The Science of Soil Health: Soil Feeds Plants, and Vice Versa


You know in the world a production agriculture our attention is only focused on what plants take out of the soil.
But what if that’s only half the story? We’re gonna be missing out big time. Jim
Horman is an educator who wants to tell farmers the whole
story. “You know I like to tell farmers that I’m a lazy farmer and I just like to let the microbes and the earthworms do the work for me. The only thing you have to do is you have to feed ’em. And the way you feed ’em is through the roots. A typical plant will give up anywhere from
25 to forty-five percent of its total
carbohydrate reserves just to feed those microbes. That plant
actually farms the microbes, it sends out hormones
to communicate with them and it attracts certain microbes to that
plant. These microbes bring in nitrogen, they
bring in phosphorus, they bring in micronutrients, they bring in water and they actually protect that plant from other harmful microbes. Well that’s what the
plants and the microbes do together, is they improve
that soil because this their home and so they make it a better place to live” So how do these ideas tie into the real world of farming? “What we’ve found is that typically when you go to no-till system, it takes about seven to nine years to convert. One the things we found is once you
start using cover crops- I mean I’ll use Dave Brandt as an example. David no-tilled for fifteen to twenty years and Dave said ‘it
wasn’t until I started using cover crops that I really started to improve my soil’
and the reason being is you’re capturing sunlight and you have to
feed those microbes 12 months of the year. You have
live roots 12 months the year you’re feeding them, plus now you’re
getting two sets of roots so you’ve got your main crop, your corn or
soybeans, plus you added the second crop and we
know that a majority of the organic matter in the
soil comes from the roots. And and we have a
new definition for microbes. Microbes are just soluble bags of fertilizer. Okay? They’re just soluble bags of
fertilizer you have to continually feed ’em, and if
you continually feed ’em, they continually recycle the nutrients and then when they
die the plant takes some of those nutrients
– takes it up puts it into a longer form of carbon, puts it into a protein that can then be converted… and so it’s
just a continuous cycle is what it is.”

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