At the Quivira Conference, Christine Jones spoke about integrating the carbon, nitrogen, and water cycles in order to increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil to benefit plants. The building and maintaining of soil is essential to having success in farming and maintaining the land. While many place emphasis on the overall lack of nitrogen in our soils, Christine emphasized that there is actually an overabundance of inorganic nitrogen, but the problem is that we are depleting our sources of organic nitrogen, which is the most natural and healthiest for the plants.
Because of the fact that nitrogen deficiency is such a huge problem, it is important to be able to tell whether or not a plant is nitrogen deficient when you are trying to maximize crops. There are many visible signs, including clean roots , which alert you to the fact that your plant is not establishing symbiotic relationships with any fungi or bacteria, which means that they are not fixing the nitrogen they need. Fertile topsoil is a direct product of photosynthesis and microbial resynthesis. Resynthesis is the process in which inorganic nitrogen is converted to organic nitrogen inside of a plant, to provide for what the plant needs to survive.
Root nodules, evidence of a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Root_nodules#mediaviewer/File:Medicago_italica_root_nodules_2.JPG
So… what does this mean for farmers? Farmers need to avoid using too much inorganic nitrogen in the form of fertilizers. This decreases the ability of a plant to produce or fix its own nitrogen, and is bad for soil bacteria because they are no longer needed for their symbiotic relationship with a plant. Soil needs bacteria, so fertilizers are actually bad for the plants that are in the soil as well as the soil fertility as a whole. This is bad for future generations of plants, and very bad for farmers looking to get the most out of their fields.