Soil is more than an anchor point for plant roots; we now know that our soils are a complex marketplace for plant and soil life to exchange resources. When healthy, this diverse ecosystem is a constant cycle of nutrient processing for plants and the tiny soil life forms underfoot.
Industrial agriculture’s singular pursuit of crop yield with synthetic fertilizers has degraded this soil system, leaving many soils looking much like our human diet crisis (overfed and undernourished). In contrast, the regenerative agriculture movement prioritizes natural soil interactions to provide a sound and sustainable food system that’s good for the environment, farmers, and consumers. In partnership with Heliae and its PhycoTerra® branded soil amendment product farmers are able to contribute to this regenerative agriculture movement while feeding their soil and improving its performance.
Regenerative agriculture is the next frontier of sustainable food and fiber production. It includes the National Resource Conservation Service’s four soil health principles, plus two operation-dependent strategies:
At its core, regenerative agriculture goes beyond sustainable methods. Regenerative agriculture aims to rebuild land from environmental losses. Conventional tillage slices and interrupts microbial communities. This upheaval causes soil to lose aggregation and releases carbon into the atmosphere, a net loss in your soil’s ability to hold water. Regenerative agriculture restores life to your farm system to benefit your soil, crop performance, and bottom line.
Regenerative agriculture works with nature’s processes to propel plant growth, not short-cutting with synthetic inputs at the expense of future harvests. Farmers are discovering that regenerative agriculture’s soil health principles often produce better crop results than traditional soil management. Even better, the benefits to the farm and environment accumulate with time.
Next Read: What Is Regenerative Agriculture?
Decades of conventional soil management, including widespread tillage and ag chemical use, have degraded our farms’ soils. Reduced soil microbial populations and the loss of soil carbon inputs decrease soil health and quality, limiting our soil’s ability to nurture plant life. We’ve lost nature’s own productivity cycle.
Soil health practices revitalize soil naturally by working with the vast microbial soil community to improve soil quality and productivity. Improving soil health is how to improve soil moisture, retention, fertility, and much more.
This untapped microbial powerhouse is the key to rebuilding our soils for ongoing sustainable agricultural production. Building soil health doesn’t just make the microbes happy. Supporting any part of the underground ecosystem affects the entire soil nutrient cycle.
It’s more than semantics. These interrelated terms have distinct significance.
Soil health is a newer term and is often used as an indicator of soil fertility and biology. It’s the pulse of soil life. Soil health practices are the mechanisms that can trigger a change in soil quality and resulting soil productivity.
Soil quality represents a sliding scale of the ideal physical and chemical properties that result from various soil management styles; basically, it’s how well the soil performs.
Some soil properties are static and can’t be changed – like soil texture, i.e., how sandy or clayey soil is. But dynamic soil qualities can be affected by soil management practices. Dynamic soil quality characteristics include:
Soil productivity is the measure of a field’s ability to leverage soil quality into a harvestable crop. Poor soils are unproductive without significant, usually synthetic, inputs.
Affecting any part of the soil health-quality-productivity continuum impacts the others. This is good news, because improving soil health ultimately improves crop production! Essentially, soil productivity starts with soil health.
How can something too small to be seen be so pivotal to plant growth? Soil microbes are the smallest life forms in our soil and are nature’s nutrient miners. These microscopic soil bacteria and fungi scavenge soil nutrients initiating a symbiotic nutrient cycle benefiting both the surrounding plants and themselves.
Plant roots attract soil microbes and exchange photosynthesized plant sugars for soil-borne nutrients ingested by the microbes. In this mutually beneficial relationship, microbes trade their soil-harvested macro and micronutrients to plant roots in exchange for plant-produced sugars.
Plants attract soil microbes by leaking liquid carbohydrates through their roots into the surrounding soil. Those roots internally absorb the congregating microbes and extract their embedded nutrients before ejecting the deconstructed microbes back into the soil to reform and repeat the process. It is nature’s renewable juicing system!
In the wild, microbial nutrient cycling (called rhizophagy) is a closed-loop system requiring no inputs. This mutually dependent network of plants and microorganisms are healthy and diverse – all playing different roles in the process. A healthy plant/microbial ecosystem requires both the abundance and diversity of soil life.
In cultivated crops, we aim to optimize crop performance, often in suboptimal conditions and usually starting with degraded soil. Unlike in the wild, to reignite the natural rhizophagy process to improve soil health in depleted agricultural fields, we need to jumpstart nature’s process and fine-tune it for the select crops we grow.
Carbon is the name of the game in supporting life but building soil carbon can be challenging—especially in certain soil types. Carbon inputs can be costly in both labor and money and are often fleeting in poor or sandy soils. So, how do you feed your soil life?
