courtesy Back to Your Roots Soil Solutions Fall Edition Newsletter
A new way to understand
soil chemistry holds the
secret for not only rehabilitating
soils of the world, but also
to put back in the stomach
of the world’s hungry,
a richer more nutritious
food in greater abundance.
Dr. A.F. Beddoe
The sad part is that it’s no longer new. Over 50 years ago, brilliant minds like Reams, Albrecht, Northern, and others recognized the erroneous direction agriculture and food production was taking. We can spend hours defending and explaining how
each sector has its faults and short comings, but that is not our focus. We need to find solutions and reduce the need to react to the epidemic that is occurring in our fields, gardens and hospitals.
An overview of what we need to do:
We are growing food….for something!
It’s time to start thinking about what plants need to grow. Let’s consider the following:
Depending on the source, research indicates that 80 – 95% of plants are made up of water, sugar, and protein. Water, sugar and protein consist mainly of N, C, O, and H. All these minerals that are supplied in abundance in the environment. Basic protein
consists of all four minerals, basic sugar molecules are made up of C, O, and H, and water, of course, is O and H. The remainder of the plant is made up of Calcium, Phosphate and trace minerals. Looking at a mineral tag from your animal feed supplements, the first mineral on the tag is Calcium, the second Phosphate,
then the electrolyte minerals of potassium, magnesium and sulfur.
Following this is the trace minerals. If we are growing food, the question then becomes “why aren’t we applying the minerals that are needed for nutrition.”
Let’s take this a bit father. Vegetative growth (roots, stems and leaves) is controlled by three minerals calcium, potassium and chloride. Chloride is a mineral that can be detrimental to the soil flora. Calcium has characteristics of building structure, regulating other minerals and works with Phosphate to promote photosynthesis.
It is involved in cell wall rigidity, and the development of pith. Potassium is an electrolyte mineral that mainly draws and holds water. It does other important
functions in the plant. The choice then becomes do you want a plant with increase sugar content, or a plant that has higher potassium levels and more water.
Cationic mineral (plant reproduction) include all the other minerals with the exception of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Helium, and Nitrogen. Phosphate creates the synapses for photosynthesis and sugar production in the plant, Sulfur and Magnesium are also electrolyte minerals that draw and hold water. This choice seems clear. Ok, you’re asking “why don’t just use more nitrogen”? You could, but here is the complication.
Nitrogen is free in the air we breathe (i.e. 78%). If your plant is healthy it can absorb
the nitrogen it needs from its environment. Biology living in an environment in the ground that contains air and nutrients can absorb and recycle all the nitrogen a plant needs. In an ideal world, you just decreased your inputs. Synthetic fertilizers will add salts to the soil which in turn will slow your biology’s activity or stop it all together.
The rest of the minerals are considered trace minerals. Each plant has a specific need
based on its DNA. If we ensure as many of the minerals need for plant growth are present in the soil, the plant will be able to take up what it needs. In the soil, Calcium is needed for flocculation. Some call this mellowing, but it’s the softening, the structuring and the start of creating a neutral environment. Excess potassium and
magnesium will shift the soil balance to cause hardening, compaction and cracking. All
mineral should balance to your water soluble Calcium levels.
It’s an overview. A place to start finding solutions.