From the desk of Neutrog’s resident microbiologist Dr. Uwe Stroeher
Many people probably don’t know how nutrients are actually recycled and released from organic matter – whether this is from their compost or from an organic fertiliser. There are two mechanisms at work.
Firstly, organic matter tends to loosely hold onto certain micronutrients. The binding sites on organic material tend to be negatively charged, so positive ions such as iron, zinc, manganese and magnesium bind to it. As this binding is only loose, the micronutrients are in a state where they bind and release from the organic matter easily, and therefore become available for plants to use.
The second way nutrients become available and usable by plants is with bacteria and fungi. Many of the nutrients found in organic matter are actually trapped and bound to such things are proteins and other complex molecules. For example, DNA contains phosphate and nitrogen, whereas proteins are a great source of nitrogen and are loaded with micronutrients.
Bacteria and fungi break down these complex molecules, therefore releasing the nutrients for plants to use. This breakdown of material comes about by the action of enzymes which are secreted by the microbes (in a similar way that enzymatic washing powders loosen dirt and essentially break down stains).
Bacteria and fungi secrete different enzymes. Fungi are good at breaking down woody materials – they generally secrete more cellulases to breakdown cellulose molecules into monosaccharides (simple sugars), whereas bacteria secrete more enzymes to break down protein or DNA.
More often than not, these enzymes are very specific, so a large variety is needed to completely break things down. As each bacterial or fungal species only produce a subset of these enzymes, you really need to increase the microbial diversity in your soil. This diversity can be achieved by using Neutrog’s liquid GOGO Juice – an inoculant that has been specifically designed to break down organic materials. In a slower way, you can also increase microbe activity through the use of Neutrog’s certified organic Rapid Raiser, Rooster Booster or Seamungus pellets through nutrient cycling.
GOGO Juice, Seamungus and Rooster Booster are available from Bunnings, Mitre 10, Home Timber and Hardware, Stratco stores, and of course good garden centres and plant nurseries.