Rabu, 29 Maret 2023

Why plant nutrition is the driver of soil regeneration

March 27, 2023

John Kempf

Editor’s Note: John Kempf is founder and chief vision officer of Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA), and one of the leading thinkers in regenerative agriculture. AEA recently announced the expansion of its crop nutrition manufacturing capabilities in Aurora, Colorado to supply an extra 20 million acres of farmland. Here Kempf writes in-depth about why crop nutrition is so important in regenerative agriculture but is often left out of the conversation.

Regenerative agriculture is commonly defined as a regeneration of soil health. A set of soil management practices that includes non-disturbance (no-till), keeping soil covered, incorporating livestock, utilizing cover crops, increasing species diversity, and maintaining continuous living roots in the soil are generally agreed upon as the drivers of a regenerative farm management system.

However, these management practices all miss a fundamental driver of soil health, which can supersede the impact of all the practices above: plant nutritional integrity.

The nutritional integrity of a crop determines its capacity for photosynthesis and carbon sequestration. Photosynthetic activity can vary as much as 3-4x based on a plant’s nutritional status. Manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, nitrogen, iron, and other minerals are directly involved in the photosynthesis process. Inadequate levels of any of these nutrients will directly bottleneck photosynthesis and limit the quantity of carbon that is fixed and converted into sugars over each 24-hour photoperiod cycle.

The foundational requirements of photosynthesis are adequate water, carbon dioxide, sunlight, a green leaf containing chlorophyll and balanced mineral nutrition. Farmers intimately understand the critical requirement for water. Sunlight is considered a given. Carbon dioxide supply and mineral nutrition are commonly misunderstood or ignored entirely in outdoor production agriculture. Because of this misunderstanding, most crops being grown in an outdoor agricultural setting are photosynthesizing at only a fraction of their inherent genetic potential.

In our consulting work at Advancing Eco Agriculture, we understand that plant nutrition and microbiome management are the foundational drivers of plant immunity and crop yields, which are brought together in the Plant Health Pyramid. We collect plant sap analysis data through the entire crop life cycle to manage nutritional integrity and increase disease and insect resistance. Our team has collected tens of thousands of samples over the last fifteen years on dozens of crop species. Almost universally, crops experience significant nutritional imbalances that limit their capacity for photosynthesis. Once we correct these nutritional imbalances, yields and pest resistance increase immediately as a result of the increased photosynthetic activity.

This misunderstanding of the primal importance of photosynthetic efficiency underscores the misconception around the slogan “healthy soils create healthy plants”. While it is true that healthy soils produce healthy plants, the question is: “What creates healthy soils?” At the most fundamental level, what creates healthy soils is plants photosynthesizing, sequestering carbon, and transferring that carbon through root exudates into the soil profile to feed the symbiotic microbial community in the rhizosphere.

Without photosynthesis and carbon induction, there is no soil. Soil without the contribution of plants is nothing more than decomposed rock particles. The generally accepted ‘regenerative management practices’ all point to the necessity of maintaining living plants constantly photosynthesizing but miss addressing the fundamentals of photosynthetic effectiveness. Thus, it is healthy plants that create healthy soil. Plant photosynthesis is the engine that drives the generation (and regeneration) of soil health, not the other way around.

It is commonly assumed that growing crops is somehow inherently extractive, that we deplete soil carbon when growing a crop, and to regenerate, we need to grow ‘cover’ crops to place carbon back into the soil. In the agronomic literature, it was historically understood that the fastest way to build soil carbon was to grow corn. Today, growing corn is considered one of the fastest ways to deplete soil carbon. This is a result of the nutritional mismanagement of contemporary agronomy, focusing exclusively on a few nutrients (and applying them in excess), while not maintaining nutritional balance to manage photosynthesis. We can build soil carbon levels while we are growing a crop. Any crop. It only requires managing plant nutrition differently and optimizing for photosynthesis and immune function.

Not considering photosynthetic variability is a foundational oversight in almost all of the carbon sequestration literature. It is not accurate to assume that the rate of photosynthesis is a constant and remains consistent across different research settings. For example, researchers report wildly varying percentages of plant photosynthates being transferred to the soil as root exudates, some as low as 5%, and some as high as 95%. This extremely high variability depends on many factors, including plant species, stage of growth, microbiome, and soil environment. But the biggest driver of variability remains the rate of photosynthetic efficiency. Imagine how our agriculture might look different if every crop transferred 95% of its total carbon to the soil, as compared to 5%? Our contemporary agronomy management practices ensure that most crops remain on the bottom end of the spectrum.

