Agronomist with Tablet
The Science Behind En-Soil Algae
Chlorella vulgaris : a Humble Green Algae 
that Happens to be a Powerful Bio-stimulant

Although En-Soil Algae may be used as a replacement for NPK fertilizers, it's important to understand that En-Soil, unlike NPK, does not provide nutrients directly to soil and plants. Rather, En-Soil Algae is a bio-stimulant. As defined by the US Farm Bill of 2018, it is “a substance or micro-organism that when applied to seeds, plants, or the rhizosphere, stimulates natural processes to enhance or benefit nutrient uptake, nutrient efficiency, tolerance to abiotic stress (drought or salinity), or crop quality and yield." 


Published international research and our experience confirm that the bio-stimulant, live Chlorella vulgaris—En-Soil Algae—promotes plant growth and health. Soil testing has shown a positive effect on fertility. Furthermore, it is a green product, a culture of the single-cell green algae, C. vulgaris.  Using sterile water, light and air, it is grown in bioreactors—200-liter vertical tanks—in clean laboratory conditions. There is minimal energy input.

This is how we make En-Soil Algae:

Algae.jpg
 Algae Starter + Water + Light + CO2       More Algae + O

When algae grows carbon is removed from the atmosphere,

and the only byproduct of production is oxygen!

En-Soil is Nontoxic

While En-Soil Algae is prepared only for agricultural use, Chlorella vulgaris is nontoxic, and has been used for human and animal consumption. This means that it is safe for pets or children to play on grass immediately after application. A client with a horse farm moved horses from the pasture before applying synthetic chemical fertilizer (NPK), but  with En-Soil Algae that isn’t necessary. 

Let's Take a Deeper Dive into the Science: 
Nature's Way vs. Commercial Agriculture's
How Nature Creates Healthy Soil
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Nature's Way

It is well known that the microbial makeup in your digestive system, the biome, has a direct effect on health, and that dietary habits and supplements can affect your biome. The well-being and growth of plants depend on an similar process. Like humans, plants live in a symbiotic (cooperative) arrangement with microbes. The soil around the roots, known as the rhizosphere, is essentially the plant’s biome. The rich mixture of microorganisms living there performs a number of tasks critical to plant growth and health.

 

Soil bacteria “fix nitrogen”; that is, they convert atmospheric nitrogen into compounds that are absorbed by plant roots and used for photosynthesis and the production of organic compounds like amino acids and proteins. That’s right—plants themselves don’t fix nitrogen. It is a function of soil bacteria.  For example, we plant legumes, like peanuts or chickpeas, to enrich soil, to raise the level of nitrogen. However, it is bacteria in the root nodules of legumes that actually process atmospheric nitrogen.

Here is an Amazing fact: there are up to 10 billion bacteria per gram of soil in the rhizosphere, so this metabolic factory is well staffed.

Impact of Commercial Agriculture & NPK Dependency
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Industrial Agriculture

With the advent of the "Green Revolution" in the 1960s, commercial agriculture in the western world has largely relied upon continuous soil tilling, mono-cropping, and fertilizing with synthetic-chemical NPK. While the increase in food production was critical, over time these practices have led not only to detrimental decreases in microbial soil health, but nutrient-based, water contamination, as well.

 

The problem is that synthetic-chemical fertilizers bypass natural processes. Synthetic formulations of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium (NPK) are applied in forms that can be directly absorbed by plant roots to enhance growth. For example, nitrogen is provided from "urea." NPK works as a fertilizer and plant growth, but it does nothing for soil health. Over time soil fertility diminishes, meaning natural bacterial and fungal life diminishes, since there is degradation of bacterial and fungal life. This leads to a cycle of dependency on NPK.

 

To further illustrate, we've heard from an Illinois corn farmer who claims that 60 years of chemical fertilizers has stripped his yard-deep topsoil of its natural fertility. He considers it an inert growth medium, like vermiculite, and he measures out and applies NPK to achieve a desired level of production. 

Moving to Regenerative Agriculture
with Plant Bio-stimulants (PBS)
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Regenerative Agriculture

This is a third way to promote growth and yield, apart from the direct application of nutrients. The federal government first defined plant bio-stimulants in the 2018 Farm bill. The USDA provided these two alternative definitions in a 2019 report

 

“A plant bio-stimulant is a naturally occurring substance… or a microbe that is used for the purpose of stimulating natural processes in plants or in the soil in order to, among other things, improve nutrient and/or water use efficiency by plants, help plants tolerate abiotic stress, or improve characteristics of the soil as a medium for plant growth. The characteristics may be physical, chemical, and/or biological. The PBS may be used either by itself or in combination with other substances or microbes for this purpose.”

