Friday, August 24, 2012

Soil Amendments

Soil Amendments are defined as any material which is added to a soil, in order to increase plant growth and improve plant health.

Water - It important to remember that water must first penetrate a soil and the quality of water will dictate how well the water can penetrate. Rain water is better at penetrating the soil than hard well water, because rain water does not have the concentration of minerals that well water does. This concentration of minerals is measured as hardness of water. Because of the mineral hardness of well water there is higher surface tension, limiting the water's ability to penetrate the soil. 

A healthy soil will retain water for a much longer period of time and buffer higher pH levels than an unhealthy or depleted soil. Humic Acids play a huge role in water retention, because a single molecule of Humic Acid (if Supramolecular) can hold over 10,000 molecules of water.


Humic Substances Humic Substances are complex Carbon compounds found in soil. They sometime, but not always, contain active fractions call Humic, Humin and Fulvic. The common term for Humic Substances is Humus, often confused with compost, mushroom compost and peat moss. 

Humates are often sold as a source of Humic Substances and Humic Acids. Humates are an ore, more properly called Oxidized Lignite. Lignite is coal, oxidized means it is not useful in a power plant. However, Humates are not able to associate with water. Soil Secrets with the technical assistance of the National Labs has performed the only molecular analysis and characterization study of Humic Acids, which has allowed us the ability to formulate a Humic Acid product that works, because it is capable of associating with water and functioning with Supramolecular capabilities. 

For more detailed information see our blog on Carbon Compounds . 


Mycorrhizal Fungi (Mycorrhizae) - Mycorrhizal fungus improves a plants ability to get water and mineral nutrients out of the soil, while also protecting the plant roots from disease and from damaging nematodes. It's important to make sure that the mycorrhizal product is applicable to your objective, agricluture versus home and garden. For this reason we ask our clients to compare the products living spore count per pound and ask for 3rd party lab guarantees. For example, EndoMaxima® a product of Soil Secrets contains 1,450,000 living spores per pound!


For more detailed information see our blog on Soil Structure .


Minerals - There are 19 minerals which have been classified as essential for plant health. In order for a plant to sequester any mineral, the mineral must be in a soluble form. Humic Acids and Mycorrhizae help in this process.

Fertilizers - While not officially recognized by government agencies as a soil amendment, fertilizers can provide the many major and minor nutrients of plant nutrition*. A fertilizer is defined as any product that contains the major and the minor nutrients at measurable levels by qualified labs. This can include acid-based chemical fertilizers, as well as compost.  

While a bag of chemical fertilizer can green up your lawn, or increase your crop yield, you're compromising the future health of the soil. Fertilizers, if used at typical prescribed label rates, are detrimental to the biological health of soils. This includes, using high levels of compost, for example good compost made properly will average about 2% Nitrogen. Therefore, a crop needing 100 pounds of Nitrogen per acre can be satisfied with just 5,000 pounds of compost spread over the entire acre.  

* Fertilizers are label approved under the Fertilizer Act, not the Soil Amendment Act.

Composts - A quality compost is a difficult product to manufacture. It is said that when a compost is aggressively manipulated - when the pile is turned regularly and rapidly heated -  that compost will be bacterial dominated. A static pile, which is not aggressively manipulated, rarely turned and kept on the dry side is said to be fungally dominated. All this really means is that a heated compost pile is decomposed by bacteria, while a static pile is decomposed by molds and saprophytic fungus similar to what you find on a forest floor. What really matters is the fertilizer nutrient value of the compost. 

Compost is primarily nutrients and rapidly decomposing (labile) carbons. Since compost does not have a significant level of the recalcitrant carbons of Humic Acids it is difficult to claim that compost is a soil builder. 

Compost Tea - While officially recognized as a soil amendment, by most state regulatory agencies, compost tea is actually more of a fertilizer, because compost tea does not have enough technical substance to be able change the structure of a soil. However, it does contain in solution the many trace minerals needed by plants. As a foliar spray containing these nutrients, plants can be easily satisfied, therefore improving the overall vigor and health of the plant.


