Land practices like overgrazing, synthetic fertilizers, and tillage have all contributed to the degradation of carbon stocks in the soil. The cost of these land practices continues to rise while at the same time soil quality declines. So now it takes more nitrogen to grow a bushel of grain than it did in 1960.
Why is that? Well less carbon stocks in the soil creates a greater reliance on mechanical management and inputs. The reason is we have destroyed the organisms within the soil, their diversity and habitat, and their ability to establish symbiotic relationships with plants and each other. The soil microorganisms or Soil Foodweb is a food engine for all plant life. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants use sunlight and atmospheric carbon to create sugar. The plant keeps some of the sugars it produces; but most will end up in the root system to lure soil microorganisms to the plant. A complex exchange is the result with the microorganisms and plants feeding each other!
In undisturbed soils or soils managed with a focus on ‘growing microbes’, the above described exchange works pretty well, requiring very little external inputs to grow the plant because there is good habitat for the microorganisms and sufficient food sources in the soil for the microorganisms to manufacture food for the plant.
Creating habitat for soil microorganisms is key, and it takes time. Turf clients using our SoilPerfect Rx Soil Care program are seeing big savings in fertilizer inputs and rarely need to irrigate, even in drought conditions because they’re taking care of the soil microbes. Farmers are also seeing a payoff by incorporating SoilPerfect Rx biostimulants to feed the soil microorganisms and encourage habitat growth. Fertilizer inputs have reduced as a result and the soil tilth (an indicator of microorganisms habitat and soil water-holding capacity) improved.
Creating a home and providing food for soil microorganisms makes $ense. Over time the Soil Foodweb engine efficiency improves, the amount of soil carbon increases, and fertilizer costs drop. Oh, and more carbon is taken out of the atmosphere and stored in the bodies of the soil microorganisms. Projected at 75-100 parts per million over the next century, C02 could be sequestered if existing farms, pastures and forestry systems were managed to maximize carbon sequestration. Figure a way to get a carbon tax rebate, and we’ll have another good reason to grow soil microbes.