Why Compost Works and Chemicals Don’t

The secrets of manuring are now being discovered in the fields of soil microbiology, and the incredibly rich interrelationships there. When we choose to refuse chemical fertilization, we instead rely on these complete interactions to supply our crops with the nutrients they require for  proper growth. At the top of the list is nitrogen, and how our plants get it is of vital importance.

Bacteria and fungi supply other soil microbes with nitrogen in the form of amino acids, a live nitrogen, so to speak. Silica plays a crucial role, as the transport system for getting amino acid nitrogen into the plants through fungal hyphae, which are silica-based. Calcium is needed, too, to help move the nitrogen around. When a plant sends a signal that it is ready for nitrogen, sap pressure, via boron, allows for calcium to gran nitrogen in a pure form and it is moved into the root zone through the silica-rich tubes of the mycorhyzae.


When a plant needs water, it should receive pure water, with no soluble fertilizer in it that it didn’t ask for. This would cause an imbalanced growth, creating susceptibility to insects and disease. This is a major reason not to use water soluble, chemical fertilizers.

In a live humus soil, there is plenty of nitrogen in the life forms there, existing as amino acids, Nitrogen dispersant when any being excretes or dies. Nitrogen-fixing microorganisms make sure the plant, whose root exudates feed the soil life, gets what it needs.

When we add chemical nitrogen in the form of nitrate, three things happen that make it necessary to use chemical nitrogen again:

  1. Nitrogen fixing microbes die, because they can’t survive singing in their own excrement and dead bodies.
  2. Fungal activity is compromised because nitrate is antagonistic towards silica.
  3. It takes the plant about ten times as much energy, which it makes by photosynthesis and the conversion of sunlight into sugar, to use nitrates as it would to use the nitrogen in amino acids. Nitrates from chicken litter are still nitrates, and poison soil life.

Once we destroy the nitrogen fixing microbes and the fungi that helps move the nitrogen, the plant will use up the nitrate, wasting energy and quickly needing more nitrogen. It not becomes apparent why farmers buy so much nitrogen. Once they’ve been tricked by the “experts” to use chemical fertilizer, they have to keep using it. The experts are paid through the chemical companies.


Luckily, compost can come to the rescue. We can reinoculate our soils with the beneficial microbes the chemicals destroyed. With cover cropping, rotations, and animals, farmland quickly revives and healthy crop growth returns. We just have to consider these microbes, and we will avoid compaction, chemicals, and anything else that hurts them.

The potassium and phosphorus fixing microbes are in the same boat, they are destroyed by chemicals that supply these nutrients. Water soluble fertilizers put them out of work and they are gone- again, good farming practices return them. These are some of the secrets of manuring, which are very real and important mysteries.

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