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Agri Overview 

Rational Agriculture: Pakistan’s Path to Prosperity  
By Taimur Hyat Khan

Growing indications of low yields from GM crops in the field have revealed that plant nutrition is more important than new seeds. If we do not take advantage of the genetic potential of existing seed through complete and eco safe plant nutrition what is the use of new and improved seeds?


Introduction:

Organics; GMOs; Biotechnology; Transgenics; Super Organics; Smart Breeding; Geonomics; DNA Markers; BigAg Monopolies; Molecular Biology; Transgenomics; Apomixis; Disease Resistance; Drought Tolerance; More Nutrition; Better Quality and Quantity Food; Environmental Degradation & Protection; Biodiversity; Soil & Water Conservation; Market Conditions and a host of other issues confront the Bioenvironmental Manager. Harsh words and extreme stands compounded by a lack of Conflict Resolution Bodies or Measures, assail the manager and she/ he is forced to take refuge in one or other camp in a highly fractured and voluble mess of conflicting ideas. However, there is but one absolute Truth or many compromise paths that take due cognizance of all points of view but come to rational conclusions.

Where does all this leave Sustainable and Sustained Development Practioneers? Hopelessly frustrated by display of emotions where pragmatism and rational thought is required. Illegal funding of opponents to support the cause of vested and Particular Interest Groups further compounds the problem. Big money successfully uses media to perplex and obfuscate issues in order to maintain a highly questionable Status Quo. Of course Corruption, Nepotism and Resistance to Change are the Big 3 hurdles that faithfully lie in waiting to frustrate many a noble cause!

Where does this leave the malnourished, sick, homeless; unemployed and poverty stricken? Continued anguish and acute deprivation is their lot whilst pseudo intellectuals and armchair idealists do their best to ensure continuity to exploitation.

There is no villain versus hero; there is no black and white. Instead there are many shades of gray that shift their hue and saturation levels on an almost continuous basis. Today’s villains can be tomorrow’s heroes and vice versa.

Rather than bewail our sorry fate, it might serve some purpose to highlight the issues and arrive at rational conclusions in order to impact malnourishment and ensure its eradication.


Issues:

Do we not realize that agriculture is not a natural phenomenon! Replacing profuse biodiversity by single variety crops that have been domesticated and bred for desirable genetic traits or Smartly bred or Genetically Modified all lie in the same class of manipulating Nature to serve human needs. Increasing awareness has led to balancing human needs and those of the environment and all other life forms. This balance is important and extremely important!

The central issue of safe and sustainable agriculture to feed a growing population is affected by many external factors. These include politics; materialism; vested interests; negative as opposed to proactive attitudes; resistance to change; incompetence and lack of vision; selfishness and greed; sloth and indifference as well as downright meanness.

In Agriculture entire ecosystems are plowed under increasing susceptibility to soil erosion; encouraging pests; compacting the ground; leaching nutrients; wasting precious water resources; emitting green house gasses; requiring deadly herbicides/ pesticides for protection and consuming fossil fuels for tractors and pumps, thereby leading to toxic emissions of fumes. All this results in severe disruption and destabilization of the ecosystem and produces food that is laden with toxic residue that leads directly to creating medical problems for the consumer. As we eat for survival there is no point in producing food in a manner that negatively impacts the very survival that we are seeking. We must Nurture Nature because Nature Nurtures us.

The Green Revolution increased yields and thus put off the scepter of famine from many a 3rd World Country. However, this revolution unwittingly fostered the pollution of the environment by using unstabalized chemical fertilizers, which, in turn led to the heavy use of pesticides. With growing knowledge and a body of evidence to spur them on, Agri Scientists applied their ingenuity to overcome these problems while maintaining and even increasing yields. Some alarmists pressed panic buttons and advocated return to natural farming; a misnomer as there is nothing natural about farming. This gave rise to Organic Farming, which name is used to include the most unscientific of practices including the use of raw manure and resultant chemical ill-affects that are similar to that of unstabalized chemical fertilizers (excessive nitrate nitrogen build up) and lead to pest infestations (Chemical Trail – Chemitaxi for crawling insects and build up of excessive amino acids to attract flying pests).

