phosphorous, fertifacts

By Dr. Wes Chun Ph.D
Chief Science Officer, Grower's Secret

Phosphorus, like nitrogen, is a member of the pnictogen group and was the thirteenth element to be discovered and the first element that was chemically discovered by Hennig Brand in 1669. It is one of the three major essential elements needed by plants simply because of the amounts that are utilized by the plant. Phosphorus is the only element that was discovered through a disgusting process involving the concentration of urine. 

GS Nitrogen

Ferti-Facts: Nitrogen - A Change in Tradition


Daniel Rutherford discovered the existence of nitrogen by first depleting oxygen from air. He accomplished this by asphyxiating a mouse in a closed jar, burning a candle until it went out in the jar, and burning phosphorus until it would not burn. The remaining gas was passed through a carbon dioxide absorbing solution.     The remaining gas (which is now almost pure nitrogen gas) did not support the burning of a candle or life of a mouse. He referred to this gas as noxious or phlogisticated air (Phlogiston was a postulated element that was released from combustible bodies when burned).


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.


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.


Previously, we discussed the role of seaweed in alleviating plant stress. In reality, seaweed is a versatile product that can: 1) Reduce Effects of Environmental Stresses; 2) Improve Plant Growth and Health; 3) Induce Pest and Pathogen Resistance; and 4) Improve Soil Health.

Seaweed was first used as early as 2700 BC in China, mainly as a food for special guests or kings. In Europe, Mediterranean seaweeds were used as medicine or animal feed around 100 BC. Circa 1200 AD, seaweed found uses in agriculture as mulch. In the 1950s, development of a process to liquefy seaweed revolutionized the widespread use of seaweed in agriculture. Currently these are produced by alkaline or acid hydrolysis, cellular disruption under pressure, or fermentation.