Engine of life
In general, plants struggle to extract their own nutrients from the soil. They produce sugars, using photosynthesis, that they excrete at their roots as ‘exudates’. Most organisms in the soil (microbes) cannot produce the sugars they need. Instead, they can actively release or bind nutrients from organic material, stones or the air that plants need. Plants absorb essential nutrients via the microbes that have gathered around its roots to harvest the sugar. In a healthy soil, these complementary needs results in a natural collaboration that is beneficial to all.
Pests and diseases can strike when plants are malnourished, instead of by microbes or insects as is often assumed. Plants rely on hormone signaling to defend themselves against pests and diseases. Excess of artificial fertilizer in soil indicates this soil lacks the (micro)nutrients that plants need. If so, in defense, plants are triggered to store amino acids, which paralyzes key enzymes and halts crucial plant warning mechanisms, instead of the powerful alert system that plants develop when growing in symbiosis with microbes.
Living soil contains a wide variation of plants, plant-remains, worms as well as billions of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi or microbes. These micro-organisms are instrumental to provide the plant’s balanced nutrition and build soil structures. As they also create humus, the micro-organisms are at the core of binding and capturing CO2.
Microbes fire the engine of living soil. Plants flourish when living in symbiosis with soil microbes. As microbes receive higher quality nutrients from a healthy plants, healthy plants in return are essential to healthy soil. This balance is at the core of a the healthy, tasty and sustainable food that living soils can provide.