In reviewing all the prattle about modern Agriculture it has become obvious to the author that we are confusing the issue to no end whatsoever. It is undeniable, especially for a Pakistani, that the Green Revolution saved millions from starvation. However, it is also undeniable that this revolution has polluted the environment. The rational recourse was to apply human ingenuity and develop inputs that do not harm the environment and at the same time provide the nutrition required by a plant to enable commercial exploitation that meets the needs of growing populations. The axiom adopted by the Swiss Development Corporation is entirely commendable and needs to be supported. Sustainable Development that is Economically Sound; Ecologically Safe and Socially Just:

A point that is being missed by almost all those who have so volubly contributed to the Agricultural debate concerns Plant Nutrition. All plants, whether they are:

Wild plants supported by Nature.

Organically grown plants arising from pre-tech, smartly bred or genetically modified seed varieties;

Pre-tech, smartly bred or genetically modified seeds supported by artificial fertilizers of the unstabalized variety;

Pre-tech, smartly bred or genetically modified seeds supported by modern, hi-tech, environmentally safe inputs and organics.

When we learn that the use of uncomposted manure will result in almost the same dangers to the environment as unstabalized fertilizers and give rise to pest infestations similar to them, we realize that extremist greenies and champions of the Green Revolution are actually riding the same horse. The advocates of Genetically Modified Seeds, who fail to realize that these seeds often need more nutrition then their unsophisticated counterparts due to greater genetic potential, further compound this issue. This extra nutrition is not being derided, as it is definitely cost effective as a result of improved yields. Rather, the fact that extra unstabalized or misconceived organic fertilizer will only add to the Earth’s burden of human caused pollution.


Let us outline our surmises:

Organic Agriculture is much more than the use of manure. Compost is an essential part of Organic Agriculture and is indispensable to Agriculture of any kind. This is due to its primary advantage of being an excellent and often vital soil amendment. However, even the best organic agriculture cannot produce sufficient food for the World’s growing population.

Use of unstabalized or toxic chemicals has to be banned immediately in order to reverse their deleterious effects.

Complete, safe and rational plant nutrition makes efficient use of the genetic potential of any seed, be it pre-tech, domesticated and bred over the centuries; hybrid seed; smartly bred seed (using gene mapping) or genetically modified seed.

Plants raised on complete nutrition (one that caters to all of its requirements) are better able to fight disease and combat adverse climate and other Negative Growth Factors.

Genetically modified seed will give rise to the same problems as any other type of seed if Plant Management Systems are not efficient; in accordance to the plant’s requirements or environmentally safe.

Increased yields in accordance with genetic potential; increased stress and disease resistance; denial of pest help that arises from the use of unstabalized and unsafe Plant Nutrition; environment friendly inputs are all due to Complete and Safe 21st century Plant Nutrition.

Introduction of Genetically Modified Seeds without introduction of safe inputs will add to rather than relieve associated problems.

The question arises whether such Plant Nutrition exists or not? The answer is a resounding YES! Thus the debate should primarily revolve around Plant Nutrition. Careful examination will reveal that both organic and green revolution agriculture will be knocked out from scientific debate when it comes down to feeding the World’s starving millions in a sustainable manner. We cannot revert to pre-science agriculture and yet feed the world; we can no longer ignore the threat to our environment by irrational agriculture AND we cannot afford unregulated science due to the ability to cause irreparable or irreversible damage to the world. By this we mean only inbuilt safety and monitoring mechanisms to prevent harm due to indifference, incompetence or greed.

Are the environmentalists not aware that the real and most important issue is Plant Nutrition and not Seed Manipulation! If that is the case then God help the environment. It is my guess that they are radicals and socialists who are opposed to Capitalism and Multi National Corporations (MNCs). It is Big Ag that is the target and not GEMs. Unfortunately BigAg holds patents upon the technology and that is causing all the fall out. However there is very little technical basis for the controversy.

I hope to prove that correct and complete Plant Nutrition can, not only serve to meet the growing demand for food but also overcome the related environmental problems. Further Smart Breeding and Genetic Engineering with requisite Oversight Legislation and close monitoring is very much in the interests of humanity at large and the entire Biosphere.

There is a strong requirement for R&D in Artificial Photosynthesis and Biosynthesis for Food Security.

Over 800 million people around the world still go hungry every day; half of them are suffering from severe malnourishment, according to the World Bank. The world’s population continues to expand and the UN estimates that the global population will cross the 8 billion mark by 2025.

In addition, a 1997 World Bank report found that the per capita acreage of cultivated land supporting food production dropped by almost 50 percent between 1961 and 1997. This figure is expected to fall another 40 percentage points or more by 2050. At the same time, by 2025 some 3 billion people in 52 nations—about 40 percent of the projected global population—will face chronic water shortages, according to the UN.


