FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Compost is the natural result of of the decay of living matter.  Living matter can decay slowly or quickly and it can decay aerobically (in the presence of oxygen) or anaerobically (without oxygen present).   Different processes and/or raw materials can create differing compost types.  Aerobic decomposition is generally most desirable for soil health and plant growth.  Compost is a very commonly used organic/sustainable/biological plant stimulant and fertilizer.

Liquid Fish is the name commonly given to agricultural fish products that have been ground, liquified, and stabilized lowering the pH of the product to around 3.0 with a strong acid.  Liquid fish can be made from a wide variety of fish products.  It is a very commonly used organic/sustainable/biological plant stimulant and fertilizer.

Fish hydrolysates are made using low temperature processes while fish emulsions are processed at higher temperatures.  Fish hydrolysates generally retain all of the original fish products used to begin the process while fish emulsions generally have most of the oils and proteins removed.  The oil and proteins removed from the fish emulsion are then sold into other markets (pet food, fish oil products, etc).  Fish emulsions can sometimes have higher NPK analysis because some of the water is evaporated off during the manufacturing process.

Organic Farming – Organic food production is regulated by the USDA in the United States (other countries have their own regulatory programs).  The rules are available at the USDA/NOP website.  Generally, no artificial or synthetic fertilizers or pesticides are allowed in the production of organic food, but there are a few exceptions.  No Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are allowed to be sold as Organic.

Biological Farming – The term biological food production is not regulated and so does not have an exact definition, but is generally defined as farming with the intention of maximizing the beneficial of effects of micro (bacteria, fungi, etc.) and macro (earthworms, beneficial nematodes, beneficial insects) organisms in the soil and in and on the plant.

Sustainable Farming – Sustainable food production is also not regulated and has only a loose definition as used by most people in the agricultural industry.  It generally refers to improving or sustaining the soil for future generations.  Depending on the individual, it can also mean judicious or limited use of toxic chemicals, fair compensation to the farmer for their production, soil erosion control, and more.

Dictionary Definition (Dictionary.com) – A symbiotic association of the mycelium of a fungus, especially a basidiomycete, with the roots of certain plants, in which the hyphae forma closely woven mass around the rootlets or penetrate the cells of the root.

So, mycorrhizae is the association between a living plant and a beneficial fungus.  This association is common in naturally vegetated, undisturbed areas.  Different plants have the ability to associate with differing species of fungi to form associations.

Endo mycorrhizae systems have a nutrient exchange mechanism with the plant that takes place on the inside of the root (arbuscules are formed inside the root and the hyphae extend outside the root).  Most plants form a mycorrhyzal association in this way.

Ecto mycorrhizae systems have a nutrient exchange mechanism with the plant that takes place on the outside of the root.  The fungus covers much of the outside of the root hair like a glove and the nutrient exchange takes place along that interface.  Conifers, oaks, pecan, and a few other plants form associations in this way.

Compost tea is the name given to a wide variety of liquid extracts from composted materials.  Compost tea is generally extracted by running water through a porous bag or screen containing compost.  The resulting liquid can then be used as is on plants or soil, but is more commonly processed further by “brewing” (circulating and aerating).  Most compost tea is aerobic and applied “fresh”, meaning it has never been deprived of oxygen before application to soil or plants.  Many different recipes are used in making both home brewed and commercial “compost tea”.  Some additional ingredients may be applied at the beginning, during, or at the end of the process.  Some commonly used additional ingredients are: seaweed (kelp); molasses, liquid fish, humic or fulvic acid, calcium sulfate, trace elements, and more.
The Soil Foodweb is a term used to describe the complex interactions of soil biology, structure, pH, water content, and much more.  The diversity and health of the soil foodweb directly affects the efficiency of a growing system.  A soil with a diverse and populous soil biology generally has a strong positive impact on root growth, nutrient retention and cycling, soil water distribution, and soil structure.  It also tends  to suppress outbreaks of soilborne pests and diseases through a competitive effect on their nutrient sources and through physical exclusion from the root zone.

