The ground beneath your feet is not just a source of nutrients for your plants, it is a complex and dynamic ecosystem. Without this web of organisms, soil based nutrients would just sit there, bound up in molecules that plants cannot use. Plant roots simply do not have the ability to break down these nutrients into cells they can absorb and deliver to the rest of the plant. They need a vast army of soil based organisms to feed, metabolize, and release these nutrients in forms they can use.
There are 4 kingdoms of life that live in and around the root zones of your plants. This root zone is a biosphere called the “rhizosphere.” In the rhizosphere, roots interact with their living neighbors in many different ways as they respirate, exchange nutrients, take in water, and grow.
Let’s take a look at which kingdoms are cohabitating with your roots.
Many animals make your soil their home. Their tunnels can help improve water drainage, give roots more room to grow, and aerate your soil. A few of these tunnel makers (like moles, gophers, rabbits, etc.) can be unwelcome neighbors as they help themselves to your plants. While other tunnel dwellers (like snakes, spiders, etc.) are very beneficial and can reduce pest populations.
Smaller animals (like earthworms, some nematodes, ants, millipedes, etc.) stir up surface soil and create entrances for water and air to enter. They break down dead plant matter in the soil for smaller organisms to consume. These animals also feed on those smaller organisms and release those nutrients back into the soil for plants to use.
- Click here for an interesting look, from the Smithsonian, at how much life can be found within a single cubic foot.
Protozoa are microscopic organisms that consume bacteria, fungi, as well as other protozoa. Their digestive systems help break down compounds and molecules on behalf of their plant neighbors.
According to the United States Botanical Garden, a single teaspoon of topsoil can contain 50 million bacteria cells! These bacteria colonies have developed adaptations so they can thrive in the rhizosphere. Not only do they help break down nutrients, but atmospheric gases too. Specialized bacteria pull nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form that plants need to survive. These nitrogen fixing bacteria then convert any excess back into atmospheric nitrogen and release it into the atmosphere.
- Click here to learn more about the importance of this nitrogen cycle within your soil
The rhizosphere is home to a very beneficial family of fungi, called mycorrhizae. These miniscule fungal fibers form vast networks all throughout your plants’ root system. Mycorrhizae help prevent erosion, keep the soil stable, and act as a nutrient delivery system for the roots. Their fibers can actually creep in between the cell membranes of the roots and trade soil based nutrients for sugars the plant produces. This bartering network can even extend to other plants around them. Mycorrhizae also protect their hosts from diseases and toxins. This symbiotic relationship is extremely beneficial both to the host plant, and the fungi itself.
Protecting Your Plants From Harmful Soil Organisms
Not all plant - organism relationships are symbiotic and healthy. According to the National Institute of Health, “plant-parasitic nematodes (PPNs) are among the most devastating agricultural pests worldwide with an annual global crop loss estimated at about 80 billion USD.”
Pathogens can attack plants in many different ways:
- Secrete enzymes that degrade cell walls
- Prevent plants from releasing anti-nematode enzymes
- Suppress plant immune responses
- Turn plant cells into feeding cells for the next generation of pathogens
Mineral deficiencies in your soil aggravate diseases in your plants and decrease their disease resistance. Agricultural researchers around the world have found that “plants receiving ample nutrition have higher resistance to diseases and higher tolerance.”
Mineral Based Protection
Nourishing a healthy rhizosphere with macro and micro minerals can help protect your plants from harmful pathogens. According to the Agricultural College at the University of Maringa in Brazil,
“The balanced application of macro and micronutrients to the soil is the best way of ensuring that the crop is able to withstand the damage caused by nematodes.”
Their program has identified several minerals that plants need in order to protect themselves from parasitic nematodes and other harmful soil pathogens.
- Nitrogen: Supporting the nitrogen cycle in your soil can kill off harmful nematodes. Nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil turn atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, which then acts as a nematicide.
- Calcium: The main nutrient in the apoplast (a space within the cell wall where plants release anti-nematode enzymes).
- Potassium: Supports immune response by activating over 60 different enzymes, and maintains the permeable cell membrane behind the cell wall.
- Silicon: Activates the creation of defensive substances that are released in the cell wall.
- Phosphorus: Helps plants synthesize proteins that increase their disease resistance.
- Zinc: Over 80 plant proteins contain zinc; zinc deficiencies attract parasites and speed up the infection process. Zinc also supports soil based bacteria colonies that can fight off harmful pathogens.
- Copper: An essential component in the formation of cell walls which protect plant cells from invasion. Copper deficiencies cause plant tissues to weaken and become more susceptible to infection.
- Manganese: Activates a number of enzymes in the chemical-acid pathway of a plant’s immune response.
- Boron: Essential in the construction and support of cell walls.
Healthy Soil With Redmond Minerals
Here at Redmond Minerals, we know that supporting the biodiversity in your soil will create healthier and more disease resistance crops. Our soil amendments are harvested from a rich, Jurassic Era mineral and bentonite clay deposit in central Utah. With our expansive mineral profile of over 60 trace minerals, you can nourish healthy rhizosphere organisms, and support a robust immune response in your plants.
In addition, Redmond’s mineral profile nourishes nitrogen fixing bacteria in your soil, so you can avoid the heavy nitrogen fertilizers that cause pollution. Simply follow the packaging instructions for dry or foliar spray applications and see how your plants thrive. Whether you are growing for harvesting or livestock grazing, Redmond can help you grow more delicious, resilient, and nutrient dense plants.
- Click here to read more about how Redmond Minerals has supported profitable farming operations for over 50 years.