Background:

Life is perceived as a three-dimensional web, moving along a time path as the fourth dimension. Complex and interdependent relationships exist between various organic and inorganic elements and compounds including higher life forms.

Plants alone have the capacity of capturing the energy from the sun and using it to store this energy as food or fuel while producing Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide as by-products. Indeed the various essential nutrient elements required by humans are made available from their inorganic mineral forms, to humans, through plants or plant consuming animals.

Plants do not consume organic matter from the soil. This is a 200 years old concept that predates the discovery of the plant’s requirements of mineral nutrition. In 1860, Julius Von Sachs, a German plant physiologist, grew perfectly normal plants in a solution of ten minerals without any soil at all. Justus Von Liebeg, a German teacher of Agricultural Chemistry, applied his knowledge of Chemistry to Agriculture and laid the foundation of Chemical Fertilizers.

The Green Revolution used these chemical fertilizers to great affect and dramatically increased yields which, when combined with new hybrid seeds, ensured food for millions who would have starved without this great benefit.

The birth of the Environment Movement and with increasing knowledge and breakthroughs in many fields resulted in a growing awareness of humanities interdependence with the eco systems that they inhabit. Analysis showed the flaws and ill affects of chemical fertilizers in the forms that they were being used. More responsible scientists and an increasingly influential Green Lobby created the need to overcome these problems.

In 1997, Dr. Jerry Stoller, a German American Scientist, introduced the Stoller Advantage of complete Plant Nutrition to us in Pakistan. In answer to a request for better seed he stressed the fact that we are not utilizing even 40% of the genetic potential of what we already have. His argument was that hormones drive the characteristics of a plant, not fertilizers. The hormone balance of a plant dictates its growth characteristics. Nutrients are used to derive these hormones. Weather and its extremes of heat and drought compounded by insects and disease, restrict genetic potential utilization to 35 - 40%. Complete Plant Nutrition pushes this efficiency up.

Here a big gulf and divide appeared with increasingly extremist stands being taken on both sides. I refer to Organic versus Chemical Agriculture. Here Chemical has come to mean toxic and dangerous even though the origin of all life forms is chemical. An offshoot of Genetically Modified Organisms appeared on the scene and was quickly speculated upon and patented by BigAg, which is treated as the enemy by the Greenies. Many issues unrelated to Agriculture lie behind the scene.

It would serve to enlist the various technologies being used or being developed for Agriculture[1]. Our ancestors used Plant breeding in the field for desirable genetic characteristics and developed the plants that we use today. The GEMS controversy is also covered[2].

q Wild Plants and the Prehistoric discovery that they were a source of food.

q Domestication by 9000 BC in Turkey, Irrigated Agriculture in Palestine by 6500 BC and 6000 BC in the Indus Valley.

q Hybridization by crossbreeding of sexually compatible varieties for increased yields; resistance to insects, pathogens, nematodes and fungi; resistance to adverse climate conditions etc. begun by 5000 BC.

q 1650 – 1780 Chemistry evolves to pure science: Robert Boyle – Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the father of Modern Chemistry.

q 19th Century Science develops structural organic chemistry despite scientific misconception that transformations undergone by matter in living organisms are not subject to the chemical and physical laws that apply to inanimate substances.

q 1828 Friedrich Wohler synthesizes urea, an organic compound, in the laboratory.

q 1840 Justus Von Liebeg publishes works on the great chemical cycles of nature. Points out that animals and humans would disappear from the earth but for photosynthesizing plants, which produce the complex organic compounds, required for their nutrition.

q 1860s Louis Pasteur proves that yeasts and bacteria cause fermentation and in some cases diseases.

q 1869 deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) isolated from nuclei of pus cells.

q 1877, ferments designated as enzymes.

q 1897, German Chemist E. Buchner proves that fermentation can occur in a press juice of yeast and thus reduces life process of living cells by analysis to a non-living system of enzymes.

q 1913 Haber – Bosch synthesis of Ammonia to lay basis for N Fertilizer.

q 1926 first pure crystalline enzyme is isolated and identified as urease, subsequently this and many other enzymes proved to be proteins recognized as high-molecular weight chains of subunits called amino acids.

q 1929 Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) isolated from muscle and demonstrated that its production is associated with oxidative processes in the cell.

