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Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.

Gardening Articles for week ending
6th OCTOBER 2007
Written by Wally Richards.

What is the Value of Phosphate for plants?
Phosphorus is the third most limiting nutrient with respect to macro nutrient uptake. Nitrogen and potassium are the only other two essential plant food nutrients taken up in greater quantities than all other minerals and elements. The potential and occurrence of phosphorus deficiency is second only to nitrogen.
Phosphorus plays a vital role in energy transfer, photosynthesis, nutrient transport, sugar metabolism, plant genetics, cell division and as a structural component of plants.
Crops with adequate phosphorus show steady vigorous growth and earlier maturity. Earlier maturing crops are less susceptible to summer drought, disease infection, frost and harvest damage.
Plants absorb soil solution phosphorus in both the H2PO4-1 and HPO4-2 forms.
Phosphate has an interesting history and in the distant past this vital plant nutrient was obtained by collecting bat or bird dung (gunga) from large deposits on Islands around the planet, and moved in the good old sailing ships of the time.
Towards the end of the 1800’s in England it was found that phosphorus could be obtained by treating bones with sulphuric acid.
The other natural source of phosphorus is obtained from RPR (reactive phosphate rock) but if we take RPR and grind it down to a fine powder and apply it to our soil it can take many years of microbial activity to release the phosphorus to make it available to the plants. (Similarly with limestone which takes 3 to 10 years to become available, where a soft lime such as Rapid Lime is readily available.)
Thus RPR is a waste of time when applied to the soil in its pure form. A mechanism had to be devised to make the phosphorus immediately available. It was soon realised that if sulphuric acid was able to make phosphorus readily available from bones then the same acid should work on RPR.
It did and a new word came into our agriculture, namely superphosphate.
There are two basic types of super; To make 0-20-0, rock phosphate is treated with sulphuric acid to make calcium phosphate (0-20-0) and calcium sulphate (gypsum).
To make 0-46-0, rock phosphate is treated with phosphoric acid. With this, much higher phosphate content, much higher N-P-K fertilizer formulas can be made. Less needs to be used. And it sells for a higher price with much better profits for the manufactures.
A retired fertiliser manufacture once explained that, when used, superphosphate is laying naked in the soil and looking for something to marry up with. It bonds up with zinc, iron and manganese, then the plants can’t assimilate them. It is a truth that the fertiliser companies like to keep secret.
The conversion process of making super phosphate (Super) is a very dirty, polluting industry which has contaminated vast areas of land where super is made. Fluoride gasses are created during the manufacture of chemical fertilisers and to prevent the pollution of these chemical gasses to the surrounding country side ‘scrubbers’ are used.
After being captured in the scrubbers, the fluoride acid (hydrofluorosilicic acid), which is a classified hazardous waste, is barreled up and sold, unrefined, to communities across the country. Communities add hydrofluorosilicic acid to their water supplies as the primary fluoride chemical for water fluoridation. As one environmentalist said: '"If this stuff gets out into the air, it's a pollutant; if it gets into the river, it's a pollutant; if it gets into the lake it's a pollutant; but if it goes right into your drinking water system, it's not a pollutant. That's amazing... There's got to be a better way to manage this stuff" (Hirzy 2000).
Super harms the soil life and locks up other plant nutrients which overall results in both pest and diseases problems in our gardens and food chain.
Some years back a company in New Zealand developed a method of using microbes to break down RPR naturally so when applied to the soil it would be readily available to the plants. The product is called BioPhos and is organically certified. Recently the fertiliser company ‘Balance’ purchased the production rights of BioPhos and are marketing the product to farmers and horticulturists as a natural alternative to super.
This is very interesting as a number of farmers/horticulturists are becoming aware of the harm conventional fertilisers are doing to their land, stock and crops. They are looking for better alternatives, this is great for the environment and our food chain. (Slowly people are starting to wake up to the damage that has been happening over the last 50 plus years)
BioPhos is available through garden centres for your use as an alternative to super.
BioPhos contains phosphate, potassium, sulphur and calcium at the rates of P10:K8:S7:Ca28.
The lumps or granules actually contain 4,888,000 fungal colonies to aid the breakdown and enhance your garden soils. Thus you not only are adding the needed phosphorus to you garden soils but also additional microbes which are going to work for you, making for better soils and plants.
BioPhos is pH neutral and is used at the following rates; New beds work in 100 grams per square metre, the same with lawns but water in to settle.
Side dressing plants; seedlings 8 grams (a teaspoon full) around base of the plant or in the planting hole. Same for potatoes (which do well with phosphorus) Sowing beans peas etc sprinkle down row with seeds. Roses and similar sized plants 18 grams or a tablespoon full around plant or in planting hole.
Established fruit trees etc, spread at the rate of 100 grams per square metre around drip line or where feeder roots are. Apply to vegetable gardens in spring and a further application in autumn if growing winter crops. Can be applied to container plants also. Apply to tomatoes when planting or side dress existing plants.
BioPhos need only be applied once a year or a little with each new planting whether it be vegetables or flowering plants/ornamentals.
When you apply natural products to your soils you are gardening the soil, building up the soil food web which is the key to healthy plants and food crops.
When you apply harmful chemical fertilisers and sprays you are creating the problems that are so commonly seen in many gardens today.
Beneficial natural products include, Mycorrcin (feeds the soil life) Magic Botanic Liquid MBL (which releases the nutrients that have been locked up in the soil, along with many other benefits)
Ocean Solids (provides all the natural minerals and elements from the blue waters of the ocean)
Simalith (Basalt rock dust also providing minerals along with silica to aid the natural electricity in the soil)
Then we have the goodies such as animal manures, sheep pellets, blood & bone, sea weed formulations, compost, Rapid Lime, Dolomite, Gypsum, etc.
Every week I have gardeners that contact me to say that they have read these columns and followed my suggestions. They thank me, as their gardens and plants have never been healthier and better.
It is only common sense.

Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
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Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages
at www.sharpei.co.nz

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