Soil, our silent and often underappreciated friend is the backbone of all the plants we see around us, gardens, agriculture and our entire food system.
Wikipedia defines soil rather simply, “Soil is a natural body, it exists as a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids and a myriad of organisms that can support plant life.”
Where soil is a natural body, healthy soil is a living and complex web of life, an organism formed of a myriad of complex symbiotic relationships.
Nutrient and minerals playing their part in a complex soil food web consisting of different organisms and microbes (beneficial bacteria, fungi, nematodes and protozoa) living together in symbiotic relationships increasing nutrient availability for plants and transforming the physical and chemical properties of the soil into an environment perfectly suited to plants, organisms and microbes alike.
The focus of modern agriculture in the past has been to add NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) fertilizers to boost plant growth. As time has progressed evidence has shown that this is not sustainable as a sole approach.
Inorganic fertilizers add refined base nutrients to the soil, but solely without the beneficial microbes, fungi, minerals, nematodes, enzymes and co-enzymes needed to participate in the geochemical cycling of nutrients, the process is unsustainable and there will be no support for full nutrient uptake.
This approach works for the short term by getting nutrient to the plant in large quantities but this imbalanced approach often kills, impedes or disrupts the balance of the food soil web that makes these nutrients readily available to your plants. As a result a decrease of nutrient uptake by the plant will be experienced as the physical and biological structure of the soil degrades.
Hard working microbes are probably the most overlooked and vital component within our soil, they help make many micro-nutrients more available to plants like in the case of calcium and iron where large amounts would otherwise be unavailable to plants and lost to drain away.
Healthy soil structure is also vital to plant health. As soil health degrades one can be left with a dead sandy soil where through water and nutrient will quickly leach out, leaving plants in a stressful environment of feast and famine. Sandy soil may also not hold plant roots securely and yet an excess of clay creates a dense environment where air, water and roots cannot move freely and the food soil web cannot function.
Healthy soil consists of a combination of organic matter, rock particles and water, capable of maintaining a consistent structural, chemical and biological environment. An environment where all plants needs are catered for. A stress free environment with ample access to air, water, nutrient and micronutrient in a form that is plant available. A spectrum of all their dietary needs, a soil structure that supports their roots and maintains a comfortable moisture level.
What plants and trees provide in the way of fruits, veggies or flowers so we need to replace within our soil, closing the circle and completing the cycle. By implementing sustainable techniques were we feed and encourage the soil food web to continue to thrive, so your soil will continue to support and encourage your plants and trees to bare crops till the end of time.