reintroduce nutrients to depleted soils through the addition of fertilizers and soil amendments such as manure or compost.
Shortly after Liebig’s suggestion to use bones as a fertilizer base, the process was utilized in Britain, and large-scale production and international trade of bone meal propelled agricultural development in 19th century England. Bone meal is considered the oldest