q 1935 radioactive isotopes of chemical elements used to trace pathway of substances in plants and animals by two U.S. chemists, R. Schoenheimer and D. Rittenberg.

q 1930s – 1940s, Sites of metabolic reactions by ingenious technical advances in the studies of organs, tissue slices, cell mixtures, individual cells and finally individual cell constituents such as nuclei, mitochondria, ribosomes, lysosomes and membranes.

q 1940, F.A. Lipmann proposes that ATP is the common form of energy exchange in many cells.

q 1944 significance of DNA as genetic material revealed.

q By 1954, Watson and Crick proposed the double helix structure of DNA

q 1962 saw the publication by Rochelle Carson of “Silent Spring” revealing the extensive ecological damage caused by Agricultural Chemicals.

q 1965 Green Revolution using Chemical fertilizers; Hybrid seed; other Agricultural Chemical and irrigation resulting in enormous yield increases but reducing cultigens in use. Also flood irrigation and unstabalized fertilizers compounded by inefficient delivery to the plant led to environmental pollution through Water Logging; Salinity; Release of Nitrous Oxide through Volatilization (Green House Gas); Leaching of Nitrates into Ground water; Escape of Phosphorus into surface water to change plant populations by encouraging non fish food plants and restriction of fish food (Eutrophication). However, over a 30-year period the calories intake by every human being in developing countries increased by 30 per cent.

q Wide crossing of sexually incompatible plants; Embryo Rescue (removal of embryo after fertilization to be fostered in the laboratory); Plant Mutation through chemicals and radiation.

q Complete Plant Nutrition involving pure minerals in eco friendly and stabilized compositions; Seed Coating, Foliar Application of Liquid Nutrients, Banding and Micro placement of Nutrients to enhance efficiency and restrict availability to undesirable species.

q Soil and Water Conservation.

q Anther & Tissue Culture for cloning plants.

q Recombinant DNA (rDNA); bioengineering by surgically altering a plants genome leading to known and predictable genetic changes.

q Widespread controversy surrounds bioengineering and agriculture starting with:

Possible human health risks of genetically modified food and whether every possible allergen in an engineered food could possibly be tested in advance.

Crops engineered for herbicide resistance might create “super weeds” by cross-pollinating with wild, weedy relatives growing nearby. Cross-pollination could give those weeds unprecedented resistance to the very weed killers that farmers were counting on to control pest plants.

Experts predicted that plants endowed with the toxin genes might accelerate the evolution of “superbugs”—insects resistant to insecticide.

Many critics worry that the new agricultural biotechnology will give a handful of giant, profit-driven companies too much economic power over farmers.

Economic and ecological costs and benefits of these crops appear to vary, depending on the region being studied and local weather patterns in any given year.

Competing studies in 1999 offered contradictory answers to the question of whether genetically modified crops actually bring increased crop yields or environmental benefits, such as reductions in pesticide use.

Poor farmers most in need of improved crop varieties are typically the least able to afford the high prices of patented seeds. Most of these farmers are in no position to promise they will not save some of the precious seeds from year to year.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a global treaty that emerged from the June 1992 UN Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The CBD called upon signatory nations to develop a “biosafety protocol.” In January 2000 more than 130 nations signed the first such protocol in Montreal, Canada. The agreement leaves many issues unresolved. But it offers at least a glimmer of hope that developed and developing nations will find a way to take advantage of the promising technology without posing undue risks to human health or the environment.

q Natural hormones for changing genetic expression of a plant to combat adverse climate conditions and affect micro management of the Plant’s Growth Stages in order to ensure greater utilization of genetic potential to raise yields and improve quality[3].

q Smart breeding through gene mapping and marking (Transgenomics).

q Apomixis; to inculcate cloning through the seed rather than vegetatively in order to make plants produce genetically identical offspring.

q Bio engineered, smartly bred or transgenomic seed to enhance human nutrition via introduction of higher quality protein; lower levels of saturated fats; increased vitamins and minerals; reduction of natural toxins and allergens.

q Delivery of life-saving vaccines via the plant.

q Artificial Photosynthesis.

q Artificial Bio Synthesis of Food.



