Get Real Alliance

“Environmental care should be our way of life”
– David Munson Jr

Episode 2. The Miracle: Soil Life

(Get Real intro with music)

Munson Intro:

Soil is mysterious and miraculous. It’s time to get serious about restoring

the health of our soils and how we can best remineralize them. By weight,

the vast majority of life on land consists of microorganisms in the soil, and

all other life relies on it for sustenance. In soil there are two types of

organisms. One we’ll call the composers. They are the agents that use rock

nutrients to make previously unavailable nutrients available to plants. Many

composers turn carbohydrates from photosynthesis into stable carbon

compounds such as components of a mysterious matter called humus. The

other agents we’ll call the decomposers. They attack organic compounds

and things like plants and release carbon back to the air as CO2. There is a

constant battle between the two agents. Some creatures, like earthworms,

are both composers and decomposers. In healthy soil organisms eat

certain types of rock and create a miraculous variety of complex

compounds. So let's break down this miracle called soil life and Get Real

about increasing it!

(Get Real transition music)


Did you know a healthy ‘spoonful of soil’ is home to over a billion life forms?

Woah, besides the internet, that’s like having a whole world at your

fingertips! So why is it that today, apples yield more fruit per acre than at

any time in history, and yet the nutritional value of apples has plummeted?

The answer lies in soil health and nutrient density. Today you have to eat

3-4 apples in order to get the same level of certain nutrients from eating

just one apple in 1965! Scientific American cited a nutritional drop on

average for up to 43 nutrients, while other studies found a 15-30% drop in

certain nutrient content. So before we go blasting off into space, maybe we

should first consider ‘Soil, the final frontier.. These are the voyages of the

microbial enterprise to seek out strange new worlds and new civilizations,

to boldly go where’ oh yeah, now back to David!

Coach Munson’s Climate Breakdown:

Practically speaking, the pillars of regenerative agriculture are a great place

to begin if you want to really impact the planet, even starting in your

backyard. It’s all about nurturing soils without synthetic chemicals and

minimal to no disturbance, keeping soils that are constantly covered with

diverse crops, whose roots richly feed the soil food web, and in turn, us. On

top of that if you can get animals to mob graze that land at certain times, it

makes that soil magic go boom! But what about the science of soil? Some

scientists focus on ancient soils, such as those in Africa, but often more

fertile soils are relatively young ones, created after the end of the last ice

age 10,000 years ago. The most fertile soil comes from glaciers grinding

rocks into rock dust, a period called the Climate Optimum, around 5,000

years after the glaciers receded. This length of time allowed soil life to

flourish with wild animals and produce a fertile, rich soil with many

unextracted available rock nutrients. A biological chemistry is alive in soils

through what’s called the “cation-exchange capacity” which measures the

soil’s ability to hold positive nutrient ions, such as calcium and magnesium.

Components such as clay particles and a mysterious matter called humus

also play an important role. Ideally, soil cations are attached to soil nutrient

ions for plant availability. Composting and mulches play a big part to keep

this healthy exchange capacity alive. This living chemistry brings us to

consider 2 very different teachers and schools of thought, within this world

of soil science. Dr. William Albrecht was a respected professor renowned

for determining the ideal amounts of nutrients in the soil. He observed that

68% calcium ions and 12 percent magnesium ( along with lesser amounts

of phosphate and potassium), created an optimal goldilocks ratio where

balanced growth occurs. A true pioneer in soil science, Dr. Albrecht

suffered criticism for his groundbreaking theories on what makes soils,

plants, and ultimately animals healthy. This was because he diverged from

his other mainstream peers by not embracing the three big nutrients

(nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus) as the “end-all” of nutrition. This

other and opposing ‘End-all’ school of learning began in 1840 with a

German chemist named Justus Von Liebig. Von Liebig isolated some of the

primary elements used by plants and then produced them chemically. He

saw increased growth from applying the chemical nitrogen and potassium

to the test soil. This discovery marked the beginning of the chemical

fertilizer age that still persists today. For decades, mainstream soil science

focused on the manufactured fertilizers, ignoring other essential elements

for healthy plant growth, which result in plants that are imbalanced, inviting

insects and other parasites to attack them.

So let’s talk positive solutions and follow Albrecht’s methods to rebalance

the soils back to a golden ratio. There would be greatly reduced demand

for fertilizer products if it was widely known and promoted that available

and affordable rockdust nutrients, which are a waste product of mining

operations, can dramatically revitalize soil and grow nutritious plants.

Nature rebounds really quickly so with the right care we can change things

fast by jump starting topsoil via remineralization, regenerative farming

practices like holistic grazing and with large regional terraforming. Some

examples of the latter are planting on contour using bio swales, keylining

the land with a sub soil ripper that slows and spreads rainfall to soak in, as

well as puncturing small holes in hard desert soil then putting organic

matter plus seeds to create micro-environments for plants to grow. These

planting holes could be further improved by adding nutrient activated

biochar and rock dust, which we’ll cover in more episodes. To scale up this

kind of landscape restoration, public and private institutions along with

charities could fund for real impact to contract young generations of climate

activists, returning veterans, as well as labor groups to do public projects

that would regenerate enormous landscapes like the southwestern US.

We can also look to permaculture as a practical climate solution.

Permaculture is a growing international movement that offers a different

way of looking at the land and how we create value from it. Permaculture

aims to create a holistic, multi-species, nearly permanent environment that

sequesters nutrients and water on the land, using plant growth to build

healthy soil through composting and mulching. These shovel ready

solutions are essential for long-term sustainability within our water-energy-

food potential. With us now to close out this episode is Mr. Brian Russ-a

seasoned professional of soil revitalization, biology and the head of

Sustainable Growth Texas, a company that has pioneered microbial

products for major grassland restoration. Howdy Brian, let’s talk about the

miracle of soil life!