The best news is, when you increase photosynthesis, you cannot prevent yields from increasing. Healthy plants with abundant energy levels will produce more fruit, seeds, and vegetative biomass. A model of regenerative agriculture based on sound nutrition management has the capacity to increase the yields of many crops significantly, while simultaneously reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

Managing plant nutritional integrity is a fundamental driver of regenerating soils, and the one driver with an immediate economic impact for farmers. Because of the rapid economic response, the demand for nutritional products designed to fit a regenerative management system is growing quickly.

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UK scientists urge Rishi Sunak to halt new oil and gas developments

Call comes on eve of revised net zero strategy that allows drilling in North Sea and boosts ‘unproven’ carbon capture

Fiona Harvey Environment editor

Wed 29 Mar 2023 06.00 BST

Hundreds of the UK’s leading scientists have urged the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, to halt the licensing of new oil and gas developments in the UK, ahead of his anticipated launch of a revised net zero and energy security strategy on Thursday.

The scientists, who include Chris Rapley, former head of the Science Museum and professor at UCL and Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science at UCL, warn that there must be no new developments of oil and gas, for the world to limit global heating to 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

The call, backed by more than 700 scientists, comes on the eve of the government’s “energy security day”, when a new net zero strategy will be published.

The launch was originally to be called “green day”, but the Guardian revealed last week that the event had been rebranded “energy security day” because of a planned focus on oil and gas development, alongside renewable energy, and to appease Conservative rightwingers.

Aberdeen, the capital of the UK’s oil and gas industry, has been prepared as the launch venue, though this could change after widespread criticism.

Among the government’s announcements for energy security day are to be a continuation of oil and gas development in the North Sea; carbon capture and storage investments worth about £20bn over two decades; and a boost for renewable energy.

But the scientists warn in their letter of the disastrous consequences of exceeding 1.5C of global heating, noting that “we already have more than enough coal, oil and gas to overshoot what is deemed our best hope of maintaining a livable climate”, and they urge the prime minister to take a stand.

They say, in a letter seen by the Guardian: “We are writing as members of the research community on climate science and other related disciplines to call on you to ensure the UK once again demonstrates international leadership by acting on the latest warnings about the escalating climate crisis. This means including in the forthcoming revised net zero strategy a commitment not to approve any new development of onshore or offshore oil and gas fields.”

They note the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week, which found in a “sober but devastating” report that the world had only a narrow chance of avoiding disastrous levels of global heating.

Emily Shuckburgh, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, who organised the letter, said: “Last Monday the IPCC made it clear that immediate action is required to avert a climate catastrophe. Now is the time to be investing in the technologies of the future, not the past. Continued use of fossil fuels is a threat to us, our children and their children; instead we should be leading the world in creating a sustainable society powered by green innovation. That must be the central aim of the revised net zero strategy.”

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow secretary for net zero, said: “This letter is a further reminder that the mainstream consensus says doubling down on fossil fuels is the wrong choice, on value for money grounds, won’t solve our energy security needs, won’t create good jobs, and would be completely wrong for the climate. The scientists are telling the government in no uncertain terms that they must change course from their path of climate vandalism.”

The letter also casts doubt on the government’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) investments, saying the technology has “yet to be proved at scale”. Ministers are hoping the focus on CCS will provide a basis on which oil and gas development can be continued.

Ministers have already decided that some of the key recommendations for a net zero strategy will be ignored. There will be no comprehensive programme of home insulation; no compulsion for housebuilders to fit solar panels on the roofs of new houses; oil and gas companies will be continued to allow to flare gas; there will be no specific target for onshore wind generation, and there are doubts that proposed changes to the planning regime will fully lift the effective ban on new onshore wind turbines in England.

The letter was open for signatories for only 36 hours and received more than 700 signatures, including Iain Stewart, professor of geoscience communication at Plymouth University; the former government adviser Michael Jacobs of Sheffield University; and Jane Macnaughton, deputy pro vice-chancellor at Durham University.

Shuckburgh told the Guardian this was “a clear indication of the enormous strength of feeling among scientists across the UK on this issue. These people are all experts in their fields.”

A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “The UK decarbonised faster than any other G7 country, while growing the economy. Our plans to invest in renewable and nuclear technologies will maintain the UK’s place as a world-leader in achieving net zero, boosting the economy while also supporting nearly half a million well-paid green jobs.

