The heart of Dr. William A. Albrecht’s research is this. Optimum fertility results from balancing Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, and Sulfur in proper quantities and ratios to each other. These are the primary nutrient minerals. The secondary nutrient minerals are Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, and Zinc. These are secondary not in their importance but in the quantities required. They are synergists, mobilizers, and activators in the utilization of the primary minerals as well as having their own importance as nutrients.
We know more today about the importance of micro (trace) minerals and their relationship to soil, plant, human, and animal health. Look on the label of any multiple vitamin product and you will see the inclusion of the micro elements Chromium, Molybdenum, Selenium, Silicon, and Vanadium among others. We know these are very important to plant, animal, and human health. However, they are needed in minute quantities. Selenium for example, is essential for immune system function. Molybdenum is a catalyst for all known Nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Without trace amounts of Molybdenum there would be no Nitrogen fixation in the soil.
Natural sources of multiple trace minerals are highly recommended in addition to the primary and secondary minerals found to be deficient on the soil test. These natural sources include kelp meal, glacial rock dust, Azomite Volcanic Rock Powder (A to Z of minerals including trace elements) rock phosphate, Jersey Green Sand, and Redmond mineral salt. These sources contain from 30 to over 60 micro minerals. The type of soil you have and its history determines whether or not you would benefit from the addition of a micro mineral source. Learn more about the function of these minerals.
The exchange capacity of a soil is the measure of its ability to hold on to, and release mineral nutrients. The soil must hold on to the nutrients so they don’t leach away, and release the nutrients so they can be taken up by the plant roots.
Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium are the primary cations. They are alkaline nutrients or bases. A cation (pronounced cat-eye-on) is a positively charged particle or ion. Humus (soil organic matter that has been broken down as far as it can and still be organic matter) and clay have negatively charged exchange sites that attract and hold on to positively charged nutrients by an electrostatic bond, (opposite charges attract) preventing them from being leached away. Hydrogen is also a cation that is exuded by plant roots, and beneficial microorganisms as they break down organic matter.
When the concentration of Hydrogen ions is high enough in the soil solution that some of them surround the nutrient cation and get closer to the negatively charged exchange sites than the nutrient cation is, the hydrogen ions will fill the exchange site, neutralize the negative charge, and the nutrient cation will be free of its static bond and can be taken up by plant roots and microorganisms.
Dr. Albrecht determined an optimum level of the base cations Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium that maximized soil fertility. He called this the Base Cation Saturation Ratio. (BCSR) He found that the exchange sites, when saturated with 65% Calcium, 15% Magnesium, 4% Potassium, and 1 to 5% Sodium, resulted in maximum plant nutrient density, vigor, yield, and pest and disease resistance. The BCSR is the foundation upon which everything else is constructed when writing a custom soil prescription.
Soil organic matter has both negative and positive exchange sites. To achieve the BCSR, the optimum level of the primary anions (negatively charged ions) Phosphorous and Sulfur must also be present in the optimum amounts, and ideal ratios to all the other minerals. Without adequate Sulfur, much of the ammonia Nitrogen generated by the breakdown of organic matter will be off-gassed into the atmosphere and be lost. Much of the Carbon will be lost as well as it is off-gassed as Carbon dioxide. (CO2).
Maintaining an optimum level of Sulfur will keep much of the Nitrogen and Carbon in the soil where the Carbon will be incorporated into stable humus. Next, the secondary elements of Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, and Zinc must be present in optimum quantities and in ideal ratios to the other minerals.
Finally, trace elements must be present in small amounts (a few parts per million to a few parts per billion). This includes Chromium, Cobalt, Fluorine, Iodine, Molybdenum, Nickel, Selenium, Tin, and Vanadium. It has been estimated that over 30 other elements are needed in a healthy soil. The best sources for these are ancient seabed or volcanic deposits, greensand, rock phosphate, and seaweed.
Each mineral has a myriad of functions in the soil and in the plant. Adequate quantities of each, in optimum ratios to each other, ensure they work together to result in healthy and nutritious crops.
