get the Most from the Least
For maximum vitality, it's important to supply soil with ALL the nutrients that are essential for plant and animal growth. Not merely the organic elements and major elements—Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, and Calcium (N-P-K and Ca)—but all the elements, especially the trace elements.
There are at least a dozen other elements, beyond the major seven, that science now knows are needed for healthy plants. Many more—such as Molybdenum—are needed by specialized soil microbes, which fulfill special functions to create soil and fertility, such as synthesizing certain enzymes, vitamins, antibiotics, or other critical biolmolecules. Most are required in extremely tiny amounts—micrograms or less—and thus are called "trace elements."
Most trace elements dissolve into water faster than the major elements. So, in an average soil, trace elements leach out of soils faster than major elements. This removal of trace elements is accelerated by acid rain, soluble chemical fertilizers and excessive tillage. The consequence is that all soils eventually and easily become deficient in minor or trace elements. Continued doses with N-P-K and lime fertilizers will not resolve these deficiencies, and, in fact, will make them worse.
Trace elements play a key role in the function of many enzymes and hormones. One consequence of this is that a very tiny amount trace element has an exceedingly great effect on the healthy function of plants and animals. For example, it is well-known that insuffient iodine will induce goiter, a disease of the thyroid gland. And a deficiency of cobalt will leave us without vitamin B12, and thus unable to manufacture red blood cells. Neither is needed in more than a microgram per day—an amount which will easily fit on the head of a pin.
However, there are many mineral elements which are essential to Nature's most delicate and intelligent chemical operations, such as hormones, neurotransmitters and genetics. Elements in the bottom three rows of the Periodic Table of Elements are also critical to biology, but they are only present—not at parts per million like trace elements—or even parts per billion—but parts per trillion—one million millionth—the current threshold of laboratory detection. These heaviest, most complex of all elements are used in such miniscule tiny amounts, I call them "nano-elements" and "pico-elements."
To supply soil with a balanced, complete sources of these essential elements, three simple principles apply.
Principle of Proportion
Plants and animals require elements in specific proportions, not simply in specific quantities. Mineral nutrients must be supplied a certain ratios.
This principle was discovered by nearly every scientist who studied the complex roles of minerals and trace elements. Dr. Maynard Murray gave a clear depiction of this: sodium chloride will poison most plants, yet dilute seawater stimulates their growth.
The Principle of Proportion means that the least exert the greatest effect. A tiny amount of a trace element can be more crucial to proper growth and health as a large amount of the major elements. Thus, the least is often the greatest. Fertilizing with N-P-K fertilizers eventually results in soils deficient in trace elements.
Feed the Soil,
Another principle is that microbes consume and digest minerals, and thus convert them to forms more easily absorbed and used by plants.
Conventional agriculture shortcuts this microbial feeding chain by using synthetic chemicals to supply nutrients as soluble salts that are directly absorbed by plant roots.
But we now know many bacteria and fungi actually pump nutrients into roots ten times or more faster than soluble salts are absorbed. The soil's tiniest critters don't do this for free. In return, microbes receive sugars and other carbon compounds secreted by plant roots. As much as 30% of a plants sweet sap is secreted by its roots to feed a symbiotic microbial population.
Micro-Nutrient into Micro-organism
A third principle addresses the specialized behavior of the microbes that transform primary minerals into forms used by plants. The world of micro-organisms is highly specialized, with each microbe adapted to ccomplish a very individual, almost unique type of synthesis. These highly specialized bacteria require an equally specialized diet with adequate supplies of micro-nutrients. While the trace elements are present in very tiny amounts in soil and flesh, their use to construct key biomolecules that act as regulators of overall cell metabolism and physiological function.
Conventional agriculture shortcuts this microbial feeding chain by using synthetic chemicals to supply nutrients as soluble salts that are directly absorbed
The Earth Renewal and Restoration Alliance — www.ancientforests.us — www.carbon-negative.us — www.nutrient-dense.info — 2/14/2009