How to improve your nitrogen availability in organic and conventional farming systems.
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"The lack of air, going into the soil, is why most growers are having increasing nitrogen bills."
- excerpt from episode 7 "Nitrogen Deficiencies"
The Soil Nitrogen Cycle. Plants have the capability to uptake three forms of nitrogen (blue arrows). Monomers (amino acid proteins or fish hydrolysate), Ammoniated Nitrogen (NH4+), and NItrate Nitrogen (NO3-).
In an organic farming system, NH4+ and NO3- must be converted from soil organic matter and monomers (fish hydrolysate) to be bio-available. This cycling of nitrogen is performed by aerobic beneficial soil microbes. Aerobic beneficial soil microbes must breathe in order for the ecological process to function properly. Once the aerobic zone is established, inoculating the soil with microbes and feeding with fish hydrolysate can drive the nitrogen cycle. Insufficient nitrogen uptake, in an organic system, comes from either a lack of air in the soil (low porosity/aerobic zone), low microbial diversity (lack of aerobic beneficial soil microbes), and/or a lack of food (fish hydrolysate and soil organic matter). Correct the cause and improve your organic nitrogen uptake!
Conventional farming systems rely on synthetic fertilizers to perform two-thirds of the nitrogen cycle. If your nitrogen bill is going UP, it may be because the system is broken and missing a key component. Get your microbes working by introducing organic nitrogen management practices (see above) and you will improve your nitrogen cycling. A properly functioning agro-ecosystem is the key to reducing input costs!
Figure credit: Jackson et al., 2008, adapted from Schimel and Bennett, 2004.
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