Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Using Less Water And Growing Healthier Landscapes By Being On The Journey To Better Soil Health

There are some people in the arid Albuquerque market and other cities of the Southwest that still prefer to have green lawns that you can walk barefoot on.   Historically the standard practice for keeping grass green was to use high analysis fertilizers.  Products with names like Miracle Grow, SoilTex, urea, etc.,    which were dumped on landscapes like crazy and have been the tradition all across the country when it came to growing turf and trees.   This article will describe the problem with using high analysis fertilizers, how they damage the soil ecology and I'll describe how Soil Secrets has a better idea that results in the gradual improvement in the soil health while also reducing the amount of water needed to keep our urban landscapes green. 
  While fertilizers do what they claim, which is provide Nitrogen, Phosphorous Potassium and maybe a half a dozen other elements, and will make your lawn green as promised, they do so at a cost to the health of the soil.  This results in a multitude of other problems which I'll address here.   First is the issue of water.  The poorer condition your soils bio-geo-chemical process (Soil Ecology) are in, the poorer the soil structure and the poorer the root system of the plant.  Thus, resulting in the plant, the crop, the turf, the trees and shrubs needing extra water.  This is true for agriculture and it’s true for urban horticulture.   The first two pictures I've attached show a typical situation in Albuquerque where the home owner is trying to compensate for soil that is not healthy by providing the landscape with extra water, yet still we can see a dead/dying spot in the top photo.  

Notice the dead spot in the background.  This is caused by disease pressure and the roots rotting caused by poor drainage, anaerobic conditions (no air) and poor soil structure.  

What's happening is that the turf is declining regardless of fertilizer and water being applied?  While Soil Ecology is complex, we can accurately determine that the grass roots on this site are shallow and vulnerable to moisture availability.  Why?  Because the site has poor soil structure resulting in anaerobic soils (no oxygen), resulting in poor drainage and poor root depth since roots can only live where there's plentiful oxygen.  The issue is poor soil structure caused by a system of management that does not encourage, prime, or support the process of soil ecology.  In other words, no high analysis fertilizer product has every built a healthier soil and since plants must have a healthy soil in order to grow a healthy immune system and a strong structure, we can accurately say that fertilizers can't grow a healthy plant.   So back to the attached pictures, where the homeowner is watering like crazy, trying to save the turf, we also begin to see turf disease issues.  Like humans, a healthy plant has a capable immune system while an unhealthy plant is vulnerable to disease!  The image below, taken just a few weeks after the photo above, shows the turf recovering and the brown spot disappearing.  

This site had been treated with TerraPro, which fortified the soil with Humic Molecules (erroneously called Humic Acids) that are powerful "bio-organic matrixes" essential for a healthy and productive soil.  TerraPro is a novel material of the industry that cannot be duplicated with other products on the market and was developed from information obtained from molecular research performed at both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory, which provided molecular information as deliverables to Soil Secrets under a Commercial Proprietary Information Contract!  On a molecular atomic scale they are bio-identical to what is found in Nature's best soil environment and they contain the proper supramolecular (quantum physics) characteristics.   In the Journal of Chemical Education, research published by two Bio Chemical Engineers from the University of Arizona have stated that these carbon rich bio-organic matrixes that we generically call Humic Acids, are essential for a healthy and productive soil.  So in the case of the images provided in this paper we simply fortified the soil with that chemistry of Nature, plus we switch the source of nitrogen  from using a high analysis type fertilizer to using a protein based product called Protein Crumblies, also a novel product of Soil Secrets.   Why protein?  Because Soil Ecology depends on the life and death cycling of animals in the soil, including the smallest creature the bacteria up to larger animals such as earthworms, all of which bodies contain protein.  As that protein decays, the nitrogen that's part of the molecular structure of the protein slowly becomes available for other soil microbes to graze on, with some of the nitrogen becoming available for the vegetation.  This process is called "the soil food web", also essential for a healthy and sustainable soil ecology.    I've been writing and talking about the soil food web since 1974, when I first wrote a paper on that topic for a college class.   Essentially what Soil Secrets is accomplishing on this site is a process of "bio mimicry" where we are adding to this soil what is needed to prime it back into a functional productive soil.    It demonstrates that we can grow an attractive turf, use less water, have less disease pressure and be more responsible with our environment when we use Soil Secrets Bio-Mimicry processes versus using fertilizer and watering like crazy.   Need more convincing? Here's a unsolicited email from Craig Thames, Midland Texas Independent Schools, Grounds Forman.

