Organic vs. synthetic fertilizer – jury is still out

By Tom Lollis

Researchers at the Coastal Research & Education Center in Charleston testing 2 types on feverfew

Is organic fertilizer better than synthetic fertilizer? Researchers at the Coastal Research & Education Center in Charleston tested both types on feverfew, a nutraceutical plant used to treat migraines.

“Organic medicinals have a premium price, and if the active compounds can be increased naturally, the value of the feverfew crop is greatly enhanced,” said Brian Ward, a Clemson master’s student in plant and environmental sciences. For this study, he collaborated with Clemson plant physiologist Damayanthi Ranwala and Greg Baccari, a master’s student at the College of Charleston.

The test compared a synthetic 15-5-15 fertilizer and a similar formulation of organic nutrients, applied through drip irrigation for 12 weeks to 350 genetically identical plants. The results showed that both types of fertilizer produced comparable levels of parthenolide, an anti-inflammatory compound in feverfew.

Another test investigated the effect of natural growth regulators, which increased parthenolide content by 11 percent over the control plots.

For information: Brian Ward, 843-402-5399, ext. 4244,