Restoring Soil Health- Soil Is A Living Organism

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Soil Is A Living Organism

I recently found this video from Plant Health Cure which does an excellent job of describing the importance of soil biology and how it has been harmed by the use of inorganic fertilizers. Rhizobacteria and mychorrizal fungi in particular are examined in this short film. Other biology in soil also aids plants. Bacteria feeding nematodes and protozoa convert the proteins stored in bacteria into plant usable nitrogen. Predatory nematodes attack insect larvae and help prevent attacks by pest insects. In return for water and minerals that biology supplies to plants. plants give the soil glucose. 

Conventional farming and gardening implements deep cultivation using tillers or plowing. This creates a compacted layer that roots often cannot penetrate. The result is a shallow root system and reduced availability of water and minerals. This actually increases the need for irrigation and fertilizer as roots are unable to access water and minerals that are stored deeper. Plowing or tilling also disturbs the biology in the root zone and decreases mineral uptake and allows plant pathogens access to tender roots.

Plowing creates a compacted zone and results in shallower roots
Shallow cultivation allows deeper roots as new roots follow existing channels

Tilling, plowing and fertilizers damage soil biology and thereby limit the usefulness of plant roots and eventually decrease the availability of nutrients beyond NPK supplied by the fertilizers.

Plants given ONLY fertilizer will eventually become diseased
Plant roots are very limited in the amount of soil they can access.

Rhizobacteria help plants to use phosphates in particular and create a natural barrier against plant pathogens

Rhizobacteria help make phosphates plant available
A protective barrier of beneficial bacteria keeps pathogens away.

Rhizobacteria do not travel or migrate. They don’t substantially increase the area from which plants can absorb nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi to the rescue.

Most water and minerals are stored in pores too small for plant roots to penetrate
Mycorrhizal fungi can grow within these small pores and supply plants with nutrients in exchange for glucose.
Mycorrhizal fungi between micropores and in a relation with plant roots.
On the left plant root absorbtion with only fertilizer, on the right organic methods and mycorrhizal fungi

Humus is created by living soil decomposing dead organic material. Soil needs to be supplied with dead organic matter to create humus. Humus acts like a soil battery, storing carbon as CO2 in the soil. Using fertilizers without adding dead organic matter releases large amounts of CO2 into our atmosphere. 

This particular video is one of the best I’ve seen for explaining why we need to care for soil rather than attempt to grow plants. Pesticides only treat symptoms. Fertilizer without organic material causes disease and pest attacks. Not returning dead organic matter to soil to become humus releases CO2 into the atmosphere and away from plants where it can be used and converted to sugars and carbohydrates. 

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