The Carbon/Nitrogen Ratio
Managing the Carbon/Nitrogen ratios in our soils is essential... and easy to do.
Plants have a symbiotic relationship with the microbes in the soil. Meaning plants do things for the microbes that the microbes cannot do for themselves and vice versa.
Healthy soils contain billions upon billions of healthy microbes that make life great for plants in many ways. The microbes effects include, but are not limited to: reducing soil compaction, increasing nutrient retention and availability, buffering salts, protecting the root system from diseases and pests, providing essential organic acids, and so on. In return for these services, the plant naturally releases some of its sugars (produced through photosynthesis) directly into the soil through its roots. These sugars serve as the primary food source for the microbes. In other words, the microbes can't feed themselves but have the ability and motive to improve soil conditions to best favor plant growth. The plant produces food for the microbes but can't change the soil conditions.
When this relationship is in balance, successfully maintaining plants becomes much easier, as Mother Nature begins doing most of the work for us. All too often we spend most or all of our focus on the plant itself, ignoring the beneficial microbes and unfortunately, many of the things we do for the plant are actually harmful to the microbes.
So what's the answer? Giving the both plant AND the soil microbes what they need to begin restoring this natural balance... Organic Carbon. For healthy microbes, ensuring sufficient organic carbon is essential. Microbes are highly sensitive to the Carbon/Nitrogen (C/N) ratio. Too much nitrogen and not enough carbon is bad, very bad.
Organic carbon comes from decomposing organic matter. The problem here in Southern California is that most of our soils are very low in organic matter and therefore very low in organic carbon. When Nitrogen fertilizers (that do not contain organic carbon) are applied to these soils it throws the C/N ratio way out of balance. This has catastrophic effects on the soil microbes and results in a dramatic decline in their ability to improve plant and soil health. Now we all know that plants need nitrogen, and when it is applied the plant typically gets greener and grows faster. However, it doesn't usually last very long and then when it wears off, the plant goes back to looking like it did before we fed it... or worse. Then what we typically do is add even more nitrogen! This cycle destroys the essential microbial balance the plant requires for optimum health.
Products that claim to correct this condition simply by adding more microbes have little or no effect. However, adding organic carbon immediately stimulates and encourages beneficial microbial activity. The solution is to provide sufficient organic carbon to the soil. This not only helps to balance the use of nitrogen, but organic carbon serves as a supplemental food source for the microbes themselves.
All JTM Nutrients products contain organic carbon derived from the finest humic shale ore available. This ore is composed entirely of composted plant material, contains no animal bi-products and microbes eat it up! This increased microbial activity allows the plant to use nitrogen much more efficiently. This in turn allows for a reduction in the amount of nitrogen we need to apply, which improves the C/N ratio yet again. In addition to supplying organic carbon, many of our products also supply the fertilizers and nutrients to meet the plant's every need.
Healthy soil, teeming with healthy microbes, increases the plant's ability to utilize ALL plant nutrients. By simply adjusting your fertilizer budget to contain less plant food and more microbe food the whole system gets healthier. As organic carbon is generally less expensive than the plant nutrients, it's a more economical approach as well.