Synthetic fertilizers are big on calories but short on nutrition. Synthetics also pose problems to the environment in runoff and to the plant in subtle, negative ways. Soil microbes lose out too when plant roots choose the synthetic drive-through over microbial nutrient cycling. Without the root zone marketplace for energy, soil microbes lay dormant in the soil.
In summary, conventional agriculture shortcuts nature’s nutrient cycling process with synthetic fertilizer inputs. Plant roots opt for this metabolically cheap fast food source and miss out on the powerful benefits of microbial nutrient cycling. The best route to carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, and feeding your soil is to explore reputable, trusted, and proven soil health products.
Carbon is the basis of soil life and comes from all types of organic matter. Soil carbon exists in two forms: active and stable carbon. There is an important distinction. Active carbon decomposes, releasing nutrients and feeding soil life (including plant roots). Once decomposed, active carbon becomes humus, or stable carbon that improves the soil’s physical characteristics but is no longer fresh meat for the microbes.
Unfortunately, most soil tests don’t distinguish between the two and only represent total soil carbon. It is hard to know how much active carbon is present to sustain microbial life. A constant influx of active carbon is needed to continually feed soil life and compensate for carbon loss from erosion or tillage. Keeping carbon bound in the soil feeds soil life and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.
Adding carbon in any form can be useful to feed soil life. Many growers use compost, biochar, animal manure, cover crops, and green manures as soil carbon sources. All have their pros and cons, and all eventually break down in nature’s nutrient cycling process.
Invigorating the soil microbiome is the sustainable, long-term way to regenerate soil health and improve crop performance. The best part is that there’s no downside to natural nutrient cycling. It’s a win-win for both plants and soil life.
Optimizing the soil microbiome requires feeding the right kind of carbon, which is often scarce in the environment. The PhycoTerra® microalgae soil amendment improves soil health by boosting the soil microbiome – guaranteed!
Plants will take the fast-food route to nutrition (from synthetic fertilizers), but they are missing out on three important benefits of soil microbial cycling:
So rhizophagy isn’t just about nutrition. The microbial nutrient cycling process also improves the plant’s stress response. Rhizophagy makes plants more resilient in heat, drought, and salt tolerance – making them overall hardier in the face of environmental change.
All active organic matter can feed soil microbes but optimizing microbial performance requires a superfood diet like the PhycoTerra® microalgae soil amendment. Feeding your crops through microbial nutrient cycling, rather than pure synthetics, breeds confidence that your crops can weather unpredictable seasons. Nature nourishes better!
Not exactly. While PhycoTerra® does contain small amounts of macronutrients, it is a different kind of soil amendment. PhycoTerra® sustainable microalgae liquid soil amendment was developed to provide the optimal microbial diet to awaken and activate soil microbes. It’s the superfood smoothie to jump-start your soil microbiome!
PhycoTerra® soil amendment’s novel microalgae formula re-energizes sleepy soil biology improving soil structure and function right where plant life begins. Renewing your soil’s microbial energy improves crop establishment, yield, resilience, and marketable quality. Remember how active soil carbon degrades? You can precisely time PhycoTerra® soil amendment’s application to maximize microbial growth and availability for crop use.
PhycoTerra® soil amendment’s regenerative soil improvement provides a supercharged foundation for your next crop. Used at planting or as a seed pretreatment, PhycoTerra® goes to work immediately revitalizing the critical soil microbial community and lasting up to three weeks. We’re so confident in PhycoTerra® soil amendment’s power to produce in your fields; we guarantee it.
Maintaining active soil carbon to feed soil microbes can be tough. PhycoTerra® soil amendment’s microalgae technology delivers the ideal microbial diet at the exact time to support maximum plant growth. PhycoTerra® is proven to increase both soil microbial quantity and diversity across all soil types. Whether your native soil is sand, clay, or loam, PhycoTerra® is proven effective.
Our extensive lab and field trials show both an improved quantity and diversity of soil microbes after applying PhycoTerra® (up to 33x more!). Fueling this expanded soil ecosystem increases soil aggregation and other beneficial soil qualities in every region and soil type.
PhycoTerra® has demonstrated remarkable results across multiple fields and specialty crops. From almonds to cotton and watermelon, PhycoTerra® branded products’ microbial superfood has been field-tested to improve plant vigor, crop yield, and marketable quality. Explore our proven results and recommendations to make your next crop your best yet.
Our biggest impact happens in your toughest fields where organic matter is low. Find a retailer to let PhycoTerra® make your average field perform like your best! Put the plant and planet benefits of PhycoTerra® to work on your farm today—it’s guaranteed to work in your soil!
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