Understanding a bit of the chemistry and biology behind building healthy soil allows us to work in harmony with nature to contribute to the health of our soil, plants, food and planet.
A positive definition of organic farming features carbon as its star player. When we come to see that the relationship between plants and the micro-organisms in the soil is based on the element of carbon, we can grow crops in ways that enhance this relationship. Let’s take a glance at the chemistry of carbon to better understand what we’re working with.
The entire branch of chemistry that is based on carbon is called “organic chemistry.” Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that organic farming is also based on carbon. Carbon has three characteristics that make it so special and thus essential to the structure of all living things:
1. Carbon is plentiful. After hydrogen, helium and oxygen, it is the most plentiful element in our solar system.
2. Carbon is able to make extremely strong bonds with other elementsbecause it can form four bonds —the maximum number. Each of these bonds is held closely to the magnetic pull of its nucleus. Practically speaking, that’s why an oak tree can grow tall and has the strength to stay standing.
3. The carbon atom is capable of forming complex molecules which include long chains, branching chains and looped structures.