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Another exam question commentary: Level 2 Plant Growth
by Janet Prescott - Tuesday, 7 May 2019, 9:48 PM

From R2102 June ‘18, Q3;

a)       Define the term ‘fertiliser’.  [2 marks]

b)      List FOUR benefits of using organic fertilisers. [4 marks]

c)       State what is meant by EACH of the following terms, giving ONE example of each:

i)                    compound fertiliser; [2 marks]

ii)                   straight fertiliser.  [2 marks]


This question relates to 3.3

3.3 Describe how plant nutrients can be provided and maintained. 

Identify the characteristics of organic and inorganic sources of nutrients. 

Define what is meant by ‘fertilisers’. 

State what is meant by EACH of the following terms applied to fertilisers: soluble and slow release, straight and compound, controlled release using ONE NAMED example for EACH fertiliser. 

State what is meant by EACH of the following terms: base dressing, top dressing, liquid feed, foliar feed, using ONE NAMED situation to illustrate the use of each. 

State the benefits and limitations of nutrient sources (environmental, health and safety issues, timing of application, variability of the material).   

Identify the characteristics of organic and inorganic sources of nutrients.


The first part of the question is a straightforward definition. Two marks are allocated, so a reasonable amount of detail is required. The examiners’ comments suggest a suitable definition as ‘something that is added to the soil to supply mineral nutrients to increase/sustain plant growth and to correct nutrient deficiencies’. It could also be for adding to other growing media.

Four benefits of organic fertilisers are required for part b). It is useful to number your answers for this type of question or use bullet points. Only put the required number of benefits and don’t waste time putting in extra ones that wouldn’t be marked.

The examiners’ comments suggest the following:

·         Minimal processing required

·         Organic fertilisers are produced from plant and animal remains i.e. they are sustainable

·         Nutrients are bound in their natural state rather than being refined

·         Organic fertilisers tend to be slow release making it difficult to overfeed plants

·         Organic fertilisers feed and sustain soil life

It is a good idea to include that they ‘tend to be’ for the point on slow release. When there are a few exceptions it is good to clarify this in your answers.

Part c) requires two more definitions and two appropriate examples. The examiners’ comments suggest the following:

i)                    Compound fertiliser contains more than one major nutrient e.g. Growmore

ii)                   Straight fertiliser contains one major nutrient e.g. ammonium nitrate.

The syllabus has clearly stated numbers of examples needed for different terms, materials or plants so it is always a good idea to be familiar with the correct number of suitable examples.