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The Theme of Agriculture in Organic Chemistry

Old McDonald Had an Organic Farm

On paper, an organic chemist and a farmer could not be more different. 

In reality, they work together to bring the biggest, freshest, and safest foods to our local grocery stores. How do they do this?


Just like humans, plants can use some additional help to grow up healthy and strong. Fertilizers are basically plant vitamins in that they supply additional nutrients to the soil that help plants grow. Fertilizers are made from compost piles, organic matter, and organic waste (a.k.a. manure). Yum.

Humans need elements such as calcium and iron in their vitamins, since we have bones and teeth that need to stay strong. Plants, on the other hand (or leaf) could use some additional nitrogen to keep their stems in fighting shape. If it is nitrogen they need, it is nitrogen they get, thanks to the organic chemists who design optimal fertilizers.


In addition to making plants stronger, both chemists and farmers work to make the enemies of plants weaker. The best offense is a good defense, right?

There are three major foes that impact plant health: insects, weeds, and fungi. Organic chemists and farmers work together to develop pesticides that will protect plants from these nemeses yet keep the humans who eventually eat these plants (us) safe. This is a fine line to walk.

Below are some common pesticides. Note the presence of functional groups we discussed earlier in this chapter.

Diazinon, an insecticide (kills insects).

Glyphosate, a herbicide (kills weeds).

Chlorothalonil, a fungicide (kills fungus).

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