Nutrition:

The Natural World is subject to certain Laws and patterns that serve to maintain a balance. This balance has led to evolutionary adaptation and development of life forms that are at the same time dependant upon Nature or the Eco System that they inhabit in the overall Environment as well as interdependent upon each other for survival. However, there exist numerous and often deleterious affect causing human and pest interventions that must be rationally and sustainably managed on a sustained or self sustaining basis in order to perpetuate the Bioenvironment and avoid breakdown. Homo Technicalis has the ability to either nurture or destroy this delicate balance. Only complete understanding and careful monitoring can ensure correct and proper Bioenvironmental Management.

The existing Food Chains and Webs need to be reinforced and replenished in order to ensure health and continued functioning.

The vital human requirements for food, water and air cannot be left to the mercy of ruthless, short sighted and short-term exploitation that leaves death, destruction and permanent loss in its wake!

This fact is a dire necessity and can no longer be held in abeyance. Nor is it productive to enter into useless and repetitive argumentations. International and National Politics cannot be allowed to subvert the achievement of Eco Stability.

We must realize that the “enemy” does not exist in other Countries, nor do they adhere to “other” faiths, nor yet are they of “different” races. The enemies of humanity belong to every faith and come in different colors. The so-called advanced, developed or civilized world is just as replete with unscrupulous, materialistic, greedy, viscous individuals as the 3rd World Countries. The garb of civilization, piety or affluence does not serve to subdue the reptilian “claw that lurks within a paw covered by an outstretched hand” which is the phylo genetic patrimony of humanity.

A factor common to all of the before mentioned agricultural developments and indeed part of them is Plant Nutrition. In fact the basis of the controversy is the deleterious affects of Plant Nutrition as introduced by the Green Revolution. Rather than only highlight the positive results accrued by this revolution, it would serve humanity to take lessons from past mistakes or oversights and move to correct them. This does not take from venerable reputations but rather reinforces them by provision of continuity rather than termination. A greater and deeper understanding of organics and their inorganic building blocks is badly required.

Organics are high-energy-level compounds that have arisen due to energy input (usually from the sun) to low-energy-level inorganic elements and or compounds. Thus low-energy-level inorganic materials arise to constitute the parts of high-energy-level organic compounds and entities of progressively higher life forms that, in turn are subject to reversion to low-energy-level inorganic materials on decomposition and/ or death[4]. With this as a fact there is absolutely no basis for an organic versus inorganic debate what so ever. The debate should revolve around the safety of the introduction by humans of man-made materials into the environment. In case they are not safe then safer materials need to be developed and unsafe materials need to be banned immediately or whenever such safe materials are available.

It is an inescapable fact that all life forms require nutrition to maintain life. Modern research has shown that a life form must change its physical constituents quite rapidly in order to meet its growth and existence requirements. Indeed we require a constant supply of all kinds of atoms, molecules and compounds in order to replace what is being lost. The environment provides us with air and water to fulfill our need and indeed that of all life forms with Oxygen, Carbon and Hydrogen which make up over 90% of the life form’s body, be it human, animal or plants. Apart from this there are a number of essential raw materials required, this placed is between eighteen to forty for human beings. Of these eighteen are most commonly required, i.e. fifteen apart from the three already mentioned. These elements are the same for humans, animals and plants.

As yet however, only plants are able to synthesize these raw materials into assimilable forms and make them available to humans and animals on an economic scale. There are six classes of nutrients for humans; of these four supply indispensable building materials. These are water; protein; minerals and vitamins. The other two are classed as energy foods (carbohydrates and fats, oils) and are interchangeable whereas the previous four are not.

Just as living organisms shed their components and replace them on a continuous basis thereby consuming energy so too does Nature constantly consume energy through breakdown of organic matter, weathering process in the soil, the hydrothermal cycle and mobility of substances in soil, water, and air. Many dynamic and interdependent chains and cycles exist within the Biosphere as elements are cycled and recycled, are consumed and/ or replenished, subjected to output losses due to lack of input: output balance. Stable Eco Systems are those wherein minerals (essential elements) and particulate material are retained by recycling them within its constituent sub-systems. It is important to note that rebuilding of this dynamic recycling, in case of disruption, can take from 60 to 80 years and longer depending upon the severity of the disruption.

Secondly, it has taken millions of years for these Eco Systems to evolve. For instance soil that has been either deposited or built up in millions of years can be lost within a few years if mismanaged. In a human adapted Agricultural Eco System the cycling of nutrients involves:


Uptake by Plants.

Storage within the Organisms.

Harvest removal.

Return to Soil via:

Dead Organic matter.

Through inculcation of:

Plant Residue.

