Most of us will agree that the soil is the major natural resource
available to humankind. Yet it is and has been abused by us to the point
of self destruction. Many past civilizations have perished due to their
abuse of the soil (like Mesopotamia and the Mayan civilization). Why
didn't anyone stop the destruction? The soil destruction process takes
time and the changes in each generation are "small" so no one cared and
most of us still don't.
The soil in which we plant crops today has been self perpetuating for
millions of years without man's help. It will continue to do so if we do
not disturb its natural cycle.
In the soil there are nutrients and trace elements both of which plants
require for growth. They are essential.
Soil moves continually in a natural cycle aided by oxygen, water, minerals
and decomposing animal and plant matter. These elements create life in the
soil, which is ongoing if not disturbed. We speak of healthy soil if it
works well and nutrients continue to be available to the plant.
Good soil consists of 93% mineral and 7% bio organic substances. The bio
organic parts are 85% humus,10% roots, and 5% edaphon.
Edaphon is itself a "world" of life and consists of microbes, fungi,
bacteria, earthworms, micro fauna, and macro fauna as follows:
The Edaphon consists of:
Macro fauna........................ 5%
Some of the nutrients get lost naturally through leaching continually wet
weather, melting snow, flooding or through denitrification. Also each
cultivated plant takes nutrients from the soil, as soon as the crops are
harvested. The substantial task of the farmer is to take care of returning
nutrients taken from the soil through harvesting. The conventional farmer
is using water soluble, mostly salty chemical fertilizers.
In contrast, the bio-organic farmer uses organic matter in the form of
crop residues, and other wastes, and /or compost and BTR, in order to take
of soil life, its proliferation and stimulation to highest effectivity.
With this treatment and approach, the bio farming system should bring out
the following: Stronger nutrient accumulation and nitrogen fixation.
Availability of soil nutrients to plants.
The natural life cycle of out fields must be kept functional through the
addition of organic matter after the residues from the previous crop have
been depleted in order to build new Bio-Organo-Mineral nutrition for our
next crop. This action cannot be replaced with the water soluble salts or
overdoses of chemical fertilizer which destroy soil life, not build it.
During the growing season, as the plants fix carbon dioxide by
photosynthesis, about 10-25% of this fixed carbon,finds its way back to
the soil through the roots (root exudates) this is even if all residues
including roots are removed. This is very important in bio-organic
The production of humus is a complex process. In general cyclic substances
like phenol groups and also other like organic acids and vitamins (humus
is also related to crude oil) are polymerized with help of enzymes,like
phenol oxidase. These cyclic compounds are both from plant parts(like
lignin) and are also produced by the micro-organisms. Mostly fungi,
actinomycetes (Streptomycets) seem to be responsible for humus formation.
Aspergillus, Pisolithus, Rhizoctonia, Streptomycets are only but a few
examples of micro-organisms actually capable of synthesizing
cyclic(aromatic) compounds and form them into humus from non cyclic
It is impossible for man to produce stable humus synthetically. Man can
properly cultivate the field, supply organic matter and so encourage the
development of stable humus in the soil. Soil with stable humus must
always be protected to maintain the fertility and productivity of the
The production and maintenance of stable humus in the soil should be the
primary goal of every farmer. Good stewardship of the land is necessary to
protect and maintain mankind's most important asset, fertile soil.
For nearly one hundred years soil science in most schools of higher
learning (especially in agricultural colleges) has been primarily
concerned with the physical and mechanical aspects of soil structure.
Biological thinking has become a major concern only in the last few years.
The new approach considers not only the physical properties and mineral
structure of the soil,but also the process by which organic matter is
transformed into humus by micro-organisms.
Humification - the transformation of organic matter into humus, is a
fascinating process. Organic materials such as manure or field wastes
,when disked into the upper three to six inches of topsoil, will undergo
several changes. The humification process involves first catabolism , then
anabolism. These are not truly correct terms as they are usually used for
same functions within living organisms, but we may consider soil as one
The first stage in the break down process is important to be started by
fungi, these make the debris "pre-digested" for many animals in the macro
and mesofauna. Many of these animals lack needed enzymes for the start of
the decomposition process (springtails, millipeds, earthworms, etc.) The
debris is fragmented into smaller parts and chemical changes occur in
breaking up of cellulose, chitin, etc.
Most plant parts already contain fungi within(seed,leafs,stems all are
inhabited by fungi): these are going to start the decomposition process.
Many fungi residing within seeds are known and seeds (or plant parts
)carry only certain fungi, that will actually start the decomposition
process (sometimes they also carry pathogens.)
If bacteria start the decomposition process instead of fungi, this may
happen because of several reasons, the one most common would be water
logging (too moist), the process turns to putrefaction. During this stage
toxic substances are produced (methane, formaldehyde, hydrogen sulphide,
phosphine) which are harmful to soil and retard the growth of plants.
