Soil health is a hot topic these days. Healthy soils should have a good physical structure, a balanced chemical composition and a robust biological community that breaks down organic matter and releases its nutrients so that plants can have easy access.
But if left unchecked, some common agricultural practices can harm the health of the soil. That’s why growers have adopted practices to improve the nutrient-carrying capacity of their fields. These include:
Reducing or eliminating tillage.
Fighting compaction at every turn.
Using cover crops or retaining crop residue.
Keeping soil pH above 6.
All are sound ways to improve soil health and nutrition, with the added benefit of increased nutrient cycling between roots and soil.
But Even Seemingly Healthy Soils Can Have Limited Available Nutrients
Under ideal soil conditions, the vast majority of nutrients present in your soil still never make it to the plant. This includes 95% to 98% of the nitrogen (N), 70% to 90% of phosphorus (P) and 90% to 98% of potassium (K) that are already in your soil. How do you make these nutrients more available? Microbes.
Understanding Microbes and Nutrient Availability
Microbes include bacteria, fungi and protozoa in the soil. Microbes break down organic matter through a biochemical process that releases nutrients—including N, P and K—and makes them available for the plant to use. The biochemical process occurs naturally, but you can begin to see real changes when you give it a bump.
Biostimulants improve the release of plant-available nutrients from the microbial breakdown of organic matter. The extra microbial activity can be measured by examining how the microbes “breathe.” Like humans, the more microbes work, the more carbon dioxide (CO2) they produce. Using the Haney soil test, researchers can determine the activity of microbes by measuring how heavy they were breathing or respiring.
What does this increase in CO2 signify? More microbial activity means more organic matter is being broken down and more nutrients are being converted into a form of which plants can grab hold. And the increase in nutrition leads to better early growth, more dense root systems, healthier plants, increased stress tolerance and higher opportunity for yield.
Biostimulants help microbes to produce more enzymes that break down the organic matter, releasing nutrients tied-up in the soil. By utilizing biostimulants to optimize the plant-microbe interactions, farmers can improve the overall health of their farms.
Get More from Your Soils
When it comes to the biological impact of soil health, there are three areas: microbial population, microbial diversity and microbial activity. The key to getting healthier soil is to balance and impact all three. Research studies that Generate® is proven increase microbial activity by 22%, microbial populations by 18% and microbial diversity by 12% for healthier soil with more available nutrients to plants.