Justus Von Liebig, considered the founder of organic chemistry and regarded as one of the greatest chemistry scientists of all time, made major contributions to biological and agricultural chemistry. He popularized the “law of the minimum” which states the availability of the most abundant nutrient in the soil is only as good as the availability of the least abundant nutrient in the soil. To put it another way, a plant’s growth is limited by the nutrient in shortest supply.
Although these minerals are critical to the health and vitality of plants—animals and humans require all of them as well. For further education on the importance of these elements to human nutrition, we would highly recommend reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. It is a nutritional eye-opener complete with recipes and might positively change the way you look at food and its preparation.
Click through the list below for a brief look at a few of the functions of each mineral.
- Essential for the metabolism of calcium
- Required for translocation of sugar
- Regulates carbohydrate metabolism and nitrogen assimilation
- Improves retention of calcium and magnesium
- Improves quality of fruit and increases disease resistance
- Needed for protein production and nitrogen utilization
- Controls numerous metabolic enzymes
- Stimulates beneficial soil organisms including nitrogen-fixing bacteria
- Increases release of other elements and plant uptake
- Improves soil structure
- Increases organic matter decay, nutrient release, and humus development
- Important to the formation of lignin (an organic substance that, with cellulose, forms the chief part of plant tissue) in plant cell walls which contributes to the structural strength of the cells, and the overall plant
- A constituent of several enzyme systems involved in building and converting amino acids to proteins
- Functions as a catalyst in photosynthesis and respiration
- Important in carbohydrate and protein metabolism
- Required for the synthesis and maintenance of chlorophyll
- Increases leaf thickness and nutrient flow
- Needed by nitrogen-fixing bacteria
- Absorbs heat from the sun drawing energy to the leaves
- Part of the chlorophyll molecule and necessary for photosynthesis and sugar production
- Both an enzyme activator and a constituent of many enzymes
- Necessary for plant oil and fat formation
- Key to starch translocation
- A carrier of Phosphorous in the plant
- Important for Iron utilization
- Essential for seed development
- Works in synergy with Iron
- Required in the formation of riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and carotene
- Activates fat forming enzymes
- Contributes to the function of photosynthesis, respiration, and seed and fruit production
- Enhances early root formation and growth
- Promotes better growth in cold temperatures
- Important for early maturation of fruit and grain
- Facilitates sugar and carbohydrate production, transport, and storage
- Important in conjunction with Calcium and Boron in the proper development of cell walls
- Improves ability of plants to effectively respond to drought stress
- Affects various quality factors of fruits and vegetables, such as taste and color
- Essential for humans and animals
- Excellent source of trace minerals dissolved in the ocean
- Needed for building complete protein
- Necessary for chlorophyll formation and root growth
- Part of the B Vitamins thiamine and biotin
- Essential for the conservation of Nitrogen and Carbon sequestration
- Influences the rate of seed and stalk maturation
- Necessary for starch formation and proper root development
- Adequate amounts in the tissue enable the plant to withstand lower air temperatures
- Important to the production of Auxins, a natural and essential growth hormone
Trace minerals, or Micro Elements as they are often referred to, are essential for soil, plant, animal, and human health. We know more about this subject today then ever before. These micro elements are needed only in very small quantities; a few parts per million to a few parts per billion are adequate.
Good examples of the importance of trace elements are illustrated by Molybdenum, a catalyst necessary for Nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil. Also, Selenium is essential for proper immune system function, is associated with resistance to viruses, and is a co-factor with vitamin E. Cobalt is essential for ruminants such as sheep and cattle. They produce vitamin B-12 in their digestive system when Cobalt is present in their forage. When Cobalt is absent, these animals may be subject to numerous diseases and infections.
The standard soil test does not test for trace elements. It tests only for the first eleven minerals listed above with the addition of exchangeable Hydrogen and Aluminum. There are several ways to ensure that your soil has adequate amounts of trace elements.
