Producing wheat, beets, grass, grapes, or vegetables to feed humans or livestock is ultimately just a specializations in the use of soil. The fundamental principles remain the same: enable the cultivated plant, whatever it may be, to take root in the soil and to find the right amounts of the elements essential to the expression of its genetic potential therein. One of the farmer’s jobs is to ensure that the soil that he cultivates is a favorable medium for the development of the crop, but not at the expense of soil quality.
SOIL: A COMPLEX PRODUCT, THE STAGE OF MULTIPLE REACTIONS
The soil is a complex product. It arises through alterations of the parent rock brought about by weather, water, roots and micro-organisms, and through the degradation of organic compounds falling on its surface. The parent rock gradually turns into sands, silts, and clays, which form complexes with the humus molecules produced by the biological transformation of dead plant and animal matter.
The average soil formation rate in Europe is approximately 1 tonne per hectare and per year. It can thus be seen that soil-dwelling lifeforms are involved in the soil formation process at the outset. But their activity does not stop there!
Like any complex organism, the soil is the stage of multiple reactions in which minerals, water, gases, and enzymes play a role in biochemical cycles that are vital to plant nutrition and the durability of the soil.
“The average soil formation rate in Europe is approximately 1 tonne per hectare and per year.”
Accordingly, the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and many other elements are controlled by all of the biotic communities of the soil, which have been in existence for millions of years and have undergone natural selection for their functions and their capacities to adapt to the medium.
SOIL: A LIVING MEDIUM
Soil reacts to all environmental factors, which can exert positive impacts that favor its growth and the development of its fertility, or conversely negative ones that are detrimental to its functioning, its capacity to produce, and to its future.
According to Dominique Arrouays, director of the Infosol unit of INRA Orléans: “The more agriculture is intensive and specialized, the fewer micro-organisms are found in the soil.”
Some symptoms that are indicative of a dysfunctional soil:
- erosion (water and wind),
- tying up of mineral elements,
- slowing of organic residue decomposition,
- loss of biomass…
Crop rotation, materials, soil working, organic matter management, plant protection products, and fertilizers all act on the biological component.It is thus obvious that the farmer’s choices and actions will influence the performance of his soil and the future of his assets.
SOIL: A GRADUALLY LIGHTENING BLACK BOX
Scientific advances are gradually shedding light on this medium, which is still poorly understood.
Molecular biological techniques now enable us to understand the multiple interactions among the various constituents of soil. Advancements in microbiology are providing supplemental knowledge regarding the relations between the plant and its rhizosphere.
Soil fertility is now no longer viewed from the standpoint of the simple aspect of a richness in nutrient elements for plants, but from a more comprehensive angle that takes the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the medium into account.
1 gram of soil contains:
- 1 million individuals
- Several thousand species
These millions of individuals perform vital functions:
- Development of organic matter (mineralization, humification)
- Mineral cycles (nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, etc.)
- Nutritional symbiosis with the plant (rhizosphere, mycorrhiza, etc.)
- Microbial antagonism towards plant pathogens
Is a sustainable agriculture conceivable in the face of a rationale of supplying inputs that are assimilated to varying degrees by the plants and that are veritable energy gluttons, without giving any thought to whether more effective and more economical means of performing the same functions in an environmentally responsible manner lie within the soil itself?
“The more agriculture is intensive and specialized, the fewer micro-organisms are found in the soil.”
For a productive and environmentally friendly agriculture, we henceforth need to work with the constituents of ecosystems and not in spite of them.
Improving the fertility of soils and the fertilization of crops with the PRP Technologies solutions
The novelty of the PRP Technologies approach to improving soil fertility and crop nutrition lies in activating and amplifying the natural functional mechanisms of soils and plants, in order to respond to the extensive needs of a productive agriculture while minimizing the environmental footprint. The PRP Technologies solutions truly play a part in the development of agro-ecology.