The imaginary phosphorous crisis

The imaginary phosphorous crisis

We at Better Organix know a simple truth, there is plenty of phosphorous (P) in the world, we do not need to continually add it, rather we need to be better at getting it from the abundant fixed pools all around us, in to the active and soluble systems, where we can benefit from its presence.

We can pretend that our added P isn’t the problem, or we can as a community begin to take humble pie and understand we have much to learn.

This post is about the Better Organix product range and how it is a low phosphate system that relies on active biology to cycle phosphates on demand and at a rate set by our plants, not us.

We are committed to delivering safe, environmentally sound plant growth systems that allow us as growers to get the very best out of our plants, without damaging the local environment, water systems, soil ecology and ultimately human health. At Better Organix, we manage P and plant health using a combination of Mycorrhiza and Photosynthetic Bacteria (PSB) safe liquid Food Proccessing Equipment (FPE), carbon sources, proteins, amino’s, enzymes and not the traditional acidified minerals labelled organic.

We limit phosphate inputs at critical stages, but we don’t negate phosphorous altogether.

Our system begins with establishing sound bacterial and mycorrhizal colonies, these brilliant all natural workers don’t like high P levels while they establish themselves. In order to realise P for our plants, we must 1st understand that only 15% of supplemental P, eg that which we add, is used by our plants. 80% of all plant ready P is realized via fungal and bacterial symbiosis. Phosphorous is a complex and unstable element which occurs in soils in 3 states, Soluble P, Active P and Fixed P.

Phosphorous comes from decaying plant and animal matter and its generally found in the top layers of soil systems, hence it really is abundant. Its one of the nutrients that is self-defeating when we add extra, especially at the wrong time. The more we add, the more fixed P we end up with, the greater amount of P we need to add to maintain the Soluble and Active Pools and so on forever and ever.

The lack of phosphorous at peak growth stages is exactly the time most P is being wasted in typical systems. i.e. – when we have underdeveloped root systems OR when we are in very late bloom and plants have shut down many systems and typical PCD (Programmed Cell Death) has kicked in our short day crops and excess P can then bind to other elements such as Calcium (fixing the P), making planting again more complex in the same space, over time this reduces our soils productivity.

Movement of P is slow, in the wild there is movement between the 3 pools of P, but movement to active from fixed happens at an incredibly slow rate. Fixed P is that which is unavailable to your plant. Any movement in the wild will be biological if the soil is live.

Ironically the addition treatments of artificial high analysis P or N inhibit a plants microbial connection to both mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen fixing bacteria, which otherwise help a plant access those very same nutrients.  

Existing phosphorous pools in our soil

As mentioned prior only about 15% of supplemental P is used by our plants, which means 85% of P ends up in the fixed pool or leaching away. If we consider that 85% of P which farmers use on their fields annually is locked away, we quickly realize that there is ample P already existing in the soil. It just needs to be accessed with the help of microbes.

Quotes on nutrients versus biology from Mohamed Hijri, Associate Professor from the department of biological sciences of the University of Montreal and Professor of Plant Pathology Matteo Lorito, from the University of Naples.

Less than 60% of applied fertilizers are actually used by the plants. Unused phosphorus and nitrogen can cause serious environmental problems. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi act as an extension of root systems, increasing the surface area that is used for nutrient absorption by more than hundred-fold.

Hijri’s Ted talk about ending the coming phosphorus crisis was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Matteo Lorito contributed to the American Academy of Microbiology report ‘How microbes can help feed the world’. It claims that ‘Improved understanding of plant-microbe interactions can increase crop productivity by 20% while reducing fertilizer and pesticide requirements by 20%, within 20 years.

Happy growing

The BOX team

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