Manure/ Compost.

Human Agency Nutrient Provision.


Precipitation

Within natural Eco Systems, nutrient flow is conserved and input and loss is usually of small quantities (especially in terrestrial systems) compared with the volume, which circulates within the system. In artificial or human intervened systems, minerals which originated in underlying rock strata or through sediment deposit:

Becomes part of Vegetation.

Vegetation regularly harvested and removed.

Thus large quantities of minerals are removed. If Compost or well-rotted Farm Yard Manure is inculcated in the soil, quantities of these minerals are returned to the soil and fertility is replenished to the extent of addition. Since Farm Yard Manure does not contain sufficient minerals to replace those removed, unless prohibitively large quantities of rarely available manure are added. Even when composted with biodegradable organic material, the output: input ratio is not balanced. Thus agricultural soils face continuous depletion (Nutrient Mining). This is compounded by run off and leaching losses due to poor cultural practices. Thirdly, over use of deadly pesticides and herbicides tend to kill or eliminate useful biota in the form of microbes and fungi. These biota are of vital importance as they mineralize organic material and provide them to plants and other energy pathways within the Eco System.

Therefore if uptake is value 5, retention is 1 and return is 2 then Nutrient Mining output: input ratio will be 5:3 representing a net loss of 2 per crop leading to declining fertility. When organic material and biota are absent or deficient then the even 2 return is not, or partially mineralized and will not be available to the plants. Thus our Nutrient Reserves are soon exhausted.

If cultivated land is managed correctly, nutrient reserves can be replenished and fertility levels can be increased. For example nutrient loss from the Eco System is minimized by presence of plants that hold soil through their roots and thus prevent erosion; convert water run-off to evapo-transpiration and restrict leaching losses; provide shade and reduce rates of decomposition of organic matter so that the supply of soluble ions available for loss via run-off is lessened.

IF SUFFICIENT NUTRIENTS AND COMPOUNDS ARE PROVIDED TO THE PLANT, UPTAKE FROM THE RESERVE IS CURTAILED AND SOIL FERTILITY IS MAINTAINED. These nutrients etc. must be in a chemical form that makes it available to the plant and must be stable and safe for the environment.

Thus we see that provision of Plant Nutrition and Correct Cultural Practices are of prime importance. These are common to all seed; often critical for hybrid or Genetically Modified Organisms. If either of these two is not rational the result is poor quality and quantity produce as well as more susceptibility of the plant to Negative Growth Factors and pest attacks.

Thus we see that humans require minerals either directly from plants or from animals dependent upon plants (meat, milk, eggs etc.). It is the human, animal or plant that makes organic compounds out of basic essential building materials. Some of these organic compounds are known as hormones, which are described as chemical messengers that excite one response or the other in the body’s organs or tissues.

Plants normally obtain their mineral requirements from the soil and the ability of a soil to provide the proper elements and compounds, in proper amounts and in proper balance for growth of specified plants when temperature and other factors are favorable is what determines soil fertility (proper means in the ionic forms commonly absorbed by the plant).

With favorable temperature and availability of moisture, a plant’s seed will swell and enzymes/ hormones become active making the carbohydrates etc. present in the endosperm move towards the embryo. This leads to growth of the shoot and roots. When the root system extends into the soil coupled with emergence of leaves and initiation of photosynthesis, a plant is capable of attaining its nutrient requirements. At this period and due to the fact that phosphorus is particularly required at this stage of growth and also because phosphorus is rare and if present is immobile in the soil and since root systems are not yet extensive, a plant destined for consumption is managed by provision of soluble phosphorus fertilizer in a chemical form that makes it available to the plant and should be ecologically safe.

This phosphorus can be derived from manure where it arose from plant material ingested by the animal that fed upon it. Or from compost where it is more abundantly available due to composition of 30 parts bio degradable plant material and 1 part manure to form a 20:1 Carbon: Nitrogen ratio. However, the problem of ensuring that the phosphorus ion is immediately available to the seedling remains. To band large quantities of manure or compost near the seedling or provide it independently, either through banding or foliar sprays while using compost or manure for its primary beneficial roles such as:

q Serves as the principal storehouse for anions such as nitrates, sulfates, borates, molybdates and chlorides that are essential for plant growth.

q Increases CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) of soil by a factor of 5 to 10 times that of clay.

q Acts as a buffer against rapid changes caused by acidity; alkalinity; salinity; pesticides and toxic heavy metals.

q Supplies food for beneficial soil organisms like earthworms, symbiotic Nitrogen fixing bacteria and mycorrihize (beneficial fungus).

q Serves as recycling sink for organic waste and green manures (animal manure, crop residues, household refuse and leguminous plants collected within and outside the farm) and thus keeps environment clean and hygienic.

q Softens the soil by introducing fibrous matter.

q Increases soil water retention capacity.

q Makes plants more resistant to pests and disease through improved nutrient availability and uptake, resulting in healthier plants with strong immune systems.

q Prevents soil acidification.