Earth Worm Castings - An organic fertilizer, excellent for use on delicate plants. In the healthiest soils earth worms are present, they digest organic matter and leave castings which become available for plant use. However, worms will not inhabit a depleted and/or compacted soil. In this case, worm castings can be added to the soil surface.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Explanation on Lack of Hardiness

In the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico, Trans Pecos Texas and Northern Mexico, we have many mountain ranges that have an ecotone at the base which I call the Desert Edge Woodland.  It's very arid, dominated by Quercus species and averages between 12 and 15 inches of annual precipitation, rarely higher.  50% of precipitation falls during the summer monsoon season which is not much when you consider that the daily evaporation rate can exceed 1/2".   Despite the aridity the oaks in this ecotone can still reach 40 feet tall or larger and you might assume that when grown for landscaping that these same species could tolerate the same 12 to 15 inches of annual moisture, however they cannot.  Under cultivation the Chihuahuan Desert Native Oak will most likely need about 20 to 30 inches of annual moisture supplemented if planted in Albuquerque, Tucson, El Paso or Las Cruces.  Nothing close to the 12 to 15 inches of its native counterparts.  The reason for the lack of the same hardiness and low water tolerance of the cultivated plant versus the wild plant is that the cultivated plant lacks the full ecology of the terrestrial biosphere including a pipeline of Supramolecular Humic Acids and a Mycorrhizal relationship. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Bio Geo Chemical Process of Plant Nutrition & Soil Formation

Expanding on the Soil Food Web
Abstract: For a Lecture to be given by Michael at the Univerity of Bordeaux Conference Center in Bordeaux, France.
The study of plant ecology is complex, for which the question of fluid dynamics and nutrient uptake presents many questions for those of us interested in growing plant material.  It’s particularly relevant in situations such as agriculture, urban horticulture, erosion control and brownfield remediation, where jump starting the biology and manipulating the chemistry of the soil is sometimes essential for sustainable success.
Water flows up into the organism, transporting soil minerals that are somehow purified into elements.  Many of these elements, in the case of crops, are hauled away from the site when the crop is sold, while some are re-mineralized back into the soil in the form of decomposing organic debris.   If all goes well, healthy soil, biologically rich in mutualistic microbes and recalcitrant carbons, is the result and we have Pedogenesis (the formation of top soil).
For many decades, urban landscapers, horticulturists, farmers and agronomists have utilized the balanced fertilizer concept of N-P-K with a few minor plant nutrients thrown in from time to time.  Fertilizers were formulated to stay in a soil water solution for as long as possible, so that plants had a chance of utilizing them.  However, once the nutrients were left high and dry, they often complex with other mineral compounds in the soil and are no longer soluble for future use.  For the objective of increasing the yield of an annual crop, fertilizers worked very well, however they did so at a cost to the biological health of soils.  Modern urban horticulture and agriculture use N-P-K fertilizer inputs at levels that contraindicate Nature’s Bio Geo Chemical process a situation that is not sustainable and which is causing a degradation of soils on a global scale. This ‘brute force’ paradigm, causes chaos and death within the terrestrial biosphere, ultimately causing the soil to lose the pipeline of Humic Acids (the active supramolecular fractions of humic, humin and fulvic acids) formation.   Humic acids are products of soil chemistry that are essential for any healthy and productive soil and the optimum water and mineral nutrient uptake of most plants.  While the theme of each conference may be unique, the subject of soil and how to manage the biological health of a soil is still significant and needs to be discussed.  The problem of soils can be exemplified by what’s happened to our food quality and nutrient density over the past few generations.   Several studies show some shocking findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent.  A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal, found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one orange.  There are many more studies coming from all regions of the globe showing the same decline in the density of vitamins and minerals found in our food, including the food produced on organic farms.  There’s no doubt, the soil of our Earth is in a crises and the simple act of throwing compost and fertilizer at the problem does not fix what we are dealing with.
For more information please contact Info@soilsecrets.com .