The micro and macro organisms that live in a healthy soil, including: bacteria, protozoa, algae, fungi, pseudomonas, arthropods, insects, worms, plant roots and many more forms of life.

From USDA/NRCS website – The creatures living in the soil are critical to soil health. They affect soil structure and therefore soil erosion and water availability. They can protect crops from pests and diseases.  They are central to decomposition and nutrient cycling and therefore affect plant growth and amounts of pollutants in the environment.  Finally, the soil is home to a large proportion of the world’s genetic diversity.

Plant essential elements are those elements required for plant survival and growth.

They include Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK), but also include Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Boron, Chlorine, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum, and Nickel.  Silicon, Sodium, Cobalt, and Selenium are considered beneficial but not essential.  Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Carbon are essential but non-mineral and generally supplied from the atmosphere.  Chromium, Vanadium, and Titanium are also thought to be beneficial in plants, but the mechanism has not been proven (verified).

Macronutrients are plant essential elements used in relatively large amounts by plants.  These include the familiar Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK), but also include Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur.

Trace element is the name usually given to plant essential elements that are used in (much) smaller quantities than the major elements (NPK), but in greater quantities than the “exotic” trace minerals.

Trace minerals  include Chlorine, Zinc, Manganese, Iron, Copper, Molybdenum, and Boron.

“Exotic” trace minerals include Silicon, Sodium, Cobalt, Selenium, Chromium, Vanadium, and Titanium.

Humic and Fulvic acid are carbon rich polymers (chains of carbon atoms) resulting from breakdown of organic materials under certain conditions.  Fulvic acid is often used in biological agriculture to stimulate plant metabolism and to assist in transporting foliar applied nutrients through the leaf cuticle.  Humic acid is often used in biological agriculture to provide increased nutrient and water holding capabilities in sandy soils among its other uses.  See summary of their technical definitions below:

Fulvic acid –  a natural acidic organic polymer that can be extracted from humus found in soil, sediment, or aquatic environments.  It is soluble in strong acid (pH = 1) and has the average chemical formula C135H182O95N5S2.  Its structure is best characterized as a loose assembly of aromatic organic polymers with many carboxyl groups (COOH) that release hydrogen ions, resulting in species that have electric charges at various sites on the ion.(www.britannica.com)

Humic acid – a natural acidic organic polymer that can be extracted from humus found in soil, sediment, or aquatic environments.  Humic acid has the average chemical formula C187H186O89N9S1 and is insoluble in strong acid (pH = 1).  Its structure is unlike that of proteins or carbohydrates, the two most common organic polymers found in biological material; instead, humic acid can be characterized as a loose assembly of aromatic polymers of varying acidity and reactivity.(www.britannica.com)

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica.  Over a long period of time, diatoms accumulated in the sediment of rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. (http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/degen.html#whatis)  DE is commonly used to suppress the populations of fleas and other small crawling insects in confined areas.  Though sold as a very fine powder, the individual grains have microscopically small sharp edges that can injure the exoskeleton of these insects.  It can be used to control weevils in stored grain and is sometimes fed to pets and livestock as a “natural” dewormer.

Earthwise Organics strives to provide quality products, reliable service, and cutting edge technology and consulting at an affordable price in our effort to help farmers grow quality food while making a profit.  Our updated product list reflects our continuing effort to provide the most effective, safe, affordable, and appropriate products available in today’s marketplace.  On other parts of the website you can find insect and disease info, soil health info, detailed growing templates for individual crops, information on how products work together, and basic facts concerning biological farming (here and here, plus a lot more!).

Earthwise Organics has organic and natural products for every type of grower and for most situations.  Whether you are raising green beans and chickens or alfalfa and zucchini  – we should have the right product for your need and info on how to best use it.  Peruse our individual product pages for more detailed information about each product – or contact us if you have any questions or need more information.