By either seed coating (not sufficient due to limited amount of nutrients that can be coated) or foliar application, the target plant is the sole beneficiary and weeds or other undesirable plant species do not receive the nutrient. Secondly, loss by leaching or run-off is reduced to almost zero. This is more so if the nutrients are chelated {derived from the Greek ‘Chelae’ or Claw and used to denote covering an element with organic material to provide ionic bonding affect of cation: anion (positive & negative ion attraction)}. The chelated nutrient ions bond to the leaf and stem surface and resist being washed off till they have a reasonable chance of being absorbed by the plant’s tissue.

If we ensure that the nutrient element that we are providing to our crops are not dangerous to the environment and other life forms. If we provide the crops with these safe nutrients in a responsible manner and if these nutrients are sufficiently stable and do not decompose to toxic material either through hydrolysis or volatilization. Then there is no point what so ever in deriding their use.

Von Liebeg’s Law states that the yield of a crop is limited by the nutrient in least supply. This means that supply of which ever of the essential building materials is restricted in terms of quantities required by the plant, it will restrict the yield. This is compared to a bucket with holes for various nutrients placed in accordance to amounts required. As these amounts are met the hole is plugged and nutrient intake increases to the next critical nutrient element required by the plant. Maximum genetic potential yields are achieved only when all holes are plugged. Of course soil, management systems; cultural practices; climate, environment, mutual antagonism or stimulation between various minerals and Negative Growth Factors play their own critical role in determining yields.

If there are enough nutrients available for the following yields, total yield will be determined by the least available nutrient in terms of the plant’s requirements,
 

 Nutrient

 Yield (Kgs)

 Nitrogen

 1000

 Phosphorus

 800

 Potassium

 600

 Sulfur

 1000

 Magnesium

 800

  Calcium

 300

 Molybdenum

 150



The yield will be restricted to 150 Kgs.

It is important to note that this is true for crops of all kinds, under all management systems and independent of source or manner of derivation of the plant. In other words this inescapable fact holds true for Organic; Super Organic; Smartly Bred or Genetically Modified Organisms.

Therefore our Management requirement is to provide enough environmentally safe and available forms of nutrients to fulfill the needs of the plant. This ensures achievement of genetic potential apart from other factors. These other factors such as water; climate; cultural practices and control of Negative Growth Factors (NGF), are also managed in order to achieve maximum genetic potential (MPG).

The presence of nutrients in compost or manure is negligible as compared to an intensive crop’s requirements. Intensive cropping means intensive mining of finite supplies of nutrients available in any given soil. As we all know, soils vary greatly in nutrient availability, and inculcation of compost or manure is one way of replenishing these nutrient supplies. However, we have seen that there are inefficient and do not contain enough nutrients to fulfill the plant’s requirements. Added to this is the fact that particular nutrient deficient soils will not have sufficient amounts of that nutrient to cycle into the food chain and will eventually not only restrict the crop’s yield but will also not be available to the humans and animals that feed upon plants grown on such soils. If this element is lacking it will not find its way either into manure or compost and the cycle of deficiency will be reinforced. To overcome this the element has to be obtained externally. Secondly, and more importantly, it is prohibitively expensive to analyze and update soil analysis for all elements required by a plant. On the other hand how much of each nutrient is required by a particular species of plant for a given yield is known to science.

Does it not then make sense to provide all these nutrients in a free feeding mode and allow the plant to uptake its requirements itself? Raising the soil’s fertility gradually and thus reducing external nutrient requirements can utilize left over nutrients. It is important to note that most of these nutrients are required and supplied as trace elements. Thus toxic build up is not a factor at all.



