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.
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