The use of TerraPro and Protein Crumblies dates back to the late 80's at my Trees That Please Nursery in Los Lunas, New Mexico.  The names have changed and the products were crude in comparison to what we have today, but I developed them for the production of our trees, shrubs and other plants, where I was attempting to mimic Nature for the objective of being on the journey to better soil health.   Today Trees That Please production still uses TerraPro and Protein Crumblies, in production of our plant materials and we retail them to our clients.  They are also available to other nurseries/garden centers and they are used Nation wide in agriculture, mine reclamation, State Highway re-vegetation, city parks and sports fields.  Some of the largest farms in the United States are now using TerraPro and other products of Soil Secrets, which has   evolved into a national company.       It Works! 

Here's another site in Albuquerque, where the soil health was compromised by the use of high analysis fertilizers.  

The image below was taken a few weeks after the above, with the bottom image benefiting from TerraPro and Protein Crumblies treatment.

Don't forget that on May 31st, we shall be opening our arboretum collection to the public for our annual Spring Fling in the Trees.  It's free and its open to the public.  Mark your calendar and if you wish to attend, contact us for directions and more details. 

by Michael Martin Meléndrez

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Arboretum Tomé Annual Open House and Garden Party Is Coming Soon!

If you like trees, you'll love
The Arboretum Tomé!


Join the Staff of
Trees That Please and Soil Secrets LLC
for the Arboretum Tomé Annual
Open House and Garden Party.

May 31st from 9:30am to 4:30pm

Free Parking and Admission!!

Talks with Discussion between 10:00 & 12:30

Bring a Picnic Lunch and Enjoy Live Easy Listening Music
in the Afternoon Shade!

The Arboretum Tomé is available for researchers, 
school field trips, student projects, plant clubs, 
photographers, and others
who want to learn more about Southwestern Native Plants
and Soil Restoration Techniques.

The Arboretum Tomé is a private collection of trees developed by Michael Martin Meléndrez, who for 26 years has been using biological restoration techniques on the native soils of the site.

Come, see and learn, how this technique can benefit our
Southwestern Soils and Plants. 

Michael's business, Soil Secrets LLC, employs these same techniques 
on organic farms, DOT projects, mine reclamation sites,
and public school grounds across the country.

Click Here to Download and Print a PDF for this Event

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Knowledge of Nitrogen Transfer Between Plants And Beneficial Fungi Expands

Knowledge Of Nitrogen Transfer Between Plants And Beneficial Fungi Expands

Date:              June 23, 2005, Science Daily

Source::          USDA / Agricultural Research Service

Summary:        New findings show that a beneficial soil fungus plays a large role in nitrogen uptake and                         utilization in most plants.


A microscopic view of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus growing on a corn root. The round bodies are spores, and the threadlike filaments are hyphae. The substance coating them is glomalin, revealed by a green dye tagged to an antibody against glomalin.
Credit: Photo by Sara Wright

New findings show that a beneficial soil fungus plays a large role in nitrogen uptake and utilization in most plants.

In a recent issue of the journal Nature, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Philip E. Pfeffer and cooperators report that beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi transfer substantial amounts of nitrogen to their plant hosts. A lack of soil nitrogen often limits plant growth.

The studies were conducted by Pfeffer and David Douds at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa.; Michigan State University scientists headed by Yair Shachar-Hill; and New Mexico State University scientists headed by Peter J. Lammers and including graduate student Manjula Govindarajulu.

AM is the most common type of symbiotic fungus that colonizes the roots of most crop plants. The fungi receive glucose and possibly other organic materials from the plant, while enhancing the plant's ability to take up mineral nutrients, primarily phosphorus.

The scientists previously identified enzymes and genes involved in nitrogen absorption and breakdown in AM fungi, but very little was known about how nitrogen is moved from fungus to plant or in which form nitrogen moves within the fungus. The researchers discovered a novel metabolic pathway in which inorganic nitrogen is taken up by the fungi and incorporated into an amino acid called arginine. This amino acid remains in the fungus until it is broken down and transferred to the plant.

