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Cut water, fertiliser and pesticide use with healthy soil

Healthy soil is a living entity teeming with micro organisms, invisible to the naked eye such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes.

The soil micro organisms interact with between the soil organic matter and the nutrients which are leaked from plant roots. This interaction supplies the plants not only with nutrients but also creates defence mechanisms against disease and drought. It even decides which plant will grow where.

Inorganic fertilisers which contain mineral salts, pesticides and other chemicals kill off many of these beneficial micro-organisms. Initially inorganic fertilisers seem to work but severe unseen damage to soil life is done. The plant becomes dependent on regular applications of fertiliser and water to maintain growth and flourish. Quite often these plants start to suffer from disease as the natural barriers (micro organisms) are weakened by the salts, pesticides and chemicals and no longer protect the plant against diseases.

Soil can be described as the stomach of the plant. The nutrients are stored in the soil before use and like the human digestive system absorbed when the plant requires them. Just like a human digestive system soil and plants need a flourishing micro flora to unlock the goodness and make it available for plant growth and health.

This balanced system of micro-organisms, soil organic matter and nutrients is known as ‘The Soil Food Web’. Plants growing in a healthy food web need less fertiliser, suffer less from disease, need less irrigation and grow faster. All the resources the plant needs are naturally available so plants grow larger and stronger than chemically dependent plants.

Plants and microbes make fertiliser

To a plant there are three main sources of nutrients which they need to survive.

1) The minerals which are available or locked up in the soil

2) Organic matter from dead plant material

3) The proteins and carbohydrates that leak out of the roots when the plant grows as a result of photosynthesis.

The nutrients that are produced from photosynthesis feed the bacteria that live around the root. These bacteria are then able to multiply extremely quickly on the protein and carbohydrate which the plants roots release. Fungi which live in the soil feed off the leaked nutrients from plant roots and on the cellulose and lignin found in the dead organic matter as they break it down to create humus.
While the nutrients are locked up in the bacteria and fungi they are not available to the plant. However bacteria and fungi are the food source of protozoa and nematodes, these are micro organisms and very small worms at the next stage of the food chain. Protozoa and nematodes eat bacteria and fungi and excrete ammonium which is the main source of nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plant growth.

Bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes can be added to the soil by means of compost. or compost teas. You can make your own compost with Symbio Compost Starter. You can also buy in bulk from as little as £20.00 per m3 see www.wrap.org.uk for your nearest supplier
Symbio has developed a range of compost tea brewers with composts and starter nutrients Compost Teas Starter and Compost Teas to help ‘kick start’ The Soil Food Web. Symbio also supplies a range of organic fertilisers with mycorrhizal fungi and soil bacteria and fungi. Symbio Mycogro 100% organic fertilisers. These allow you to add nutrients to your soil while improving the soil biology.

          Geraniums rely heavily on mycorrhiza to access nutrients



Getting nutrients and water into your plants

Over millions of years plants have formed biological relationships with some of these bacteria and fungi. The most important relationship is formed between the plant and certain fungi called a Mycorrhiza. There are about 400 different types of Mycorrhizal fungi that have a symbiotic relationship with nearly all plants and trees. The fungi live in or around the root system extending thread-like growths to the soil. Mycorrhizal fungi extract or solubilise essential nutrients like Phosphate,  magnesium, potassium calcium and water and pass these nutrients into the roots.

The plant in turn supports the fungi by providing the carbon needed for cell growth.. Mycorrhizal plants have up to 100 times the effective root area of non mycorrhizal plants so they can access more nutrients and water for maximum growth and strength.

The addition of mycorrhizal fungi spores to transplanted roots, garden soils, potting soil, lawns, or seeded crops will ensure the presence of these valuable Mycorrihzae. The difference in plant health and performance can be dramatic, especially when dealing with less-than-perfect soils as shown in the trials with Acers (Picture Below).

Acer on left inoculated with Symbio Mycorrhizal Transplanter and grown with 50% less Osmacote fertiliser than control plant on right

Unfortunately plants grown in nursery conditions in sterile growing media with high fertiliser and water inputs do not have mycorrhizal root systems. No mycorrhizae are present in the field or vegetable patch if left fallow for only a couple of months.. The best way to give your plants, crops or vegetables the Mycorrhiza that they need is by inoculating them (coating the roots) in Mycorrhiza. To do this Symbio has developed Symbio Transplanter. This is packed with Mycorrhizal fungi, soil fungi, bacteria and nutrients to give the plant the best possible start.

Reducing Water requirements and improving soil structure

In addition to the massive benefits  the plant gains by Mycorrhizal fungi extending the root systems allowing the plant to absorb as much water and nutrients as needed, the plant also benefits by using microbes to improve soil structure. Bacteria and mycorrhizae produce polysaccharides that aggregate soils and form spaces for air and water while fungal hyphae, nematodes and worms move through the soil breaking it up. This allows oxygen, water and other nutrients to become readily available to the plants helping them develop a deep, well-structured root system.

Reducing disease

Most gardeners have noticed how plants and lawns heavily fed with inorganic fertilisers and water can suffer more from a variety of plant diseases. This is due to the salts that are in the fertilisers and water which kill the microbes that would normally create a natural defence for the plants The microbes creates this defensive barrier in 3 different ways:

  • Bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi form a protective barrier around the root system which blocks pathogenic (disease causing) fungi and some insect pests.
  • Beneficial microbes will over power the damaging pathogens for the food in the soil. These microbes out compete the pathogens for nutrients  and the beneficial microbes will also use pathogens as a food source.
  • Many of the microbes that are critical to the plants survival  will actually produce toxins that kill pathogens that may damage the host plant.

    Feeding the soil food web

    You can increase the population of beneficial microbes in your soil by feeding your plants with Symbio Liquid Organic fertilisers that combine plant food with a powerful biostimulant and by adding specific microbial foods Like Symbio Humic Booster to feed fungi needed for trees and shrubs, Symbio Fulvic Booster to help boost plants in spring and autumn (Fulvic Booster is also an excellent yield enhancer for potatoes) and Symbio Liquid Seaweed a year round tonic for all plants.

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