A Healthy Plant Starts with Healthy Soil
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Landscape management has been living the “Green Revolution” for the past 10 decades since the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and the ability to grow plants quickly and easily. Soon to follow was the Chemical Experiment and the need for pest control products due to our simplified N-P-K mindset and the lack of observation of the soil plant connection. The more I question why, the more I realize our current methods are fundamentally flawed and certainly not sustainable in the long term. Every year more and more pesticides are applied with less and less of a response with more disease and pest activity… a circle of decline. More time and money is spent trying to build a bigger hammer to control Mother Nature, who by the way continues to win the battle. Chemicals treat symptoms, the current system is based on treating symptoms rather than the problem.
We continue to preach that we are "Stewards of the Environment" ... while we are pretty good at what the eye observes, we’ve been totally oblivious to the wildlife below our feet - there are more organisms in a tablespoon of soil than humans on earth. This below ground system is vitally important to the success of our product on the surface, yet we continue to ignore it and for the most part suppress it.
Nature has been perfecting her process for millions of years, why do we as humans think we can perfect her and make her better by interrupting and disturbing her. Nature is self regulating and self healing, it has all the tools we as landscape managers need to be successful in growing our landscapes… We just need to better understand them, work along with them rather than fight against them. If you look at most soil tests we are certainly not deficient in minerals … what we’re deficient in.. is Biology!!! The locked up nutrients we’re told aren’t available are in fact readily available if we begin to monitor the soil life and master the microbes. If we begin to understand and appreciate the Soil Food Web and nutrient cycling we begin to make the process work with us and actually for us. If we focus our intentions on increasing rather than eliminating the microbial populations, we begin to have a healthy functional soil. We cannot have a healthy plant without a healthy soil. Beneficial microbe populations will grow and become the powerhouse keeping the pathogens in check decreasing disease and pest activity,,, while making nutrients soluble and plant available.
Plants and soils work in unison … plants will give up 30 to 50% of their photosynthetic energy through root exudates to feed this underground workforce ….. Sugars, acids and enzymes are exuded from the roots as food for microbes in exchange for nutrients and protection. It’s Natures’ process.
So what’s our part in this … we should be helping to grow this microbial workforce by reducing our disturbances, cutting back and eliminating synthetic inputs while relying more on natures principles and mimicking her actions.
I have over 40 years working in the turf industry, a past president of the Ontario Golf Superintendents Association and a member in good standing with many local and international professional associations.
Ten years ago I asked myself "Why" - why are we implementing all the current conventional practises we've been taught and told to do? Why are we continually having to use synthetic inputs (fertilizers & pest control products)? Why are we not seeing real improvements in our Turfgrass and plant quality, performance and health? Do we even know what healthy turf and plants looks like? These simple questions inspired me to seek answers from world renowned experts in the field of Regenerative Agriculture.
In 2019 I travelled to Australia to spend time learning about the connection between soil health, plant health and human health with Graeme Salt of Nutri-tech Solutions. Most recently in 2021/22, I was the only turf professional interviewed and accepted by Nicole Masters, of Integrity Soils, to participate in the inaugural CREATE program -an intense dive into agroecology. Upon graduation, my passion and knowledge allowed for my acceptance into the Integrity Soils Fellowship, an invitation only network of International Elite Coaches and Educators. The Fellowship encourages coaching and educating, using a systems approach to understanding plant/microbiome relationships within the soil. Ultimately promoting healthier soils and plants using a regenerative approach with very little/to no dependancy on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
The Regenerative Mindset, as being practised in Agriculture, can be parallel into Turfgrass Management as well. Once the principles are understood it is easy to see how one can reduce the need for synthetic inputs for the betterment of the environment and human health.
Why I Started
Creating a Natural Healthy Environment for people to socialize in and play on is of major importance to our integration with the land. Healthy, naturally maintained turf, regardless of its location does have its place in our communities. We appreciate and connect with nature, even if just a speck of green life in our concrete jungles. Our personal health and self care combined with that of our communities is vitally important to the existence of humanity and the future of the planet. A safe and accessible gathering place for us to relax, exercise, play, watch our children play and share community events is necessary within our landscape.
My belief is, that we can still have the turf conditions that we all strive for but not at the expense of the planet that we live and play on. I have the skills, knowledge and Integrity to assist in the transition away from our current chemical management method into an
environmentally friendly and regenerative program.