The ideal soil

by D L Hart, Top Soils

The ideal soil is what you have got, once corrected and balanced, because that’s what you have got.

The ideal soil is what you have got, once corrected and balanced, because that’s what you have got. A textbook soil, is composed of 45% minerals, 5% humus, 25% water and 25% air. How do you achieve this? The Albrecht system of soil fertility achieves this by a balanced mineral application determined by a soil audit for each particular soil.

It’s the chemical makeup of that soil which determines the physical structure and the correct physical structure provides an environment for the biology. It’s the biology that provides the foundation for soil health by having adequate mineral nutrition, in a form, readily available to plants, supplied by an active soil microbial community. 

It’s the biology that builds the soil aggregate and makes the organic matter that regulates the chemistry.

The key to plant production and the key concept to grasp is, when we provide a plant with greater levels of nutrition, the performance of these plants is greatly increased.

Photosynthesis — (making life from light.) by absorbing water from the soil, CO2 from the air and through an anabolic process with sunlight energy, forms carbohydrates (sugars) inside the leaves of green plants. 

The Australian soil ecologist Dr Christine Jones termed this the liquid carbon pathway. Liquid carbon is basically dissolved sugars. Sugars are formed in plant chloroplasts during photosynthesis. Some of the sugars are used for growth and some are exuded into soil by plant roots to support the microbes involved in nutrient acquisition. This microbial support is also required to improve soil structure, increase macro and micronutrient availabilities and enhance soil water holding capacity.

Anything we can do to increase the plant’s photosynthesis capacity will increase the plant’s energy. Photosynthetic capacity is derived relative to (A) balanced mineral nutrition, (B) the micro-biology content, in the soil. Nitrogen fixation depends on energy efficiency. It takes a lot of energy, and requires a lot of sugars from photosynthesis and minerals, which means tuning the entire system by improving first sulphur, boron, silicon then calcium, magnesium and phosphorus as well as enzymatic co-factors zinc, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum and cobalt. Many of these elements are essential for resistance to pest and diseases and the resilience to climatic extremes such as drought or frosts.
A lot of chemicals and fertilisers are counter-productive to producing humus, the application of large quantities of inorganic N as found in urea, MAP and DAP is compromising the effective system of producing N in the soil. In addition, large quantities of water-soluble P such as found in superphosphate, MAP, DAP compromises the symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi which are essential for maximising the ability of plants to obtain water nitrogen and minerals from the soil.

Chemicals, interfere with the transport of sugars, the formation of soil aggregates, availability of trace minerals and water holding capacity. Former best management practices of soils has made our farms drought prone.

With the new information and understanding of science that wasn’t prevalent previously, farmers can, (by adopting new best management practices), change farming systems to be sustainable, profitable and meet environmental goals.

‘For me, it is far better to grasp the universe as it really is, than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring’. — Carl Sagan.