I came across an intriguing article by Rhett Butler on a miracle that nature performs in the world’s rainforests.
Mr. Butler has advised a wide range of organizations and has been an information source for well-known news media, National Geographic and other big news publications. He knows rainforests.
I really enjoyed his article because it made a great point (to me at least) about how powerful nature is and what she can do. (Too bad that conventional agriculture is not paying attention.)
If you’re fairly new to gardening you’ll need just a bit of basic information to fully appreciate the story:
Mankind has currently discovered about 20 nutrients that are essential to plant growth.
These chemical elements are broken into two main groups: Non-mineral and Mineral.
The non-mineral chemicals comes from the air. According to everything I’ve ever read, all the mineral chemicals come from the soil — in the beginning anyway.
Rainforests – Nature accomplishes the Seemingly Impossible
Did you know that 2/3s of the world’s rainforests (including 3/4s of the Amazonian rainforest) can be considered “wet-deserts”? Wet-deserts grow on red and yellow hard clay-like soils which are acidic and low in nutrients.
Man — Making the Wrong Assessment
European settlers walked into the rainforest years ago and seeing all the lush and dense growth made the assessment (with the support of scientists) that they could clear all the growth and grow crops. The land – they thought – just had to be rich (in the essential minerals) to support all that growth.
Worked ok for a few years and then the crops died. Then the settlers wondered how in the world was such poor soil able to support the luxuriant growth of a tropical rainforest.
Nature’s Miracle Answer
Nature’s answer —she recycles mineral nutrients through the plant material. Not the soil — but plant material.
Mr. Butler reports that in a rainforest, most of the carbon and essential nutrients are locked up in the living vegetation, dead wood and decaying leaves. All this organic material decays quickly. Nutrients are broken down and almost immediately taken up by living plants. Few nutrients ever reach the soil — leaving the rainforest soil nearly sterile!
Rainforest soils are so old they’re devoid of all those essential minerals. So nature provides these minerals through decaying plant material and has recycled them over and over since they are NO LONGER in the Amazon soil!
No wonder a rainforest can’t be replaced!
Some of our soils are not yet devoid of essential minerals for plant growth. Often they may have to be pulled up from deep in the soil with the help of cover crops. If we have soil that supports a healthy soil web (lots of microorganisms) they will recycle the essential minerals and nutrients and make them available to our plants.
Soil study is fascinating but complicated. I’m so glad I don’t have to understand the complicated stuff nature does.
Tending my garden is so much more fun that way.
Organic gardening is easy, effective, efficient —- and it’s a lot healthier.
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