Benefits of Soil Organisms and Nature Safe Fertilizer
As biologically and minerally-based fertilizers, Nature Safe's blends are ideally suited for promoting and sustaining soil life. This post explores the benefits of strong soil biology, and how Nature Safe fertilizers contribute to both soil and plant health.
Soils vary in physical and chemical composition. The average handful of soil contains billions of different living organisms that carry out various functions to help facilitate plant health.
Organisms classified as "soil life" include larger creatures like earthworms and nematodes, to microscopic organisms including, bacteria, fungi, algae and protozoa. These creatures all play critical roles in maintaining soil health and fertility.How do fertilizers work?
Plants have thrived without human intervention for millions of years. However, to maximize growth and crop yields, plants need a combination of three basic macro-nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium - as well as a number of other nutrients throughout their life cycles.
The majority of a plant’s nutrients are made available by beneficial organisms working in the soil surrounding the plant’s roots; this is known as the soil foodweb (a term made popular by Dr. Elaine Ingham, a leading microbiologist). In addition to supplying nutrients to plants, soil organisms benefit plants in a variety of other ways, including:
- retaining nutrients in the soil, preventing them from leaching,
- competing with, inhibiting and consuming disease-causing pathogens,
- decomposing plant residues, toxic materials and pollutants that kill plant roots, and
- forming soil aggregates that improve water infiltration, root penetration and water-holding capacity of the soil.
When sufficient nutrients are present in the soil, soil organisms aid in "mineralization" - the process in which nutrients are liberated and converted to their plant-available mineral forms. Once nutrients are mineralized, the plant can take them up as needed.
Some pesticides, herbicides and conventional fertilizers with a high salt index can kill beneficial soil-dwelling organisms. When this happens, plants may lose the benefits outlined above. Since beneficial organisms have long lifecycles, they require time to recover and regain control after chemical exposure. However, when exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is minimized, the affect they have on beneficial organisms isn’t as detrimental. Using biologically based pest controls and fertilizers helps keep soil biology intact and functioning in the soil food web.
The effects of cultivation
It’s also important to understand the effects cultivation has on soil. When the soil is disturbed, some of the soil aggregates (structural elements that hold water, nutrients and provide a place for organisms to live) can be broken. Minimizing and varying tillage, along with cover cropping strategies, can help keep aggregates in place and improve the quality and abundance of soil biology.
To ensure a healthy crop, it's important to pay close attention to the biology in the soil that feeds the plants and make management decisions that benefit soil dwelling organisms. By establishing cover-crop rotations, using mineral and biologically-based fertilizers, applying a minimum of harmful pesticides and by practicing thoughtful and deliberate tillage, you can restore the soil foodweb and keep it working to help you produce healthy, productive plants.
To learn more about Nature Safe please visit their website!