Please do not misunderstand bacteria and fungi are decomposing all at the
same time,we mean predominance of one over the other not that the other is
not involved at all.
The excrements of the neso and macro fauna are a very suitable medium for
growth of bacteria, algae, and nematodes. These multiply rapidly and again
draw the mesofauna, as it feeds on the bacteria. Many new animals are
involved in this stage, some are the same as in the first decomposition.
Slowly the materials are broken into smaller parts, at the same time many
are again combined and used for building hormones, enzymes, proteins for
the rapidly multiplying microfuna. Antibiotics are produced to secure an
area for growth, form other micro-organisms.
Carbon dioxide is evolved back to the atmosphere and only about 20-30% of
carbon originally found in the plant parts makes it to humic complexes.In
case of carbohydrates as starting point the carbon percentage that makes
it to humus is less than 20%. If the starting point is lignin, tannins, or
other phenolic groupings (mostly found in wood and leaves) the percentage
may reach 75%.
Mineralisation is the process of freeing minerals from organic molecules
(carbon bonds). During humification there are two possible end products
for atoms within the starting molecules. Minerals may either be build up
stable humus or be in free form, carbon either tied within humus or evolve
in form of carbon dioxide. The following is a summarizing table where
atoms end up after humification:
All minerals within organic compounds
80% freed up and 20% in humus
Carbon from carbohydrates
80% evolves as carbon dioxide and 20% goes to humus formation.
Carbon from lignin, aromatic type amino acids (tyrosine,
tryptophan...) and like compounds (fats, hydrocarbons like waxes,...)
25% evolves as carbon dioxide and 75% goes to humus formation
will remain to 50% in humic form.
The micro, meso, and macro fauna is so closely interwoven that one could
say, if areas have small amounts of earthworms, beetles, etc. the
microbial population will be small.
The second half of soil metabolism anabolism now begins, starting with the
synthesis of soil plasma. It is in this process of plasmolysis that the
catabolised organic matter becomes plasma building material for new plant
life. This is the least understood of all the processes that go on in the
Soil plasma is the liquid portion of the soil. It contains proteins,
salts, degraded organic compounds and water. It is like the liquid part of
the blood which, although without corpuscles , is much more than water.
Soil plasma is that substance in the soil that can spin catabolised
remnants of former life into vital threads that are woven together into
the fabric of new life through the processes of anabolism.
In the anabolism process the plasma is transformed into stable humus. This
plasma also contains the decomposed cell walls of organic residues and has
become a spongy, gelatinous substance that bonds the surface of the clay
crystals together. In this manner, clusters of clay crystals form
aggregates that are resistant to being broken apart. This gives the soil
the ideal structure farmers refer to as tilth. The combination of plasma
and clay forms what is known as stable humus.
The presence of stable humus allows air, water and essential mineral
nutrients to be held in the aggregates. The chemical nutrients are in the
form of ions atoms carrying positive or negative electrical charges . In
science, they are referred to as swarm ions.
The spongier the soil the more pores or open spaces are within it. Like
Swiss cheese reduced to an infinitesimal scale, each of these holes or
pores has an inner surface that is coated with plasma. The greater the
porosity of the soil the more capacity it has to accumulate and hold air,
water and nutrients and prevent them from being washed away.
Consequently, we can imagine that a loss of this porosity with all its
inner surfaces represents a catastrophe to the soil. With the loss of
stable humus, the mineral particles of the soil come together almost like
concrete. The porosity is lost and with it the ability of the soil to
retain air, water and nutrients. As this capacity diminishes , the
fertility of the soil is reduced and productivity declines.
When we have stable humus,we have all the ideal conditions we are seeking
for our soils. We have the inner protected porosity, the glued together
clay crystals coated with plasma containing the decomposed organic matter
holding air, water and chemical nutrients swarm ions.
In this ideal environment the third phase of stable humus, plant feeder
roots develop. It is here the dormant power and original resource of soil
fertility comes to life. This is the secret of rebuilding the energy and
fertility of "Mother Earth".
Here the living matter, which was originally buried in the soil to decay,
celebrates the birth of new life; the re-births of organic matter for
germinating and growing plants
Stable humus, the so desired, ideal stage of fertile soil, could be
considered the connecting link or connector of life. Here decomposition
ends the last stage of death:and new life begins. Through this process,we
can understand the fertility of the soil depends on the ability of Nature
to create living,organic order from inorganic disorder.
Many farmers are imprisoned in a way of thinking that is only concerned
with levels of chemical fertilizers and must be re-educated to begin
considering the biological processes occurring within the soil. Balanced
soil fertility is a condition which cannot be measured by chemical or
physical tests. The farmer who strives to maintain the bio-organo-mineral
complex in correct balance in his fields can achieve the highest
agricultural production levels as a result of these biological processes.