The results show that the symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants may have a much more significant role in the worldwide nitrogen cycle than previously believed. With this in mind, farmers may benefit from promoting the proliferation of mycorrhizal fungi through diminished fertilizer input, thereby making more efficient use of the nitrogen stores in agricultural soils.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA / Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Click This Link To View the original story in Science Daily:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Conserving Water in Agriculture and in Urban Horticulture; The Present

Conserving Water in Agriculture and in Urban Horticulture:
The Present

by Michael Martin Meléndrez

The Material Science program at Soil Secrets has developed a protocol of materials that work, help hold water in the soil, provide nourishment for the soil microbes and the vegetation, and fortify the soil with the essential bio-identical humic molecules that are the foundation of a healthy and productive soil. Below are some photos of a cotton crop in the desert of West Texas that show the power of humic molecules managing soil water in the event of drought.

In this particular case water was cut off in early September, two months before the cotton crop was mature enough to harvest.   Figure 1 below shows a cotton field where the crop is much shorter, caused by the artificial drought caused by the irrigation being terminated.  

Figure 2 below shows a cotton field that did not terminate during the same irrigation drought and which had a two month advantage for soil moisture.  

Both images were taken on the same day and only a few hundred feet apart, with all variables the same except for one difference.   The green field (Figure 2) was treated with 315 pounds of the active ingredient in our Ag Grade TerraPro, which are Supramolecular Humic molecules, formulated by Soil Secrets.  The product was not mixed into the soil and was only surfaced applied.  It resulted in the soil holding onto a greater amount of moisture which allowed the cotton crop the chance to keep on growing while the other fields where irrigation was cut off, failed to grow as much.  Also, note the background of these two images, where you can see the same tanks, as the position of where I'm standing is only a couple of hundred feet apart, taken on the same day.   The conclusion is obvious, that we can improve the soils ability to hold onto water and contribute more to the mineral nutrient uptake into the crop or the landscape.   This point has been an easy sell to the agriculture/urban horticulture and landscape design industries, particularly those which identify with the problem of drought and alkaline soils. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Conserving Water in Agriculture and in Urban Horticulture; The Past

Conserving Water in Agriculture and in Urban Horticulture;
The Past
by Michael Martin Meléndrez

In recent years I've written about techniques that could play a vital role in helping us conserve water in urban horticulture and in agriculture, particularly since the Southwest and the Western States are so dependent upon irrigation to grow crops, parks, sports fields and home landscapes.  Water is an issue that's growing and will not ever go away in our life time, so we better be on the learning curve of how to deal with it.

Soil Secrets has gotten better and better at what it does as a Soil Ecology company, with our Material Science and product line-up performing at a cutting edge pace.  For example, what we were doing 20 years ago was pretty fantastic and got the attention of many new clients and industry leaders, however compared to what we can do today, it was pretty crude stuff.  And compared to what the typical retail nursery garden store sector is offering today, our materials are like comparing the Tesla Premium Electric car to the first Model T, particularly when it comes to rehabilitating the soils health and conserving water. 
The Past:
Historically our industry has tried to fix soil by adding gobs of organic matter in the form of compost, peat moss, worm castings, mushroom compost or aged steer manure, in the hope that we could create a top soil out of poor dirt.  The results were sketchy at best and the soil structure may actually be damaged because of the high salt index of some of these materials, i.e. the steer manure and the mushroom compost.  In New Mexico, even compost can cause soil structure problems as there are few good sources of compost being sold that are not rich in excessive salts with the added problem of high pH chemistry.  The problem is the source/ingredients used to make the compost are not dependable or consistent and often times salt rich manures are used.  There is composting methodology described by David Johnson, PhD in molecular biology from New Mexico State University, Institute for the Energy and the Environment, where compost made with dairy manure can be remediated to not be problematic with salt, however his technique is novel and not being used by the commercial composters thus far.       
So all the nurseries push adding compost and other soil amendment products in the attempt to fix soil, regardless of the efficacy of the practice.  I even heard a PhD Extension Agent from Colorado say you cannot add too much compost while building the soil of your new home.  However he's very wrong on that point. 

