Microbial and Mineral Synergy

Pictured is a cross-section of a root nodule produced by the nitrogen fixing bacteria rhizobium in symbiosis with a tree species from the Fabaceae family. 


Prior to the formation of the first nodules (which host rhizobium bacteria) the host plant is alerted to the presence of the bacteria by the intracellular movement of calcium which ultimately triggers the formation of the first nodules.

Within the nodules is where the bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into biologically available nitrogen. Molybdenum is the trace element co-factor that is required to activate the nitrogenase enzyme pathway, without which N is not made biologically available. 

The red coloring in the photo is leghemoglobin, the plant equivalent of hemoglobin and indicator of active N fixation. Cobalt is needed in sufficient supply for the synthesis of leghemoglobin. Nodules without a red or pink color inside signify a cobalt deficiency.

Calcium, cobalt, and molybdenum are three of the minerals we find most commonly out of balance. Minerals are as much a necessity for the basic functioning of microorganisms as they are for plants, animals and humans. It is our job to understand the nuanced relationships and foster the interconnectedness of the microbe/mineral/plant system.

Testimonial: Apple Orchard Restoration


Three years ago I was asked to take on a challenging task, to see whether it was possible and even viable to renovate an eighty-year old apple orchard in Northern California, one that had not been cared for in any way for close to fifty years. The orchard of over 300 trees was in a seriously degraded condition, suffering massive dieback, fireblight, bear and feral pig damage, and generating no marketable crop whatsoever.

In developing a renovation strategy I turned to Soilsymbiotics for help and advice in returning this orchard to healthy production using organic methods. Sam Knowlton of Soilsymbiotics set me up with a combination of microbial inoculants and ProVita with his other products. Since this orchard was dry farmed, and remote, the most economically feasible strategies for renovation were to employ fencing of the orchard, and to initiate a cycle of renovation pruning methods combined with several foliar and soil applications of inoculants and mineral teas, no other fertilization or irrigation was used.

The results surpassed even my most optimistic expectations. Both the quantity and the lushness of the regrowth even during drought conditions was amazing to see, and in the very first season, there was a healthy and abundant crop. And now, entering into their third year, the trees show an abundant return to health, with new wood sprouting over the entire canopies, and no signs of disease or dieback present whatsoever.

In terms of return on time and money investment in a challenging environment I could not have imagined a more efficacious and literally fruitful approach with better results than we achieved at Acorn Ranch in Yorkville, California than we did using the systems and biological applications provided by Soilsymbiotics, and with the expertise of Sam Knowlton. Even the long time farmers of this area have expressed admiration and respect for the return to productive health of this heritage orchard in Mendocino County, and I personally am grateful for the help and advice.

Arthur Baker - Organic Farm and Orchard Manager