Today's popular chemical tests of soil do not tell anything about the
decisive life processes. They are merely a yardstick of the mineral
content of the soil and do not help farmers in knowing how to treat the
fields for future productivity and healthy corps. The whole process misses
the basic point that the true purpose of agriculture is to recycle life to
capture the life factor from decomposing organic material and channel it
into new growing plants. It is only by doing this that vital healthier
life can be maintained in plant, animal and man.
When the farmer decides to begin a biologically balanced fertility
program, soil analyses show minimal values of nutrient reserves and
indicate that large amount of fertilizers should be applied to meet the
needs of the crop. However, after a few years of successful biological
farming, analyses can show high residual levels of available nutrients,
although the farmer has not used any chemical fertilizers during that
The absurdity of conventional chemical thinking is revealed in the
mistaken notion that larger quantities of nutrients will continue to
result from the aid of chemical fertilizers. But the truth is ,that by the
activity of microbes, the nutrients are biologically enriched, accumulate
in the pores of the soil aggregates as swarm ions, and will become
available to the growing plants. The farmer who implements the balanced
fertility program can achieve needed levels of nutrients in the soil in a
less expensive way, can achieve the highest possible yields, and a higher
quality harvest. By using the wrong fertilizers, excessive chemicals and
heavy machinery we are destroying our soil, our fields, our farms and our
Plants supplied with this kind of nutrient require less water. This
assures the biological farmer a significant saving of water in the
production of crops, an especially important consideration in arid zones
and in dry seasons elsewhere.
We cannot outwit Nature. Nature does not allow a wasting or loss of living
matter in the restless process of mineralisation the procedure for
impregnating the soil solution with the mineral elements required for
plant growth. In the final stage of decomposition the remnants of plasma
still contain the essential elements of the life processes. These remnants
are then transformed into soil plasma in the process of producing stable
Stable humus is the crucial centre, the focal point of the life cycle.
Adhering to farming practices that assure the production of stable humus
thus becomes the farmer's main objective.
Over 130 years ago (1855) Justus von Liebig's discovery that plants are
fed by water soluble substances started a revolution in agriculture.
However this revolution went in a different direction far from the
original thinking of von Liebig.
Von Liebig's discovery reads:
"Plants take up water soluble nutrients"
This discoveries became internationally understood, but unfortunately, a
single word has been added to the Liebig statement and his sentence and
the meaning changed as follows:
"Plants take up water soluble nutrients only"
There is a great difference between his original statement and his
interpretation by the addition of the single word "only". The single
addition changed the truth of his discovery. First to recognize the
important misunderstanding was von Liebig himself. However, the huge
agro-chemical industry built their fort based on the word "only".
Science neglected his best discoveries and findings which are as follows:
Man must regard nature as one unit, a whole and everything that
occurs in nature works together as knots in a net
Diseases of plants are diseases of the soil.
We must treat the prime origin of the disease, not the symptom
It is important to understand that if the soil is living and healthy, the
plants will be strong and healthy with natural resistance against disease.
This opinion is the basic pillar of organic biological farming. Fertilizer
facilities prospered and became firmly established as the bass of a huge,
Ammonia taken up by plants is utilized directly, but nitrates have to be
converted to ammonia within the plant to be utilized. In addition the
production of ammonia from nitrates within plants is only on a as needed
basis; therefore if soil is high in nitrates that are taken up by the
plant in higher amounts than needed they will not be formed into ammonia,
but will sty in nitrate form and this is toxic to animals ( carcinogenic
compounds may be easily created under certain cooking conditions.)
Liebig actually discovered that plants take up solutes, these are
dissolved substances. Well dissolved substances is a very broad statement,
it does not mean in water only. Many things can be dissolved in substances
other than water yet are not water soluble. The actual meaning of solutes
in the biological sense is that the molecules are in fluid state,
independent of each other, there may or may not be other substances
present (solubilising agents , like water) The word dissolved means broken
up into molecules, or ions in salts. This is what the agro-chemical
changed "Only ions are taken up" But ions are not the only solutes, nor
does the wording solutes necessarily imply a solubilising agents(like
water) is present. The molecules only have to be disassociated to be
Good soil is a world of working microbes. One gram of soil can contain
over ten million bacteria. "Around the roots of a healthy growing plant a
dense coating of microbes may contain a population of from 100 to 200
billion microbes. The life span of a single microbe in this environment is
approximately one half hour.
Microbes live in colonies and are very mobile. In their rapid life cycle
from creation to death they develop tremendous metabolic activity and
steadily improve the structure of the soil.
Some microbes excrete antibiotics. They metabolize phosphorus and iron
bonds which are difficult to dilute efficiently without this microbial
activity. The earthy odour of the soil is due to them. They create two
thirds of the soil carbons, attack cellulose and mineralize nutrients.
We have another important grouping of life in the soil. These are mites,
nematodes, centipeds,worms,and insects. All preying on or eating plant and
animal residues, eating each other, producing dung and other excrements.
As death they leave important waste. They work on stages in the formation
of humus in the soil.