       On the surface the technique sounds good and logical since we know that our poor desert soil did not look or behave like a rich top soil.  It was not capable of storing water, providing slow release moisture to the vegetation.  It was not capable of keeping the trace elements constantly available for plant use and it just didn't look like a rich dark top soil.  Without water being constantly available the mineral trace element nutrients cannot be held in a 'nutrient water solution' for most of the growing season, something necessary for proper plant nutrient uptake.  The problem of watering (irrigation) followed by a drying out period resulted in this sequence of events.  We water and for a period of time the soil could be too wet making it anaerobic (without oxygen), which causes the toxic build up of root poisons like lactic acid and alcohol.  The soil then begins to dry out and for a brief period of time there's just enough moisture to maintain the 'nutrient water solution' until the soil gets too dry.  During the excessive dry phase, vegetation has trouble conducting photosynthesis because water and mineral nutrient uptake are needed for that process to work.    Without photosynthesis glucose production stops and the transference of the liquid carbon (glucose) to the rhizosphere (figure 1) biomass of microbes is inhibited.  

Figure 1. Shows black humic molecular compounds with microbes and soil sticking to the roots                                 rhizosphere

Not good for those beneficial microbes!  The rhizosphere is the narrow region of soil that is directly influenced by root secretions also called root exudates which is the mono saccharide glucose needed by the soil's microbiology including the mycorrhizae.    It's this terrestrial biosphere of microbiology that builds the amazing molecules of supramolecular humic acids, the black stuff that makes a top soil dark in color.    The result of the soil being too wet, just wet enough and then followed by too dry is a feast-or-famine cycle, which is never good for plants.      

Then we have the obstacle of the soil chemistry pH being too high for many of us living west of the "lime line" center of North America's continent.   When the soil pH is high (alkaline) many of the trace elements such as iron and zinc, etc., are chemically occluded and not available for uptake.  In the case of alkaline soil with poor mutualistic microbiology "solutioning" of the indigenous trace elements is not taking place, therefore they are not easily available!   The commercial entities such as retail nursery's and agriculture farm fertilizer company's  traditionally suggested using acidifier products to try to force solutioning of the trace elements, but the process is not a permanent fix and may actually cause a multitude of other problems that are worse than the original problem.   Adding lots of organic matter was also popular, hoping that would  fix the problem, however in recent years Professional Soil Ecologists have come out of the wood work educating people that adding organic matter to soil is a bad idea as it increases the Biological Oxygen Demand of the soil causing it to go anaerobic, not a good thing.  Plus it doesn't do anything for instigating and perpetuating the bio-geo-chemical process of a healthy soil.  However there is a solution and its one farmers and urban horticulturists across America are starting to learn about.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Who is Soil Secrets?

Soil Secrets LLC develops products that instigate the natural biochemical process required for healthy soils and proper plant nutrition.

All Soil Secrets products meet the benchmark of the USDA National Organic Program, and with Certifier approval, can be used on Organic Certified farms. The products are also safe for use on home gardens and lawns, without fear of damaging the environment or exposing our bodies to hazardous chemicals.

Our products can be used on landscape, construction and maintenance of a variety of buildings with benefits such as:

Improved water drought tolerance of crops
Improvement of water storage in soils
Maximizing efficiency of photosynthesis
Improving sequestering of CO2 into plant liquid energy

In addition, Soil Secrets science in humic acids is the best in the world, using a “Commercial Proprietary Information Contract” at the National Labs. Soil Secrets owns the only molecular science on the species description of soil carbon molecules generically called humic acids.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fixing Iron Chlorosis and Fixing the Worlds Health Problem

The link below takes you to a web site that gives old outdated information about how to solve the problem of Iron Chlorosis.  The nurseries and garden centers of the world need to get on the learning curve about this, as do the agronomists that advise farmers.  

From Michael's paper 'The Journey to Better Soil Health' which will be presented at the 1st Humus Experts Meeting in Austria.  January 22nd, 2014 where Michael is one of eight global experts invited to present at this conference.  For more information about this conference:

Click on the link below to view the brochure on the event. 

