What Tools In The Tool Box Do We Have To Build a Healthy Top Soil?
I was returning from Las Cruces recently and along Interstate 25 I saw huge piles of compost being deposited by the landscape contractor, which reminded me to write this article.
With each year we learn something new and improve upon the old techniques and products we've offered. In some ways you may find this frustrating because it may require us to stop making some products as they grow obsolete by newer ideas and better products that we can support our claims with good science. Soil Secrets taps into the National Labs asking for "Deliverables" that will help support our ongoing R & D and help us provide products with the best efficacy possible. For example, in the arena of Humic Acids, a substance sold by many companies, but previously without the molecular description to substantiate what the potential Mechanisms of Action could be based on the geometry of the molecules, the thermal energy value of the molecules, and the resulting functionality of the molecules. The industry couldn't even tell us how many molecular species there are. Today Soil Secrets owns that information, as we've done the only molecular descriptive evidence ever done on Humic Acids, and for that reason I prefer to call them Humic molecules and not Humic Acids which we can produce as "Bio-Identical" to those found in Nature's best soil. We've have also done DNA extraction and gene sequencing on our soil microbial inoculants to make sure we are doing things right with the right soil creatures. We pay ISO Certified labs to test and measure our Protein in the product we call Protein Crumblies, making sure it has the amino acid profile we want, so we are certain it's a good quality soil microbe food. We now have a firm understanding of the value of certain soil amendment products and how to use them in a more appropriate way. For example, I can recall a Landscape Architect in Albuquerque saying that Oak trees need a well manured soil. If manure was not available, the architects specified huge amounts of organic matter called "Soil Builder" to be amended into the soil. Know we now know that manure can contraindicate soil and plant health because it contains salinity that the soil does not need. Beyond the potential salinity problem, adding manure or even incorporating too much good quality compost to the soil can cause the soil to spoil by making it go anaerobic (without oxygen) because the higher the level of decomposable organic matter we incorporate into a soil the more oxygen the microbes need to decompose those organics. This is called increasing the Biological Oxygen Demand, which is not good for the soil as it creates toxic substances such as alcohol and lactic acid. Plants hate that stuff!
We must understand what the tool in the tool box is for and in the case of compost, that tool is to add a fertilizer value of minerals, not to try and build a top soil. Adding compost as a light top dressing is a way to re-mineralize those elements that are being used up by the vegetation. So its a fertilizer not a soil builder! How much is enough? If its a good quality compost made from mineral rich organic matter, you many only need about 30 - 35 pounds per every 1000 square feet, and on a larger scale not more than 1500 pounds per acre. As you can see that's a tiny amount of product! It's a common mistake to see mountains of compost dumped on a site in the attempt to build up the organic matter of a soil, buts that's the wrong thing to do.
Soil Secrets is Bio-Mimicry, copying the Natural Process.
Building a top soil is the process of Soil Carbon Sequestration, and that is done by the association of photosynthesis, production of liquid carbon (sugar) and roots of plants articulating with soil microbes including the mycorrhizal fungi, where the plant roots provide the liquid carbon as a source of energy needed by the microbes. So if the site lacks plants, such as a new construction zone, or a farm field plowed and left empty, there's no photosynthesis, no roots, no liquid carbon, therefore limited soil microbes and zero Carbon Sequestering taking place.
So how do we get from Zero, back to Hero status as far as soil health is concerned? We can jump start the process by using inputs such as inoculants, nutritional calories of amino acids from a high quality protein, and fortifying the soil with Supramolecular Humic Molecules (Humic Acids), as these improve the ecology of the soil enough to allow many other good things to happen. For example, if the soil is of poor quality lacking structure, oxygen and water will have trouble getting into the soil. This is huge limiting factor to soil health and plant health. By adding the "Bio-Identical Supramolecular Humic Molecules" active ingredients of TerraPro, we can see a rapid improvement in the porosity of the soil, which will allow oxygen and water to penetrate. Everything that's good that needs to happen to the soils ecology is contingent upon Water and Oxygen being able to penetrate that soil! TerraPro is the proper tool for making that happen, not compost, not fertilizer, not worm castings, and not wetting agents. Here's a story on our blog where we measured this change taking place in soil porosity. http://www.soilsecretsblog.com/2015/01/soil-health-and-changing-soil-compaction.html
In the business of health food and nutriceuticals, we've figured out that by eating organic whole yogurt we can inoculate our bodies with beneficial microbes. There are even higher dose Pro-Biotics you can buy that provide billions of living cells of bacteria, known to be good for us. Now we know that the same can be done for soils, where we can commercially produce bacteria and fungi that are synergistic with one another and also beneficial for plants. The fungi are called Mycorrhizal products, which are measured by the species and the spore count per gram or per pound. The bacteria are also measured by species and by CFU (Colony Forming Units). For a mycorrhizal product Soil Secrets offers MycoMaxima, a blend of many species able to help a wide array of plants from pine trees, oak trees and turf, or EndoMaxima, the industries highest spore count product useful for annual crops and most landscape plants. For mine reclamation and highway re-vegetation, EndoMaxima is the best mycorrhizal product to use as it has the Glomus (syn. Rhizophagus) species needed to inoculate all the plants used under those conditions. However Mycorrhizal fungi don't work alone, and the soil's ecology is much more complex than that, so Soil Secrets is now releasing a Soil Pro-Biotic BioPack, which is a consortium of microbes designed to help turn dirt into soil.
For the time being BioPack is available in a size for agriculture and for landscape construction, coming in a 50 gram pack which covers one acre. The price is about $25 to $28 per pack depending on where you buy it. To see the label and species names with CFU data, download the attachment. It's 100% Certified USDA BioBased. In other words, the 50 gram packet is 100% microbes.
Here's a summary of the flagship Soil Secrets products used jump start and support a healthy soil ecology, ether in real soil, or in manufactured substrate (potting mix).
--TerraPro - Formerly known as Earth Magic. The active ingredient is a full blend of the Humic molecules that are Bio-Identical and which are fully Supramolecular. Humic molecules when Supramolecular can correct soil structure, improve the aerobic environment of the soil helping with microbial respiration, have a solutioning effect on the minerals in the soil making them more available, has a chelation overlay effect helping to hold the minerals so they don't leach away, improve the soils ability to manage the water, and a more livable habitat for plant roots and soil microbes.
--EndoMaxima or MycoMaxima provides the correct mycorrhizal f spores that can benefit the majority of plants. EndoMaxima contains the Glomus generalist fungus that associates with the majority of plants on Earth, while MycoMaxima contains both the Glomus and a blend of Ecto type fungus that are specialists with hardwoods such as Oaks, Pecan, Pines and other trees. MycoMaxima is also sold under the retail name White Lightning.
--Soil Pro-Biotic Bio Pack, fortifies the soil with bacteria and other beneficial soil microbes.
--Protein Crumblies provides the building blocks of life known as Amino Acids. We use this product to feed the soil microbes a nutritional calorie of protein, helping to support better soil health.
--TTP Supreme Compost, provides mineral elements for re-mineralizing the soil if its low in minerals.
Michael Martin Meléndrez
Managing Member of Soil Secrets LLC