Did you know that, after oxygen, silica is the most abundant element on Earth? Yes, silica is found everywhere, from the rocks beneath our feet to the sand on the beach. Be that as it may, what many individuals don’t understand is exactly the way in which significant silica is for soil wellbeing and plant development.
Despite its abundance in the Earth’s crust, silica is an essential mineral that has been underutilised in agriculture for far too long. When it comes to fertilisation and plant nutrition, it is frequently overlooked despite its abundance and significance in the plant kingdom. It can take various forms in soil, including crystalline and amorphous silica. Amorphous silica is highly soluble and readily absorbed by plants, making it common in soils with a high organic matter content. On the other hand, crystalline silica is less soluble and can only be absorbed by plants in small quantities.
The ability to enhance the structure of the soil is one of its primary advantages. The presence of silica can aid in the formation of soil pores, making it easier for water and air to penetrate. This is especially crucial in heavy clay soils, which typically have poor aeration and tend to be compacted. Silica can aid in better root growth by enhancing the structure of the soil. In turn, this can result in healthier and more durable plants.
Silica can assist in increasing nutrient availability for plants in addition to enhancing soil structure. This is due to the fact that silica can raise the soil’s cation exchange capacity (CEC), which is a gauge of the soil’s capability to retain positively charged ions like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients are retained in the soil more firmly when CEC is high, which reduces their availability to plants. Silica, on the other hand, can aid in lowering CEC and increase the availability of these nutrients to plants.
Moreover, silica has been discovered to help in the prevention of disease and pest infestation. Silica strengthens plant cell walls, preventing pests and pathogens from entering and infecting the plant. The plant’s innate defence systems are also encouraged, making it more resilient to environmental stress.
Abiotic stresses like drought and extremely high temperatures can be lessened by silica, in addition to its involvement in the prevention of pests and diseases. Silica serves to lessen the harmful impacts of environmental stressors by enhancing the plant’s capacity to absorb and retain water, resulting in healthier and more resilient plants. Moreover, silica is essential for the development of stronger plant cell walls, which can increase a plant’s resistance to pathogens and pests.
Now, while silica is naturally present in many soils, some soils may be deficient in this important mineral. This can be particularly true in areas with high rainfall or soils that have been heavily cultivated. In these cases, silica fertilisers can be used to help supplement the soil with silica. Silica fertilisers are typically made from ground diatomaceous earth, which is a type of sedimentary rock that is rich in silica. When applied to the soil, these fertilisers can help to improve soil structure, increase nutrient availability, and promote better plant growth.
Ultimately, silica plays an important role in soil health and plant growth. It helps to improve soil structure, increase nutrient availability, and promote better plant growth and resilience. While silica is naturally present in many soils, some soils may be deficient in this important mineral. In these cases, silica fertilisers can be used to help supplement the soil with silica and promote healthier, more productive and resilient crops. By paying more attention to this often-overlooked element, we can improve the health and productivity of our crops, leading to a more sustainable and prosperous future for agriculture.