 

“A PBS is a substance or microorganism, that, when applied to seeds, plants, the rhizosphere, soil or other growth media, acts to support a plant’s natural nutrition processes independent of the biostimulant’s nutrient content.”  That is to say, a PBS does not have nutritional content to be a fertilizer.

Micro Application of En-Soil Algae
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Micro Application of En-Soil Algae

Micro-application of live Chlorella vulgaris has been studied as a PBS for the last 50 years. These are the claims we make for En-Soil Algae (ESA), a culture of Chlorella vulgaris, based on a large body of research:  

 

  1. When Chlorella vulgaris is applied to soil, foliage or both, there is an increase in plant mass.

  2. When applied to soil it helps condition the soil for improved plant performance and vigor, resulting in greater shoot and root mass. This is due to its effects on the soil’s microbial community. Measures of microbial mass and activity such as soil respiration or cation exchange capacity are enhanced.   Soil organic matter rises.  In broad terms, there is enhanced fertility.

  3.  A more active soil microbial community improves nutrient uptake:  soil bacteria fix nitrogen (converting atmospheric nitrogen to compounds that can be absorbed by plant roots), and they solubilize soil-bound nutrients including phosphorous.   

  4. Chlorella vulgaris optimizes conditions for tolerance of abiotic stress, such as drought or irrigation water salinity. Abiotic stress leads to the accumulation of destructive oxidative compounds in the plant, and when chlorella vulgaris is applied the plant mounts a more robust antioxidant response.

En-Soil Algae is Safe for Watersheds
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Preventing Algal Bloom

It seems paradoxical that replacing NPK with En-Soil Algae could lower the risk of algae bloom. The reason is pretty simple.

 

NPK is a nutrient that goes into solution when mixed with water. Because NPK dissolves, it travels with water wherever it goes. If you live in the Mississippi River Basin, some of the NPK fertilizer you apply to your lawn reaches ground water that eventually makes it to the river, and then to the Gulf of Mexico. All along the way, the NPK nutrients are "feeding" wild algae and aquatic plant life, creating massive algae blooms that are harmful to ecosystems and devastating to coastal economies.

 

On the other hand, C. vulgaris do not go into solution. They are living cells, a suspension of particles in water. After sitting for a few hours, the cells fall to the bottom of the bottle and only disperse uniformly with mild agitation. Because they are particulate, they do not penetrate far into the soil. In addition, migration through soil is hindered by algae’s positive charge. Soil is negatively charged, so the algae stick in place. Finally the number of algae cells applied is relatively small.  Fifty-thousand cells per square foot sounds like a lot of algae, but it's actually a miniscule amount when we remember that there are many billions of bacteria per gram of soil.  

Enhanced Green Color
& Increased Chlorophyll
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Enhanced Color & Increased Chlorophyll

Measuring chlorophyll content is a way to quantify the intensity of plant color. Multiple studies that showing that C. vulgaris increases growth and yield also measured the chlorophyll content of plants and their fruit. They documented an increase in chlorophyll levels.  

 

For example, in one study, okra leaves and pods had higher chlorophyll levels when soil was treated with C. vulgaris. This is a great benefit when marketing green vegetables. These findings are even more important for golf course and municipal turf managers. 

What En-Soil Algae Does Not Do
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En-Soil Algae, Chlorella vulgaris, does not do the following:

 

  1. It does not increase or decrease the rate of plant growth.

  2. It is not a pesticide. There has been no demonstrable direct effect on plant pathogens. If there is any benefit in this regard, it would be from improved vigor; a healthier plant may be more resistant to disease.

  3. There is no evidence that it affects fruit growth and development.

Our Procedure for Verifying En-Soil Algae's Guaranteed Analysis of 10 million CFU/mL

Enlightened Soil Corp conducts cells counts using the industry standard methods outlined by Andersen and Throndsen (2003; Manual on Harmful Marine Algae; Eds Hallegraeff, Anderson and Cembella.) Click image for the full methodology.

 

Microscope

En-Soil's On-going Research Trials and Soil Testing

Enlightened Soil Corp understands that we are only beginning to understand the full benefits of C. vulgaris as an agricultural bio-stimulant. There is so much more to discover about this miraculous, single-cell plant and how it may be applied to soil and plant health. That's why we stay engaged in our ongoing research. We want to share not only what we are learning, but our excitement, as well!

 
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