Microbial Weapons for Agricultural Production

During the early 20th century, soil microbiology and ecology studies led to the identification of many microorganisms that act as antagonists or hyperparasites of pathogens and insect pests. This was the origin of a popular research topic, biological control, the use of an organism or organisms to reduce disease (caused by plant pathogens) or damage (caused by insect pests). This often resulted in the release of several predators, parasitoids, and pathogens of insects and plants until the mid 1900’s. Many showed promise in field-scale inoculations, but few were developed commercially because of the rapid adoption of less expensive and more consistently performing chemical pesticides.

all-purpose fertilizer, calcium,


The element calcium (Ca) is the fifth most abundant element in the earth’s crust and the third most abundant metal after iron and aluminum. It is a Group 2 member of the Periodic table. Calcium along with magnesium, beryllium, strontium, radium, and barium, are known as alkaline earth metals. These metals react with other chemicals at standard temperature and pressure, usually with an overall release of energy. In plants calcium is an essential secondary macronutrient, needed in moderate amounts and is rarely limiting in crop production.

environment, GS Nitrogen

From the NPR blog, All Things Considered
Author: Dan Charles.

The Environmental Defense Fund opened an office near Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., 10 years ago. It was part of a carefully plotted strategy to persuade the giant retailer that going green could be good for business. If it worked, it certainly could be good for the planet — Walmart's revenues are bigger than the entire economy of most countries.

"We really saw that working with companies could be transformative at a scale that was pretty unmatched," says Suzy Friedman, a senior director at EDF.

If you're looking for evidence that the strategy is working, there's this: Last year, Walmart unveiled Project Gigaton, a plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by a billion tons of carbon between now and 2030. That's almost as much carbon as what's released from the country's entire fleet of passenger cars and trucks in a year.

The cuts will come from the company's suppliers: the vast galaxy of companies that make the products it sells.

Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora.

The New Yorker just published the following article that explores the question, Are Plants Intelligent?

In 1973, a book claiming that plants were sentient beings that feel emotions, prefer classical music to rock and roll, and can respond to the unspoken thoughts of humans hundreds of miles away landed on the New York Timesbest-seller list for nonfiction. “The Secret Life of Plants,” by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, presented a beguiling mashup of legitimate plant science, quack experiments, and mystical nature worship that captured the public imagination at a time when New Age thinking was seeping into the mainstream.


It has been decades since I first learned about essential elements for plants. Back then, there were 16 essential elements, now there are 18. So it’s a good time to have a refresher course on fertilizer basics and update our current knowledge of the essential elements. In the next series of articles we will revisit all the macro and micro nutrients. But before we do that, let’s return to fertilizer basics.  


Mushrooms are a familiar and often desired delicacy for human consumption. Button, oyster, shiitake, enoki, and portobello mushrooms can readily be found in most grocery stores. Early hunter/gatherers probably foraged for edible mushrooms. Around 4600 years ago, mushrooms were believed to be plants of immortality and reserved for pharaohs. Agaricus bisporus (button mushroom) was the first cultivated mushroom and was grown by the French in 1651. Around the same time, other mushrooms were being grown on wood in China and Japan for food, years after the initial discovery of mushrooms growing on soaked logs. By 1865, mushroom cultivation reached the US. Today, several genera and species are cultivated for food. Rich in zinc, iron, chitin, vitamins, minerals and fiber, mushrooms have super food potential. People still forage for edible mushrooms as a hobby. Experienced mushroom hunters know that 50% of the mushrooms are inedible (woody or indigestible), 25% are edible (but tasteless), 20% will make you sick (upset digestive tract), 4% will be tasty, and 1% will kill you (always go with an expert). However, the true value in mushrooms goes beyond simple pleasing of the palate.