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Tiny phosphorous payloads  RSS feed

 
Paul Gutches
Posts: 106
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Hello everyone

I just recently spent a half day with a local geologist and soil expert for the Taos plateau in New Mexico.

It was an eye opener.

I learned for the first time that I have a silty loam soil that is low in all three of the big players NPK and relatively high in organic matter. Basically all my assumptions based on local wisdom were shot dead. Let that be a lesson. ALWAYS find out for yourself! I digress...

So far, most all my plants trees and shrubs are growing very well. They are lush and green and food is being produced.

One question is, can plants do fine on low NPK if you have nitrogen fixers for N, and fungi and guilds to mine and fully utilize the low amounts of P and K? Or will that train eventually go off the rails?

If not....

It occurred to me that by creating a relatively attractive habitat for insects that I've effectively created a phosphorous magnet as insects and birds and small mammals migrate in. Additionally my cats kill a lot of rabbits birds lizards etc which then end up getting buried on the property.

It strikes me this represents a potentially substantial amount of inbound phosphorous over the course of a few years. Would anyone agree?

I guess I'm wondering if so long as I create the conditions for life, will NPK levels increase naturally and at a rate that will make a significant difference in the lifespan of the average perennial?

Thanks.

Paul
 
R Scott
Posts: 3342
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Per Elaine Ingham, you have a near infinite source of all mineral components in any dirt on earth, you just need the right bacteria or fungi to digest them into plant soluble form. Animal droppings are a good source of those kinds of bacteria and fungi. Life begets life...
 
Paul Gutches
Posts: 106
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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Thanks for the encouraging info Scott.

Doesn't that imply that soil test results are irrelevant where it concerns nutrient levels?

R Scott wrote:Per Elaine Ingham, you have a near infinite source of all mineral components in any dirt on earth, you just need the right bacteria or fungi to digest them into plant soluble form. Animal droppings are a good source of those kinds of bacteria and fungi. Life begets life...
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2337
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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Soil tests are notoriously unreliable because they measure chemical/physical properties, and not biological processes. It's the biological processes that get nutrients from the soil into the plant.

I have come to the conclusion that it is trivial to swap out genetics, but it's really tough to change soil. If my plants are growing great then there is no reason to do a soil test. In my own case, I developed varieties that thrive in my soil just exactly like it is. Sure I could do testing, and buy inputs, and transport them from who knows were, and perhaps get somewhat better growth on some things... But what's the point. I can't afford the inputs. I can't afford to transport them. I don't want to put in the labor...

One time I took a pH measurement of the soil under a tree that was having problems. Almost 9. I tried for years to change the pH. Alas. There was just too much volume of soil occupied by the tree roots for the hundreds of dollars that I was willing to throw at it to make any difference. So eventually the tree succumbed, and got replaced by something that doesn't care about the soil.

 
Paul Gutches
Posts: 106
Location: Taos, New Mexico
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I agree I don't like servicing inputs if I can help it. The thought of buying minerals and even organic fertilizers never appealed to me.

Soil biological activity is always the first thing I strive to activate. And that always starts with leaf mulch right after a rain.

I guess what this really means is that in any given growing area, most soils, even with low nutrient levels by soil test standards, can still be mined by the microbiology to adequately feed the plants in that growing area. That also implies that most plants do not require outsized quantities of any given mineral. That even trace amounts can deliver most plants needs given the right soil biology.

IOW, if we are to take Ingham literally, there is never a need for inputs other than those required to jump start the biology.

Does that sound accurate?

Thanks for your input.

Paul

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Soil tests are notoriously unreliable because they measure chemical/physical properties, and not biological processes. It's the biological processes that get nutrients from the soil into the plant.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
Posts: 3899
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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And paul stamets says that ..." Their ( fungi's) mycelia exude enzymes and acids that turn rock into biologically accessible minerals and unravel the long-chain molecules of organic matter into digestible form."
 
John Master
Posts: 518
Location: Wisconsin
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a quote I recently liked was, animals eat grass and make manure, soil eats manure and makes grass. Its nice to know once you make the conditions favorable you don't have to worry as much about the soil chemistry. By giving them the right basic conditions and watching the plants, they tell are telling me if they are doing well or not. Now if I could keep the chickens out of the garden, there's lots of tasty bugs in the loose soil and they knock over all kinds of stuff scratching away at it!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2296
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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soil testing is actually more linked to Modern Agricultural techniques than it is to our methodology which is to simply unlock mother earth using her methods.

What soil testing can tell you, if you ask for the right group of tests, is how well the soil biology is working. These answers do not come from the standard type of soil testing but from the microbiology side of soil testing.

If you were to ask for a microbiology soil test, you will at first get major stares and probably be told they aren't available. In that case it's time to get some petri dishes and hit the library for the microbiology books, unless you live in a college town, where you will be able to find a grad student you can pay to do the testing for you. You want to know what organisms are in the soil sample not the mineral content.
 
Johsua Pendleton
Posts: 5
books fish forest garden
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The kind of soil test you are looking for is a soil health test from woods end laberatories woodsend.org
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2296
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Good find Joshua, but their premium test still leaves some to be desired, still it is a very good test. premium soil test results example

The results they show are microbiological indicators. The test I run on Buzzard's Roost are true organism counts along with mineral ions and cations as well as salinity.
I'm going to use this lab in the future, I like the indicators they provide and it will be a good addition to my own research work.
 
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