- Azomite Volcanic Minerals: Sourced from Utah and contains 71 trace elements
- Glacial Rock Dust: Sourced from British Columbia and contains 67 trace elements
- Jersey Greensand: Contains trace elements and is also a long-term source of Potassium
- Kelp Meal: Sourced from Nova Scotia and contains 60 trace elements with the added benefit of growth stimulants
- Redmond Mineral Salt: Sourced from Utah and contains 50 trace elements
- Chromium (Cr) –
- Cobalt (Co) +
- Fluorine (F) –
- Iodine (I) –
- Molybdenum (Mo) –
- Nickel (Ni) +
- Selenium (Se) –
- Tin (Sn) +
- Vanadium (V) +
Organic Approved Soil Amendments
The soil amendments we use are approved for organic use by the USDA National Organic Program. (NOP)
- Calcitic Ag Lime: Ca 39% Mg 1% CaCO3
- Dolomite Lime: Ca 22% Mg 13% CaMg(CO3)2
- Gypsum: Ca 19.5% S 15.5% CaSO4 . 2H2O
- Magnesium Oxide*: 50% Mg MgO
*Not presently approved for certified organic use but proven safe and effective. Where organic certification is necessary, organic approved amendments will be used.
- Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts): 10% Mg 14% S MgSO4
- Oyster Shell Flour: 36% Ca Faster acting than Ag Lime CaCO3
- Bone Meal: Hi-available Phosphorus plus Calcium 3-15-1
- Cal-Phos: Colloidal soft rock phosphate 20% total P2O5 0-3-0 Ca3O8P2
- Fish Bone Meal: Hi-available Phosphorus and Nitrogen 4-22-0
- Tennessee Brown Phosphate: 23% total P2O5 6% soluble P2O5 29% Ca 0-6-0 Ca5(PO4)3F
- Jersey Greensand: Trace elements and long term K source, 6% Potash 0-0-6 ((K,Na)(Fe+3, Al, Mg)2(Si,Al)4O10(OH)2)
- K-Mag (Langbeinite): 22% S 22% K2O 11% Mg 0-0-22 K2Mg2O12S3
- Sulfate of Potash: 51% K2O 17.5% S 0-0-51 K2SO4
- Blood Meal: High available Nitrogen and Iron 13-1-0
- Feather Meal-Granulated: Slow release Hi-N 12-1-0
- Fish Meal: High available Nitrogen and Phosphorous 10-4-0
- Agricultural Sulfur 90% Sulfur. Lowers pH S
- Calcium Sulfate (Gypsum or Gypril): 22% Ca 16% S CaSO4 2H2O
- K-Mag (Langbeinite, Sul-Po-Mag): 2% S 22% K2O 11% Mg K2Mg2O12S3
- Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom salts): 14% S 10% Mg MgSO4
- Sulfate of Potash: 17.5% S 51% K2O K2SO4 2MgSO4
- Calcium Bentonite Cla: Feed Grade PelBon Adds CEC, Detoxes, high Calcium Ca0.1Al2Si4O10(OH)2(H2O)10
- Diatomaceous Earth: Natural Silica Source and Insect Control SiO2 · NH2O
- Humates/lignite Ore: 75% Humic Acid. Improves CEC and nutrient holding capacity
- Paramagnetic Basalt Rock Meal: High CGS, from Canada
- Boron: Solubor® 20.5% B
- Copper: Copper sulfate 25% Cu 12.5% S CuSO4 5H20
- Iron: Ferrous sulfate 20% Fe 11.5% S (copperas, highly soluble) FeSO4 7H20
- Iron: Ferrous sulfate 30% Fe 18% S (poorly soluble, slow release) FeSO4 1H20
- Manganese: Manganese sulfate 30% Mn MnSO4 1H2O
- Zinc: Zinc sulfate 22% Zn 11% S ZnSO4 7H2O
- Zinc: Zinc sulfate 35.5% Zn 17% S ZnSO4 1H2O
- MycoApply®: Beneficial symbiotic fungi consisting of endo-mycorrhizae and ecto-mycorrhizae