Plants are usually not inherently good at extracting their own nutrients from the soil. Through photosynthesis they produce sugars that they release at their roots as ‘exudates’. Most organisms in the soil (microbes) cannot produce sugars. However, they can actively release and/or bind nutrients that the plant needs from organic material, stones or the air. These characteristics lead to a collaboration in a healthy soil. Whilst the microbes can use the sugars from the plant effectively, the plant absorbs its nutrients via the microbes that gathers around its roots.
FreeSoil is convinced that a plant only achieves its best if it grows in symbiosis with microbes. Plants have evolved over hundreds of millions of years under the pressure of the constantly changing conditions on Earth. The plants we now see in nature are the result of that continuous selection. In their ‘natural’ environment, ‘modern’ plants work together intensively with single-celled organisms on the leaves, in stems and particularly around and in their roots. We call this collaboration ‘plant-microbe symbiosis’. This symbiosis is necessary for the health of the plant, because those plants are better protected against extreme weather conditions, diseases and pests.
The engine room of living soil
Living soil contains a varied mixture of plants, worms and plant remains as well as small organisms such as bacteria, fungi and microbes. These small organisms are responsible for the plant’s balanced nutrition and the soil structure. By forming humus they also bind in CO2.
In other words: microbes are the engine room of living soil. Microbes get better nutrients from a healthy plant than from a sick plant. A healthy plant is therefore essential for healthy soil, and a healthy soil is crucial for a healthy plant. This is the balance that lies at the heart of the good, healthy food that the soil provides to us.
Build a living soil
Nowadays we are talking about ‘regenerative’ agriculture that seeks to restore the quality of agricultural soil. We particularly enhance the fertility of the soil by feeding it with quality compost that contains a wide variety of microbes. FreeSoil also uses leaf feed and natural substances that encourage biological processes which boost both the photosynthesis process and the exuding of nutrients for microbes.
FreeSoil focuses on the diversity of the microbes used. Because we know that the synergistic effects of collaboration between microbes suppress diseases and feed the plant. There is a lot of scientific research about the effects of combined species. However, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts in this case. The use of a mix of microbes gives a higher chance of success because the selection of microbes that survive in the soil after application depends on – amongst other things – the crop, the environment and the weather.
Tackle the cause
Pests and diseases are caused by plants that are undernourished, and NOT by microbes and insects. An excess of artificial fertiliser in the soil means that there are nutrients missing from the plant – often micronutrients. Plants then start storing amino acids, as a result of which important enzymes become inactive and a crucial warning mechanism for plants is shut down. Plants depend on hormone signalling in order to be able to defend themselves against pests and diseases. Excessive artificial fertiliser virtually turns off this necessary warning system, whilst alert function becomes more powerful when plants and microbes grow in symbiosis.
By distributing FreeSoil’s rich mixture of microbes and nutrients on the fields regularly the grower ensures that his cropsare as fit as possible. It prevents pests and diseases through a complex combination of plant resistance and direct intervention by microbes, and results in a plant that optimally utilises its nutrients.