Thursday, December 9, 2010

Understanding The Plant/Soil Relationship, Simply Put.....

Hard to see, but ice has formed on the lake.  Way too cold unless you have wool or feathers!

 During the winter time, we always "try" to get more rest and more reading done.  It is way too cold to move outside, let alone do many projects requiring hand movement.  We have subscriptions to various magazines, watch a few documentaries and tend to add more books to our collection during this time.  One magazine in particular, "Acres", has been a wealth of information for me.  I probably look forward to that one more than any other.

In one of the previous issues, I came across an article that sums up the biochemical sequence of a plants uptake of nutrition.  This is where I will probably lose over half of the readers of this particular blog.  I know, I'm getting my geek on, but those serious about understanding plant nutrition will probably want to read on.  Simplicity is the key to understanding these things, at least for me, and understanding the utilization sequence.

In the plant world, roots "should" have a relationship with fungi.  This relationship, called "Mycorrhizae, is a symbiotic relationship that forms between fungi and plants.  The fungi colonize the root system of a host plant, providing increased water and nutrient absorption capabilities while the plant provides the fungus with carbohydrates formed from photosynthesis.  Mycorrhizae also offer the host plant increased protection against certain pathogens."

"Fungi also have the ability to easily absorb elements such a phosphorus and nitrogen which are essential for life.  Plants are autotrophic, producing their food in the form of carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis.  However, plants often have difficulty obtaining and absorbing many of the essential nutrients needed for life, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus." The New York Botanical Garden

So understanding how this works, the next phase is understanding how the roots absorb nutrients.  It starts with boron, which is an essential micronutrient required for normal growth of plants.  This micronutrient is used in very small amounts.  Too much can be toxic to plants.  With that said, boron helps in the use of nutrients and regulates other nutrients.

Boron also activates silicon.  Silicon is a carrier for all other nutrients and stimulates a plant’s defensive mechanism against abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) stresses.  In addition, silicon fertilization, if you can find it, has a more positive effect than liming on the chemical and physical properties of the soil.

Among other nutrients silicon carries, it starts with calcium.  Plants need calcium for cell wall development and growth.  Plants also need calcium for enzyme activity, metabolism, and for nitrogen uptake.

Calcium binds with Nitrogen to form amino acids, DNA and cell division. Amino Acids form proteins such as chlorophyll and tag trace elements like Magnesium.

Magnesium is needed by plants for photosynthesis and function with enzyme systems involved in breakdown of carbohydrates, and nitrogen metabolism.  It also transfers energy via phosphorus.

Phosphorus, involved in photosynthesis and seed formation, also encourages blooming and root growth. Phosphorus takes energy from Magnesium and transfers to Carbon to form sugars.

These sugars are carried by potassium.  Potassium helps with the building of protein, photosynthesis, fruit quality and reduction of diseases. It is the second most absorbed mineral, behind nitrogen.

Of course, there are many other trace minerals associated with plant function that are essential, but not covered here.  This should give you a clearer understanding of how the plant roots uptake nutrition.

Incorporating fungi inoculation (soil inoculant) into a pastured base growing system for animal rotation or a crop production system should be an important part of creating a healthy plant for forage or human consumption.   Studies show an increased uptake capacity for nutrients in the soil, disease and drought resistance which in turn will increased plant health and vigor.  This will increased crop or grass production. This works particularly well in a no-till system.  Either way, it is a win-win letting natural do its thing.

Interesting fact:  The bible presents over 1700 verses that mention or speak of the land.   Land, therefore, must be important to God and He has given us stewardship over it and all of the animals.  Not a job we should take lightly!

1 comment:

  1. Ok, just reading this and I'm going to print it out. Way too much information to comprehend on the first, or for that matter, second read. Thank you for providing such high quality information. Read your other blog on Farm Dreams. Good stuff.