Homeostasis is one of those nice words we do not hear much nowadays. It means the body’s ability to balance itself. ~ Charles Walters1
Homeostasis is universal. All biological systems maintain homeostasis. They respond to changes in their environment and regulate their internal processes to adapt.
Maintaining body temperature is a homeostatic process, as is maintaining leaf temperature for a plant. Or leaf hydration. Or the concentration of nutrients.
Yes, plants regulate the presence of nutrients throughout its entire structure.
When soluble phosphorus fertilizers are applied to soils, all the micro-organisms with a proclivity for solubilizing complexed mineral phosphorus shut down. There is no need to expend energy to solubilize that which is present in excess.
When soluble nitrogen fertilizers are applied, soil micro-organisms with the capacity to ‘fix’ hundreds of pounds of nitrogen per acre per year shut down completely.
Halt these homeostatic processes and future dependencies are created, because the natural processes are now dysfunctional.
Some soil processes we may not immediately associate with living organisms also demonstrate homeostatic effects.
When clay colloids contain a surplus of a given cation, sulfur applications release primarily the cation in excess supply. When calcium and potassium are adequate but magnesium is excessive, applications of gypsum or sulfur will remove primarily magnesium from the colloid, and not calcium or potassium. When potassium is in excessive supply on the colloid, potassium will be the first to be removed. One could say that clay colloid mineral balancing can be homeostatic.
Humic substances are known to provide a pronounced increase in plants and soil biology homeostasis processes. Of particular interest is their capacity to increase plant defense mechanisms2 and mitigate excess salts3.
Significantly, humic substances also affect the activity of prions4 and endocrine disruptors5, which encompasses many synthetic pesticides. This indicates that the integrity of soil or gut microbiomes which are suppressed by pesticides can be improved by the presence of these compounds. This is homeostatic regulation of the environment for optimal microbial development.
You can harness homeostasis to the benefit of your crops, your soil’s health and your profitability, or ignore it to your detriment.
1. Walters, C. Eco-farm: An Acres USA Primer. (Acres USA, 2003).
3. Gholami, H., Samavat, S. & Ardebili, Z. O. The alleviating effects of humic substances on photosynthesis and yield of Plantago ovate in salinity conditions. International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences4, 1683–1686 (2013).
4. Corsaro, A., Anselmi, C., Polano, M. & Aceto, A. The interaction of humic substances with the human prion protein fragment 90-231 affects its protease K resistance and cell internalization. and homeostatic … (2010).