For soil organic matter to work the way it should, it depends on a careful balance of nutrients and minerals, including one of
the most important elements — nitrogen. One of the great paradoxes of farming is that lack of nitrogen is regarded as one of the great limitations on plant growth, and yet plants are bathed in it because the atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen.
Most plants cannot use nitrogen in this form (N2) as it is regarded as inert. It has to be converted into other forms — nitrate, ammonia, ammonium and amino acids for plants to utilize it.
In conventional agriculture most of these plant-available forms of nitrogen are obtained through synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that have been produced by the Haber-Bosch process.