Apart from Chloride and Nickel, which help a plant to use urea, a plant needs at least 17 nutrient elements critical for its survival. Carbon, Oxygen and Hydrogen constitute over 95% of a plant’s needs and are supplied from the air and water. The rest are taken from the soil. Soil pH determines tying down or availability of Nutrients and 6.8 pH is the break point as nutrients except Molybdenum and Chlorine are more easily absorbed in Acidic Soil. Foliar feeding of essential nutrients is firstly, more efficient (70% foliar absorption compared with 30% soil borne uptake, radio isotope analysis). Secondly, the mutual antagonism/ stimulation between various essential nutrient elements is overcome. Roots act as a transport system for raw and inorganic nutrient elements to the leaves where they are converted into food and sent to the roots for storage. It has been determined that foliar feeding is six times more efficient for Clay Loam and Organic soils and 20 times more efficient for sandy loams. Loss by leaching is 2% for foliar (chelated nutrients) and 70% for soil.



There are some critical periods for plant development wherein growth and yield increase with increased availability of nutrients that can be used by the plant. Foliar feeding with correct combinations of nutrients as required by the plant in different growth periods will provide increased growth and vigor resulting in increased yields, weather proofing and disease resistance.

Another factor that increases yields is the prolonging of root life after flowering in order to provide longer time for grain/ fruit to fill. In order to do this we need to keep the root growing vegetatively during the early period and after flowering we need to elongate the period of root life.

The hormone balance of a plant is responsible for dictating its response to environmental factors. Changes in climate affect hormone balance. This is more in some varieties and less in others. This is dictated by the genetics of a plant. Down through the centuries humans have domesticated and then bred plants for desirable genetic traits. These genetic traits need to be tapped by the plant and this is only possible through the support of complete plant nutrition. However, genetic _expression of potential can be modified to weatherproof a plant and ensure that climate change has less impact upon yields.

Plant diseases are directly related to climate, if the crop is weather proofed it can reduce the use of costly pesticides.

Root growth direction is another hormonal response. Dry conditions after seed germination result in hormone induced downwards growth of roots to tap moisture. Wet conditions at germination promote lateral development. If a plant is treated with Rooting Hormones it will respond by downwards root development irrespective of moisture conditions.

Direction of carbohydrate flow is hormone controlled. During the plant’s Vegetative Growth Period, plants build up their root systems. Nutrients are absorbed in the lead ¼ inch of new root hair tissue. Root hormones are also formed here. Any root tissue over 14 days old is unable to either form new hormones or absorb nutrients. Thus healthy growth demands continuous root growth.

Hormones produced in the root tip primarily determine a plant’s disease resistance.

Availability of Nitrogen in abundance, as is practiced in Pakistan, at the vegetative stage causes vigorous early plant growth. However, it will cause rapid root deterioration during the reproductive stage and lead to plant death. Thus too much Nitrogen during the vegetative stage upsets the hormone balance and causes excessive formation of those hormones, which are produced in the growing points above ground. This makes the plant top heavy; subject to lodging and will have negative impact on production. There being fewer stolons and tubers in potatoes; earlier flower and fruit abortion and less disease resistance.



During the vegetative stage, if soluble Ca and B are supplied to a plant the negative affects of excessive N can be controlled. During the reproductive stage, carbohydrates are altered from the root and directed towards the growing points above ground and reproductive tissue. This results in more ethylene and putrescence causing more disease; physiological and stress problems as well as more aborting of fruit and flowers; premature ripening and early plant death. Ethylene and putrescence are bad hormones or hormones like products, the plant’s defense against these hormones are other hormones produced by the roots and Ca stored in the Cystol. It is possible to change the genetic _expression of a plant so that bad levels are minimized. This severely curtails yields unless shift of carbohydrates from the root is modified. Each day a plant can be kept alive at this stage adds 4% to yields. Carbohydrates and Proteins are primarily formed in the leaves and then transferred to the stalks and stems. The vegetative growing points use carbohydrates from stalks, stems and branches. If a leaf has enough K, Mg and ABA (hormone), the leaves are enabled to continuously replenish carbohydrates. If, however, there is too much IAA (hormone) and Nitrate form of N, the leaves are unable to keep up the supply of carbohydrates.

Allelopathy is caused by accumulation of toxins, produced by the roots of a plant, in its neighboring plant. This reduces fruitfulness but can be controlled with hormones. It is possible to treat plants so that they are immune to disease or develop the capacity in a plant to repair itself after being infected. Nematodes attack plant roots and introduce toxins into the plant. It is possible to increase a plant’s resistance to nematode toxins. 

 

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