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STRESS PLANTS FOR BETTER GROWTH


palm trees stressed by windstorm
Trees in Wind

My grandfather used to slap around his trees, especially while they were still young. Did he hate trees? Was he taking out his aggression on something that couldn’t fight back?


Actually, he was quite purposeful and did it out of love. My grandfather, Henry, loved to grow fruit trees. He was my first Natural Farming teacher. He knew that if trees grow in a windy place, they have to be flexible so they don’t break or split, and they develop deep, extensive root systems to keep them from blowing over. He grew his trees strong so they would survive if a big storm came.

 

Henry would gently tap the young trunk back and forth in several directions each time he walked by. He was mimicking the wind. He was forcing the roots to hold on tighter and the above-ground trunk and branches to remain supple and flexible to avoid breakage.


Henry’s light-handed abuse goes contrary to the conventional dogma, a widely held belief in the field of plant biology, that when plants are not subjected to stress, they can fully express their genetic potential for growth, development, and reproduction, resulting in healthier and more resilient individuals.

 

This thinking follows the supposition that plants can develop most fully when all energy can be directed to growth, including vegetative growth, photosynthesis, reproduction, and resisting pests and disease. It also presumes that plants are better able to uptake and utilize nutrients, thereby living longer and tolerating stress better.


However, it's important to note that this dogma is based on controlled trials, which may not fully reflect the complex and dynamic conditions that plants face in the real world.


Let’s return to wind stress and Henry slapping around his little trees.


Plants, with their remarkable adaptability, actually benefit from some degree of stress. Plants can be stressed to get better growth.


Wind, in particular, is a prime example of beneficial stress for trees. When faced with moderate wind stress, trees respond by developing stronger wood and more extensive root systems, anchoring themselves more firmly and becoming more resistant to wind damage over time.


In response to wind, trees may adapt by developing increased flexibility, thicker trunks and branches, deeper, more extensive root systems, and growth patterns that produce branches more resistant to breakage.


While excessive wind can indeed cause damage to trees, moderate wind stress can promote their overall strength and resilience.

 

This principle applies to various forms of stress in plants. While too much stress can be harmful, moderate stress can induce beneficial responses that enhance the plant's ability to withstand future challenges.


To further the discussion, let’s examine the work of Master Cho Han-Kyu, developer of the KNF Natural Farming system.


Master Cho talks extensively about “Till and Fertilizer Disease.” When plants are grown in fluffy tilled soil that contains basically all the nutrients they will need for their lifespan, the plants think that life is easy. They do not have to work for anything because everything is provided. The plants become lazy.


They do not develop roots to search out nutrients because they don’t have to. The excess nutrition makes the plant “fat” to use Master Cho’s description. The most common symptom of a “fat” plant is too much nitrogen. Plants broadcast when they have too much nitrogen, and the signal is picked up by predatory insects and brings them in. Furthermore, the nutritional imbalance leads to disease.


Plants in soft, tilled soil, with enough nutrients for a lifetime, lead plants to become fat and lazy. They are prone to pests and disease. Too much food and not enough exercise.


Contrast this scenario to plants in a wild setting. In the wild, the soil is not tilled. Plants must break through the native soil to reach nutrients that have not been artificially provided. They must work to survive. The harder they have to work to survive, the hardier and more resistant the plant becomes.


Master Cho advocates stressing plants when they are young to develop these resilient traits. Plants are more likely to reach their genetic potential because they develop the strength to survive. Every single seed, every seedling’s prime objective, is to survive.


Subjecting them to moderate stress turns on the genes that allow plants to grow strong and resilient. Because these genes were activated in the critical stem cell phase of growth, plants will grow more tolerant of wind, drought, excess heat, and pressure from pests and disease throughout their lifespan.


This innate resilience is what Master Cho calls the “Historic Nutrient of the Seed,” one of his most fundamental concepts.


To develop the “Historic Nutrient of the Seed,” seeds and seedlings are planted in untilled earth to activate the development of genes for strength and resilience. Disturb the soil as little as possible.


Additionally, don’t give young plants a lifetime of nutrients when planting. Let them obtain their own nutrition using the symbiosis of soil biology, as occurs in Nature. Using Indigenous Micro-Organisms (IMO) technology ensures plants can obtain their own nutrition and guarantees they will not become fat or lazy.


Adequate soil microbes mean plants obtain exactly what they need, nothing more, at the exact time of need. This is the power of IMO and allows plants to fertilize themselves, again, as happens in Nature.


Furthermore, Master Cho stresses transplants by withholding water for a few days before transplanting. This makes the plant think it will die, and since no plant wants to die, it will burst with growth once planted to ensure survival.


Just prior to planting, he soaks the seedling’s roots in a seed-soaking solution (SES), which is rich in biochemistry that supports soil microbes and ensures the transplants' roots will bond with soil microbes. Seeds are also soaked in this solution.


This treatment process of stress, inoculation, and planting into intact soil conditions causes plants to turn on strong survival genes. This process is further exploited when plants are placed in soil with proper soil biology, which includes mycelial networks that are destroyed when the soil is disturbed. Direct sowing of seeds into intact soil with proper biology also activates this genetic response.


Allowing plants to obtain their own nutrition on demand is possible when adequate soil biology is present, and plants are not force-fed using water-soluble fertilizers, even if they are organic. This is accomplished in KNF with the use of IMO and the seed-soaking solution just prior to planting.


Allowing plants to obtain their own nutrition on demand furthers the development of the “Historical Nutrient of the Seed.”


So go ahead and give your plants a little tough love when they are young. Make sure they don’t succumb to “Till and Fertilizer Disease”, and maybe give your little trees love slaps when you walk past them.

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