Terminology of soil fertility, fertilizer and organics

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But fungi are absolutely essential. We need to bring the fungi back, not kill them off. If you go into a forest, which contains some of the most fertile soils you will ever see, peel the leaf matter back and you will see fungi everywhere.

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Nature is always going to win in the end. We can come up with these things to kill this weed or this insect, but eventually you need to come up with something different because nature is going to find a way around that. Look at the resistance that weeds are developing to Roundup [the herbicide glyphosate] now. We need to work with the natural system instead of trying to fight against it.

Haney: I believe it does. We see that. In those fields the microbe activity is low, organic matter is low. There has been some research showing that these high nitrogen inputs are destroying the carbon in the soil. Because the microbes use up the extra nitrogen and then they really tear the carbon out, creating lots of C02, rather than sequestering it in the soil.

So there is evidence that excessive nitrogen actually causes more carbon to leave the system.

Subhash Chand-Terminology of Soil Fertility, Fertilizer and Organics-Daya Pub. House (2014)

Whereas we need more carbon in the soil rather than less. So how do we do that? But we have this huge resource — all over the world — of dirt that is sitting there with nothing on it. When we plant plants on it, it starts sucking carbon out of the air and putting it in the soil. We should never have soil bare — ever.


Right now, farmers leave their fields bare for much of the year. If they would only plant a diverse, multi-species cover crop, just think of the carbon that we could sequester out of the atmosphere and put into the soil on the million acres of corn and wheat land in this country. We could pull a phenomenal amount of carbon back into the soil, which is where it is supposed to be.

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Legumes, for example, enrich the soil with nitrogen. This is something farmers were forced to do before they had fertilizers. When I did my Ph. They were already studying the biological components of soil, and they knew how important it was. And then synthetic fertilizers came along, and we just forgot about all that, we just ignored it. Currently we have this conservation reserve system where we pay farmers to take their fields out of production.

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We should be planting these with cover crops after the harvest and letting them grow until everything freezes and over-winters. And you could have contracts where you let other farmers graze that land, because when you get the cover crops in there and the animals back in the system, now you are reproducing the Midwest when it was still a prairie and the buffalo were there.

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  6. If you bring animals in, it really boosts the health of the soil. We were basically ignoring the biological contributions to nitrogen and phosphate, for example. The estimates that you see in the literature are that one gram of dirt can contain 6 to 10 million organisms. Without them, nothing would grow. The microorganisms are after carbon.

    And the plant roots will leak out carbon compounds that attract the microorganisms. In exchange, the microbes break down organic matter in the soil, which delivers nitrogen and phosphate in a form that the plant can use. So there is this beautiful nutrient cycle around the plant root. And that is something that we have tried to reproduce in the lab with our new testing method.

    We dry the soils and then re-wet them and we measure the amount of C02 [a product of bacterial activity] coming out of the soil in 24 hours.

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    The amount of C02 is directly proportional to how healthy that soil is. Haney: Our job is to give farmers the confidence to make these changes. Use baby steps. And if it works for you, adopt it. Those guys are shocked. Haney: Not always. Well, I say it took 50 years to basically destroy it, so it is going to take more than two or three years to build it back. DOI: Full Name:. Online First.

    Fertilizing with Organic Matter

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