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Carbon, the Prince

                                                 By Robert Ellsworth, Ph.D.

Nature does such an admirable job of providing basic needs that we humans tend to overlook or ignore some of the most important elements around us. However, these provisions are often stressed when man begins to pressure for more than nature can deliver. Such is the case with CARBON.

Consider that carbon is the center of the simple sugar molecule, which is the basic building block for carbohydrates such as starch, protein, cellulose, and hemicellulose. Notice that we have just listed the basic components of the plant body. As the center of the carbohydrate chain, CARBON accounts for 45 to 56% of the total dry weight of the plant. Now consider that plants provide, in one way or another, for everything man consumes. Indeed, CARBON becomes essential to our very existence.

The principle source of CARBON to the sugar formers is carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. Carbon dioxide is only 0.3% of the atmosphere. This is a tiny and frequently insufficient quantity, but nature has provided for constant replenishment of this supply from burning of fossil fuels and respiration of animals. However, the important CO2 source to agriculture is the population of micro-organisms that live in the soil.

One might ask how something so small can be expected to provide for the needs of the ever growing human population. The answer is quite simple. Soil micro-organisms exist in tremendous numbers. One acre of well cared for soil many contain up to four hundred fifty trillion (450,000,000,000,000) of these little life builders in the top six inches. By supplying these micro-organisms with only a diet of dead organic matter (useless? crop residue), they will perform the miracle of replenishing the atmosphere with carbon in a form that can be used to produce tomorrows food, fiber, and building supplies. The CO2 released by microbes is in a perfect location to feed plants since it surrounds roots in the soil and penetrates plant leaves as it rises from the soil surface. Plants can then take up this released CO2 and fix it into the carbohydrate chains on which our lives depend. Studies have shown that crop plants tend to utilize water and applied plant nutrients more efficiently when grown under elevated CO2 levels. It is important to note that the activity of micro-organisms corresponds quite closely with the life cycle of most crop species before man began to alter the life cycle of many of our important crops.

It stands to reason, that today’s farmer should seriously consider his current plight. Modern farming methods and high performance crop varieties have teamed to produce a condition where CARBON may be the primary factor limiting crop yields. Soil health, as measured by a soils ability to supply necessary CO2, has declined over time. As stewards of the earth, it behooves us to care for the microbial populations that ultimately supply our needs. ViTech Industries’ biologically based soil and foliar crop products are specially formulated to do just that. ViBasic and ViClout stimulate soil microbial populations and create a soil environment in which micro-organisms can more efficiently conduct their work. The end result is higher crop yields and a more sustainable production system.


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