By: Milo Shammas, Founder & Formulator
When it comes to fertilizers and plant health, cutting costs by buying an incomplete product is not the most sensible approach, but one people often take, only to regret later. One segment of a budget might be designated to purchase a fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium only. This might save money in the short term but will have long term effects on the soil and overall plant health. The likely result is yield loss from an unbalanced approach to meeting plants’ needs for nutrients.
Helping gardeners to better understand the importance of micronutrients, and the importance of applying a complete fertilizer, is always my goal. I encourage gardeners to look hard at their micronutrient needs and I explain that micronutrients are the catalyst in the soil, making other nutrients available. The main nutrients are not available without them.
Study Your Soil
This is the time to really study your soil. Test it, track what you are applying, and consider buying a nutrient test kit along with a pH meter. Using tests to measure the nutrients in your soil is always a good idea, but not always necessary if you are feeding with a complete fertilizer. Knowing your soil’s pH, however, is always a good idea as the pH will determine the availability of many nutrients. For more specific details, you can read more detailed information about soil pH in the article titled ”Plant pH Preference” posted on our website or in our gardening guide.
To get the best yields and optimum plant health, it is critical to keep soil fertility in balance and not cut back on nutrients. That could limit your chances of good outcomes. I believe even commercial growers who are on a strict budget now realize that they need micronutrients, as well as N, P and K. In the past, they would have just cut the micros out.
Research and development have played important roles in understanding the critical need for micronutrients. This is especially true of sulfur, once a common soil ingredient, thanks in part to atmospheric sulfur deposited by rainfall. As sulfur pollution has been reduced in recent years, indirect and direct yield response to applied sulfur has increased.
We have seen that without sulfur in the soil, nitrogen losses can be as great as 30 percent when compared to a NPK only fertilizer. Sulfur also plays a critical role in the formation of amino acids and proteins, as well as in chlorophyll production. We’ve also seen dramatic increases in overall plant health. Once we conducted field tests comparing a simple NPK fertilizer to Dr. Earth blended fertilizers, the results were very clear; the micronutrient needs of plants were met with Dr. Earth®.
The Natural Cycle
The base ingredient for Dr. Earth® blended fertilizers is fish bone meal. This ingredient is not only full of primary nutrients, but also packed full of micronutrients, similar to a multi-vitamin supplement. This is because the ocean is the lowest part of the earth, and all nutrients erode into the ocean. Life forms ranging from simple plankton to higher aquatic plant life absorb these rich micronutrients. Fish consume aquatic plants and then larger fish consume smaller fish, thus transferring the eroded micronutrients from microscopic elements to large fish through this natural cycle.
This is why I insist on using fish bone meal as our base ingredient. Fish bone meal is also used in pet foods, and in commercial fisheries to help maintain their needed nutrient requirements. This is also why eating a diet high in wild caught fish is healthy for us, far better than consuming meats from livestock raised unsustainably in feed lots. These animals are fed a scientific diet, injected with hormones and antibiotics, and not allowed to move freely so they will put on weight quickly. In addition to the fact that I do not support these inhuman practices, the meat produced this way is also less nutritious.
Ocean Rich Nutrients
Fish bone meal is not the only source of micronutrients that I rely on to formulate a complete fertilizer. I also depend on fish meal, an ingredient full of protein that will break down and become a slow-release source of nitrogen. I also rely on cold-processed kelp meal and seaweed extract rich with more than 70 trace minerals, along with the important growth hormones cytokinins, auxins and giberillins. These stimulate cell division, cell elongation, internode elongation and cell enlargement. Kelp and seaweed also contain 21 amino acids, enzymes, and also simple and complex carbohydrates. In addition, they enhance seed germination and increase the uptake of nutrients. Both kelp and seaweed contain an abundance of micronutrients, and potassium, an element needed for overall plant health and stress relief.
Research and Balance
I continue to do research with different crops, micronutrient blends, and crop mixes. Dr. Earth® fertilizers contain a naturally high percentage of micronutrients such as sulfur, and zinc. Zinc is critically important to plant health, but plants typically need very little of this nutrient. Independent research indicates that while you can see an impact on starch levels from sulfur alone, it is even greater with zinc in the formulation. Therefore, a fine balance is required. For example, too much iron can interact with other micronutrients, and a high level will tie up needed manganese. Getting the balance right is the fundamental key to the efficacy of Dr. Earth® products.
Micronutrients are very important for many different situations. They replenish soil depleted from over farming, increase the effectiveness of organic fertilizer, increased crop production, improve quality of produce, and lead to healthier fruits and vegetables for animal and human consumption. They also support the viability of beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae, growing the ”good” or ”healthy” bacteria for human and animal health.
Dr. Earth® products, rich in micronutrients, can help you save money, reduce fertilizer costs, save on energy use, and decrease your carbon footprint. Applying more does not always equate to more. Getting the balance right is the key to all successful situations. Taking one multi-vitamin is good for you, but taking the whole bottle can have adverse effects. It’s a matter of balance and Dr. Earth® has formulated that balance for you, so you can relax as you benefit from the results of our research.