I have been wanting to get into this discussion for a long time. Some of you will find a lot of this sort of boring as you already know a lot about the soil. However, many might have a sort of fuzzy, unfocused view of soil and its contribution to the quality of essential oils.
The basic building block of life is Water, Air and a few little tiny bugs and their interaction. Most people know what air and water is, but the little bugs.. those are for the most part known as bacteria, fungi and the sort of things that many times are too small to see, IE; Critters. In fact if you were to take a gallon can and fill it with some good quality soil you would find, not millions or even 10's of millions but BILLIONS of little bacteria and fungi and all sorts of their friends of their choosing, critters. But before we start walking Pavlov's dogs, we need to understand the nature of the dogs.
In an as is state, soil consists of roughly 4 major parts. For ease of discussion lets be general, as every plot of soil will be different. Most soil is about 30% Air, 30% water, 30% minerals and about 10% organic matter. That is roughly a good soil.
Whoa, wait a minute, isn't organic soil used for organic production a lot higher than 10%? No, not generally. Stay with me. Soil is 30% air? Yes, plants need air or more accurately, oxygen at the root level to properly function. Yes they inhale carbon dioxide but they do exhale oxygen, but in order for the critters in the soil to live and for proper conversions from soil to the plant to take place, oxygen is needed. So in agricultural production soil compaction is a big issue, not only for root penetration but also for oxygen deprivation.
Of course water is a given, plants need water just like we as humans do. Now some plants have evolved over time to compensate for their conditions, just like some groups of humans have. This is where we begin to have diversity in the plant world.
Now we get into the mineral thing. Here we classify substances such as clay into this category. We need to keep in mind that minerals are nothing but broken down pieces of rock. Minerals in and of themselves are inorganic. Here is where we get into a paradigm shift issue. Traditionally we think of inorganic as BAD, organic as GOOD. We aren't even in that neighborhood. That whole thing is from the chemical companies to muddy the waters for their benefit. We will discuss that aspect in a later discussion. All of these naturally occurring are nothing but broken down pieces of rock that eventually gets dissolved into the water, then taken up by the plants. There is 2 schools of thought on this next part. One school says that we as an animal life form cannot extract and convert the inorganic form of the minerals into a usable form. The other school says, yes, you can, but it is somewhat very inefficient. I am of that latter school. However, the best way for us to uptake the minerals is after they have gone through a plant and the plant has, as Dr. Albrecht says, "lined everything up in the right order and the right ratios for us to utilize". You see the key here is that if a carbon molecule is not attached as done in this process, we can't assimilate the mineral. Through the living plant is the best and most efficient way of attaching that carbon molecule. That is in simple terms the way we are able to utilize the inorganic, natural occurring minerals.
The we have the last little part of the "Organic" art of the soil, that last 10% or so of the whole the volume of the soil. This is where we have all of these little microbes are doing their job. Their job is to break down various living organisms that have served their purpose back into basic element and matter to be recycled.
In the category of the minerals we have a vast array of them. The minerals are broken down into 2 categories, one called Macro nutrients and one called micro nutrients. The macro ones are the typical ones you hear of, such as Nitrogen Phosphorus and Potassium, or as in most agricultural circles, NKP. In the past these have been the very most important ones and generally the ones given the most attention to. In the recent past several others in the micro class has become important, those are Calcium, Sulfur and Magnesium. When we come to the micro ones we see a very small amount of these being needed. A plant might need as a percentage of a nutrient amount is something like .01% of Iron and .002% of Boron and even Nickel at .000001% of a mix. Where as the Nitrogen by comparison would need to be at 1.5%.
We need to keep in mind that the 30% of the soil as before mentioned, includes a lot of stuff essential for growth, including sand, (just small pieces of the rocks that contribute very little to soil nutrition directly, but a lot indirectly. Clay is included here, as that is where the nutrients are attached to. The roots crawl along the clay particles and draw off the nutrients. The sand allows the water to peculate around the clay particles and in essence dissolves the minerals for the roots to suck up and make the transfer of nutrients to the plant overall.
The macro nutrients in simple terms makes up the facade of the plant. They provide the building blocks for the bulk of the plant. The micro nutrients basically makes up the internal parts of the plant. In short the macro puts on the show, but the micro makes up the essence of the character. Every single part and element is necessary for a good healthy plant. Of course we cannot forget the Sun, it provides for the powering of the whole process. But in this discussion we are talking about the makeup of the soil its self with related activities. The Sun comes in later.
So when we have deficiencies on either the macro or micro level, we end up with an incomplete plant. It cannot pass on that which it is devoid of. Sometimes these deficiencies are obvious and some times they are not. However, most of the time we don't really utilize every single nutrient everyday. In some parts of a plant production cycle they might only use 1/2 of the vast array of minerals that they would need over it's life time.
If you are thinking that this is sounding a lot like the discussions you have heard about human nutrition. You aren't loosing your mind, because the discussion is pretty much the same, there isn't a whole lot of difference. About the only real difference between an animal and a plant is that the plant is more complicated, it contains more DNA strands and sequences than does a human being, even a simple plant is more complex than an animal.
Since this is getting long, lets bring this part to a close. If we have learned one thing this go around that is this, a plant is very much like a human being. Our nutrient needs are very similar. So with this part we have learned that like a human animal a plant is only what it eats and cannot pass along that which it is devoid of. This is a key for you to remember when we get directly into talking about essential oil quality. Yes, we have several more discussions about Pavlov's dogs before we get to walk them. Thank you for your interest. See you soon with Part B. Remember this, as I saw in a post, we as humans, are essentially a cucumber. Yes a cucumber, but we have anxiety. So we are basically a cucumber with anxiety. lol.
Written by Kent King.