Solar Harvest Farm     Steve & Michelle Heyer  Richie, Sheri & Sarah   7432 Marsh Road, Waterford, WI 53185
Phone: 262-662-5278  ·   Email: solarharvestfarm@yahoo.com
    Website: www.solarharvestfarm.com
20th Century
21st Century

Nitrogen Fixation

Nitrogen Fixation

Common History
Almost 80% of our atmosphere is comprised of nitrogen.
Unfortunately, this nitrogen has strong bonds making it very difficult to react with other elements.
The tremendous energy in lightning can break these bonds allowing some nitrogen to react with oxygen.
Pre 19th century, nitrogen was returned to fields via animal & human wastes.
Exhausted fields were left fallow for years or abandoned completely.
Mid 1800’s, Liebig & Lawes develop NPK theory.
Water soluble South American phosphates/nitrates (salt compounds )spread on fields.
These phosphates & nitrates diminished or killed the yet undiscovered soil microbes.
As soil life diminished, chemical dependency ensued.
The chemical fertility treadmill comes of age.
In the early 20th century,  the work of two scientists, Haber and Bosch, led to the discovery and creation of an industrial process capable of extracting atmospheric nitrogen.  The process uses natural gas and steam to get nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide is removed and ammonia is created via the introduction of an electric current into the process.

As South American fertilizers were nearly exhausted, the advent of this new technology initiated a paradigm  shift in agriculture - this at a time in which world fossil fuel resources were largely untapped and seemingly limitless.  

The demands of wartime fermented advancements, efficiencies and new venues for the Haber-Bosch process, fulminating into the manufacture of poison gases and explosives.  

Pre-1941: The USA had 1 ammonia explosives plant.
Post-1945: 10 ammonia explosives plants with no demand.

What to do with all that capacity?

The chemical fertilizer age blossoms.
Even as the NPK and Haber-Bosch processes were transforming farming in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, other scientists were discovering not only the existence of soil microbes, but also revealing the nitrogen enhancing properties of what were then referred to as animolecules.

Intuitively and pragmatically, many farmers of thousands of years ago already recognized that fertility was enhanced by certain crop rotations.  We now know why.

Within healthy soil exists an expansive kingdom of creatures now referred to as the Soil Food Web.  Internal to this web exists bacteria which live in symbiosis with plant roots.  These bacteria harbor an enzyme capable of converting atmospheric nitrogen into plant-usable ammonium.  

The actions of nitrogen fixing bacteria are but one of a multitude of functions occurring within healthy soils - an ecosystem in itself in which billions of bacteria and fungi interact with thousands of protozoa and dozens of nematodes in each handful of soil.

“If you break it - You bought it”.

If you damage the soil biology, you must buy the chemical.
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