The following are bullet points that will be used in Michael's lecture.  These points are also in his paper, in the conference proceedings.    Some of this science explains why gardeners in the western half of the United States often have problems with yellowing of leaves called Iron Chlorosis.  The image below shows a Maple Leaf with Iron Chlorosis.

Most of the time nursery people, blogs and forums will provide solutions to this problem by recommending one of two techniques.  Acidify the soil, or treat the soil and the plant with extra chelated iron.  However is this the real solution, or is "solutioning" via the Carbon Connection the answer? 

1.  The Carbon Cycle: what is it, how does it work, what are the various forms of carbon in soil and what are the characteristics of the various forms?  Is all soil carbon just dead and rotting organic matter?  Does dumping tons of manure or compost onto the site fix the problem of poor soil, poor plant nutrient uptake, etc.  

2.  The Bigger Problem caused by poor soil:  We now have the lowest nutrient density in our food that we've ever had at any time in human history and we can relate this to what's happening to us health wise.  I don't know what percent of our health care in the United States is disease care, but we are told by our government that our National Health Care represents 30% of our entire economy, the GDP.  Health Care in the United States is not keeping people healthy, its only Disease Care which is causing the health care system in the United States to crash.   Disease is directly related to our poor diets, caused by food weak "Nutrient Density" a deficiency of trace minerals which compromises our immune systems ability to work properly.   Most disease of humans is nutritionally related.  We don't have the trace elements in our bodies because our food lacks them and our food lacks them because our soils are compromised at most conventional farms and even Organic Certified farms.   Farm soils are compromised because the farmers are not on the "Journey to Better Soil Health" and are not working on building the carbon levels in soil.   As a whole our farmers and our academic society of farm experts do not understand the distinction of the various forms of carbon in a soil.  Not all soil organic matter in the soil is the same!   

3.  Our soils are not functioning well anymore and carbon is all about the functionality of the soil contributing to the bigger picture of helping plants uptake the trace elements.  You are what you eat. 

4.  Solutioning Soil Elements:  If the Carbon Cycle is weak or disrupted than the flow of trace elements to the plant is compromised, as its the combination of powerful Humic molecules and the soil microorganisms that make the trace elements available by "solutioning" the process of dissolving the trace elements from the complex chemistry of the soil into available mineral nutrition. 

Microbes bring trace elements to the plant via "Solutioning" in exchange for food provided by the plant in the form of carbon rich monosaccharides sugar. The sugar was made in the plant leaves from atmospheric CO2   fixed during photosynthesis. The plant then exchanges the energy carbon rich sugar for minerals that were made available by mutualistic fungi called mycorrhizae and by the terrestrial biosphere of soil microbes.  So if you have a mineral deficiency in the plant such as  Iron chlorosis and the soil is known to have adequate iron levels, almost always the case in Western soils,  than you have a soil microbe problem!

5.  If the plant is unable to uptake what it needs from the soil it will do a lessor job of producing liquid carbon in the chemical form of monosaccharides such as fructose and glucose,  energy needed by the soil microorganisms.    The carbon element found in the monosaccharides came from the atmosphere's CO2 during photosynthesis and the carbon elements found in the molecular structures of the Humic molecules also came from the atmosphere's CO2.  A process called Carbon Sequestering which results in the accumulation of long term banking of recalcitrant carbon in the soil!  This is what we call top soil!   The Humic molecules are recalcitrant supramolecular substances rich in carbon!  Compost, manure, peat moss, worm castings and combustible soil organic matter (measured in soil tests)  are also rich in carbon, but the carbon is not recalcitrant, its labile, which means it will rapidly break down and turn back into CO2.  Recalcitrant carbon substances of soil have a long resonance time in undisturbed soil, possibly lasting thousands of years!

6.  However without soil microbes helping with adequate trace element uptake resulting in optimum photosynthesis, producing extra monosaccharides leaking from plant roots as exudates food for  microbes, we would never see carbon sequestering into recalcitrant carbon substances resulting in the accumulation of top soil. 

Without soil microbes Humic molecular carbon would fail to form and accumulate because the precursor chemicals would be lacking. 
The whole thing is called the Carbon Connection and its a must if we are ever going to fix our soils and live on the right side of history.

Michael Martin Meléndrez
Managing Member of Soil Secrets LLC

505 550-3246