“Delivering energy security and net zero at lowest cost means investing in home grown energy such as offshore wind. But in all scenarios the UK will continue to use oil and gas as we meet our 2050 net zero goal, and even the Committee on Climate Change agrees there may be emissions advantages to domestic UK production replacing imports.”

Source :


Chia seedlings verify Alan Turing’s ideas about patterns in nature

This blotchy vegetation in a gapped bush plateau in Niger is an example of what’s called a Turing pattern.


By James R. Riordon

MARCH 26, 2023 AT 7:00 AM

Chia seeds sprouted in trays have experimentally confirmed a mathematical model proposed by computer scientist and polymath Alan Turing decades ago. The model describes how patterns might emerge in desert vegetation, leopard spots and zebra stripes.

These and other blotchy and stripy features in nature are examples of what are called Turing patterns, so named because in 1952, Turing presented equations for how simple interactions between competing factors can lead to surprisingly complex surface patterns. In the case of arid regions, the competition for moisture among plants would drive the intricate distribution of vegetation.

But proving that Turing’s model explains patterns in the real world has been challenging (SN: 10/21/15). It wasn’t clear whether Turing’s idea is really behind natural distributions of vegetation. It could be that the idea is a mathematical just-so story that happens to produce similar shapes in a computer, says physicist Flavio Fenton of Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

In research presented at the American Physical Society meeting, Brendan D’Aquino, who studied in Fenton’s lab during the summer of 2022, described an experiment that seems to confirm that Turing’s model truly underlies patterns in vegetation.

The team grew chia seeds in even layers in trays and then adjusted the available moisture. In essence, the researchers were experimentally tweaking the factors that appear in the Turing equations. Sure enough, patterns resembling those seen in natural environments emerged. The patterns also strongly resembled computer simulations of the Turing model.

Experiments with chia seeds (top), and the simulations that mimic them (bottom), show that Turing patterns emerge in vegetation competing for water. The top row shows how the pattern changes as water availability increases (from left to right). Simulated landscapes show similar patterns as rainfall increases (left to right).


“In previous studies,” said D’Aquino, who is an undergraduate computer science student at Northeastern University, “people kind of retroactively fit models to observe Turing patterns that they found in the world. But here we were actually able to show that changing the relevant parameters in the model produces experimental results that we would expect.”

Although Turing patterns have been produced in some chemistry experiments and other artificial systems, the team believes this is the first time that experiments with living vegetation have verified Turing’s mathematical insight.

Source :


Senin, 27 Maret 2023

How cell mechanics influences everything

Ming Guo seeks connections between a cell’s physical form and its biological function, which could illuminate ways to halt abnormal cell growth.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

Publication Date:March 26, 2023

High in the treetops of a Chinese rainforest, Ming Guo began to explore the influence of a single cell.

A student in China’s Tsinghua University, Guo was studying the mechanical properties of plant cells. As part of his master’s thesis he took on an intriguing question: Does a cell’s physical integrity — its size, shape, squishiness, or stiffness — have anything to do with how tall a tree grows?

In search of an answer, Guo visited forests across the Yunnan province, collecting leaves from the tallest trees, some towering over 200 feet — too high for Guo himself to climb. So, he enlisted the help of a student in the university’s rock climbing club, who scaled the trees and retrieved leaves at various heights along their length.

After analyzing the individual plant cells within each leaf, Guo observed a pattern: The higher the leaves, the smaller the cells. And, more interesting still, the size of a single cell could more or less predict how tall a tree can grow.

This early work in tree cells made one thing clear in Guo’s mind: A cell’s physical form can play a role in the development of an entire organism. This realization motivated him to study cell mechanics, in plant and eventually animal cells, to see what more a cell’s physical properties can reveal about how cells, tissues, organs, and whole organisms grow.

“People study cells in the context of their biology and biochemistry, but cells are also simply physical objects you can touch and feel,” Guo says. “Just like when we construct a house, we use different materials to have different properties. A similar rule must apply to cells when forming tissues and organs. But really, not much is known about this process.”

His work in cell mechanics led him to MIT, where he recently received tenure and is the Class of ’54 Career Development Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

At MIT, Guo and his students are developing tools to carefully poke and prod cells, and observe how their physical form influences the growth of a tissue, organism, or disease such as cancer. His research bridges multiple fields, including cell biology, physics, and mechanical engineering, and he is working to apply the insights from cell mechanics to engineer materials for biomedical applications, such as therapies to halt the growth and spread of diseased and cancerous cells.

