Jeff Lowenfels’ book: Teaming With Microbes

On May 6, 2016, at 5:56 PM, Bruce Dickson <> wrote:

Jeff Lowenfels’ book: Teaming With Microbes

From hour-long interview

At 16:30 to 20:00:

About half of the photo-synthetic energy a plant produces is not used to grow leaves, bark, fruit and seeds. Half the energy is used to produce “exudates” carbon molecules, which drip out of the roots into the soil. The purpose? To attract bacteria, protozoa, fungus, and nematodes, microscopic worms.

A plant makes carbon-based molecules, proteins, lipids and so on. Soil does not naturally have much carbon in it. “Carbon” includes “sugars” and “carbohydrates.” Neither bacteria nor fungus can produce their own carbon. The carbon exudates attract bacteria and fungus. This in turn attracts nematodes who eat bacteria and fungus.

The paramecium, amoebas nematodes and protozoa eat the fungi to use the carbon. The waste products of these guys contains nitrogen. The plant is waiting for this nitrogen, produced right next to the roots, so the plant sponges it up.

The plant can alter the exudates it produces in response to local conditions.

After 20:00 he talks about aerobic soils and how plants create aerobic soil structure.

Commercial fertilizers are primarily salts of various kinds (not sodium chloride). An salts “blow up” (kill) bacteria and other microbes. This creates a vacuum in the chain of getting nitrogen to the roots. To bridge this gap, you have to apply more and more salt fertilizer to get nitrogen to the plant’s roots. If you get smart, you make compost, fermented carbons. so salt fertilizers are no longer needed.

Human being is an in-folded plant. Plant roots are analogous to our intestinal villi. Microbes and our villi are symbiotic just as roots and microbes are symbiotic.

So the modern thrust of farming-gardening is returning both the carbon and bacteria to soils.

He doesn’t mention adding charcoal, which keeps carbon and moisture in the soil permanently. He mentions only compost. Both charcoal and compost put carbon into the soil, which attract microbes, who poop out nitrogen, which plants can use.

This also explains why hydroponics often gets caught in constantly chemical feedings. Salty fertilizers kill the microbes and have to be replaced, etc.

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