“MIT is a perfect place for that in the long run,” Guo says. “It’s cross-disciplinary and always very inspiring, and by interacting with different people outside of the field, you get more ideas. It’s more likely that you can dig up something useful.”

The nature of physical objects

Guo grew up in Shijiazhuang, a city that is a two-hour train ride from Beijing. Both his parents were engineers — his father worked at the local factory, and his mother built teaching models of traffic systems at a vocational school. His parents worked hard, and like most factory families, they did not have the luxury of looking after their child when school was out.

“In the summers, they had to go to work, and they would just lock me at home. I’d throw my keys outside to someone to unlock the door so I could go play with them,” Guo recalls.

He and his friends would head to a cluster of residential buildings near the factory, and spent their days climbing.

“I liked to climb short buildings and towers and look at how they were structured,” Guo recalls. “There was also a small river where we tried to catch fish. Most families didn’t have much savings at the end of the year and didn’t spend much effort on education. But I remember as a kid having a lot of fun.”

School, and science, came more into focus in high school, when Guo had the chance to visit a cousin who was attending Tsinghua University. He remembers being particularly drawn to a textbook on his cousin’s shelf, on the structural mechanics of bridges. The short stay inspired him to apply to the university — one of the top two schools in the country. Once accepted, he headed to Tsinghua for a degree in mechanics.  

After a brief foray into the mechanics of fluids, and a project involving simulations of an artificial blood pump, Guo decided to pivot, and focus instead on the mechanics of cells, plant cells in particular. Inspired by his advisor, he took up the topic of how a plant cell’s mechanical integrity influences how tall a tree can grow. The project grew into a master’s thesis as Guo stayed on at Tsinghua as a master’s student.

“As I worked on plants, I realized that animal cells were also very interesting,” Guo says. “The nature of different materials, especially biological materials, and how to understand them simply as physical objects, was fascinating to me.”

“A profound impact”

As he wrapped up his work with tree cells, Guo read up on animal cell research, gravitating to work by David Weitz, a Harvard University physicist who specializes in soft matter, including the mechanical properties of living cells. Weitz’s work motivated Guo to apply to Harvard’s graduate program in applied physics.

In 2007, he arrived on the Cambridge campus — the first time he’d ever ventured outside China — and felt lost amid a new and foreign landscape.

“I had filled half my suitcase with ramen, and the first week I just ate ramen because I didn’t know where to eat,” Guo recalls. “I also couldn’t understand anything in some of my classes, because the type of English I learned in China was not the way people actually talk here.”

After time, Guo found his footing and dove into work in Weitz’s lab, where he focused his PhD thesis on understanding the “nonequilibrium behavior,” or the physical motions in a single cell, and investigating where the energy to generate such motions originates.

“That work really shifted my direction,” Guo says. “I knew what I wanted to do: keep understanding how cell mechanics — in multicellular systems like organs and tissues — influence everything.”

In 2015, he made the move to MIT, where he accepted a junior faculty position in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. At the Institute, he has shaped his research goals around developing new tools and techniques to better study living cells and how their physical and mechanical properties influence how cells move, respond, deform, and function.

“In the last few years, we’ve made some big insights on how, if you change a cell’s mechanical environment, such as their stiffness or their water content, that has a major impact on some fundamental biochemistry, such as transcription and cell signaling, which in turn regulates multicellular growth,” Guo says. “So, cell mechanics can have a really profound impact on biology.”

In addition to his research, Guo also enjoys teaching MIT students, most recently in 2.788 (Mechanical Engineering and Design of Living Systems), a class that challenges students to apply the mechanics of cells to design novel systems and machines. In a recent class, students have been using cardiac muscle cells to pump liquid through a microfluidic chip. A previous class amplified the natural voltage inside a plant to power a small wheel.

“The most energetic and happy moments I have are in talking to students,” Guo says. “They often give me surprises or new ideas that I love and most look forward to.”

In recent years, Guo’s research and teaching have expanded to consider not just the mechanics of single cells, but also multicellular systems — a shift he credits with the arrival of his daughter.

“She was born in 2016, and at that time, my entire group was working on single cells,” Guo says. “But seeing how she’s developed, I feel that understanding something that complex is much more interesting. So, we have also started working on exploring the mechanics and mechanobiology of more complex systems such as tissues and embryos.”



Selamat Memperingati Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW 12 Rabiulawal 1445 Hijriah

Selamat merayakan dan bergembira meyambut kelahiran makhluk termulia, rasul terkasih, Sayyidina wa maulana Muhammad SAW. Semoga spirit Mauli...