The plot so far..
My 'theory' is that soil – as a living entity, evolved between 350-400 million years ago The period is Late Devonian, that leads to Carboniferous. This hypothesis Is based on the soil mesofauna – the springtails, mites (Oribatid and Mesostigmata) and nematodes that are found in all soils. They are all ‘primitive’ – evolutionarily speaking. The first springtail found is about 400 mya. They pre-date insects, which started (like dragonflies) in about 350mya
I also predicted that these small soil creatures co-evolved with tree evolution, all part of a colonisation of land. But what did that land consist of? The trees need a solid root structure to bring water from the soil to the uppermost part of the plant. Soil animals look after the roots, along with fungi and are paid in terms of food , while other small soil creatures deal with the dead matter plants produce along with dead fungal matter.
ASHES TO SOIL
Then somebody (thanks Matt) asked me whether volcanic dust had anything to do with it, as volcanic dust seemed to be around at the same time as the soil animals started to evolve. Volcanic Dust is widely known as being very good for plants. People talk about the best oranges and lemons on the slopes of volcanoes. Volcanic dust is sold as a fertiliser - with almost magical sounding qualities, yet sound science behind it.
And are the soil animals connected with the volcanic dust? Here is the story that unfurled..
All the essential mineral elements on that list are in volcanic dust. Chlorine and sulphur gas would be adsorbed on to the dust. So the Volcanic dust provides all the essential elements for plants (other nitrogen which would be in the atmosphere/water). It is hard to see how plants could have evolved anywhere (ie sedimentary or igneous rocks) else as there would not be that distribution of elements in say sand or sandstone.
If plants started to evolve in the stuff, then the little soil animals will come in (springtails come from the sea - you can see them on tidal ponds, and oribatid mouthparts exhibit marine beginnings) and recycle those essential minerals when the plant died. Instead of these essential elements running off in water/air to the oceans (see later) the little creatures would recycle them, enabling more plants to grow –
"Common sense" goes a long way in defining the concept of an essential element. However, a more precise set of criteria were established by Arnon and Stout in 1939, who stated that an essential element:
1. Must required for the completion of the life cycle of the plant.
2. Must not be replaceable by another element.
3. Must be directly involved in plant metabolism, that is, it must be required for a specific physiological function.
To Arnon and Stout's elEments should be added a fourth:
4. The element must required by a substantial number of plants
No wonder Volcanic Ash works so well as a fertiliser It supplies all those element that comply with the above. It has all the essential elements. making it essential not just for growth today, but evolution of yesteryear. A plant cannot do without any one of those essential elements..
In addition to the essential mineral elements are the beneficial elements, elements which promote plant growth in many plant species but are not absolutely necessary for completion of the plant life cycle, or fail to meet Arnon and Stout's criteria on other grounds.
RECOGNISED BENEFICIAL ELEMENTS ARE: Silicon (2000 mg/kg VD) in VD), sodium (2,500 mg/kg in VD), cobalt (40mg/kg in VD), and selenium (<1 mg/kg) VD)
Other elements that have been proposed as candidates for essential or beneficial elements include chromium, vanadium, and titanium, although strong evidence is lacking at this time (according to Wisconsin Dept)
ESSENTIAL NON-MINERAL ELEMENTS ARE:
Elements taken up as gas or water
Hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon
Sixteen plant food nutrients (13 below + hydrogen, carbon and oygen) are essential for proper crop development. All the solid ones are found in volcanic dust. Each is equally important to the plant, yet each is required in vastly different amounts. These differences have led to the grouping of these essential elements into three categories; primary (macro) nutrients, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients.
What is remarkably clear is that to get plants going, it is hard to see where else they could have evolved to get these minerals. They serve a variety of functions, essential for the process of living on drier land and becoming ‘vascular’. This is the stage where plants develop from structures with similar cells throughout to more differentiated structures (leaves, stems roots and ultimately flowers, that enable plants to carry out many more functions
3. Why these elements are essential
According to El Dorado Chemical Company these elements are essential for plants because..
Primary (macro) nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They are the most frequently required in a crop fertilization program. Also, they are need in the greatest total quantity by plants as fertilizer.
Why these elements are essential for plant growthThe Secondary nutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. For most crops, these three are needed in lesser amounts than the primary nutrients. They are growing in importance in crop fertilization programs due to more stringent clean air standards and efforts to improve the environment.
It is just about impossible to see how plants evolved elsewhere than volcanic dust. Nowhere else could provide this wide range of minerals, all essential to making the plant functions.
Nor is it that they are just 'essential' now.
They were also 'Essential' in getting from ferns to trees.
So I did a little test. It couldn't be described as scientific, but it was all I had to work with. Two very similar pots of plants that included a conifer and ivy. They looked remarkably similar. I treated them just about the same and their position was the also very similar. Nothing is identical in nature, but this was as close as it gets. The bowl treated with volcano dust grew better. But it was as it went into the autumn the big difference emerged. The red ivy version had not been treated whereas the green iveyed version had been treated with the volcanic dust. And that raises all sorts of questions (remembering it isn't v scientific, need lots more tests, like ...sings, need to be done). But if true, what would be the evolutionary advantage of maintaining chlorophyll production after the other plants had lost their chlorophyll?
4. Elements in the Periodic Table
Now have a look at where those essential elements are in the Periodic Table.
Out of all of the many natural elements, essential mineral elements, essential non-mineral elements, and beneficial elements are not randomly scattered! Instead they cluster in several groups on the periodic chart (see below..).
And would these elements in the Periodic Table co-incide with the stuff of volcanoes? I found out the answer, when visiting Jodrell Bank, that the volcano does not itself make the elements in the ash (I thought it did), because it hasnt got that sort of power. That comes from a much greater force - a star. So that is where that bunch of volcani elements comes from - the molten core of the earth. It seems to me (But would like somebody to explain) that it is not surprising that the elements are chemically related. And that bought life on to dry land. See Higher Plants
It is hard to imagine what the chances are of all these elements coming together by some random process at the same time – give or take a few million years. It is not just a matter of them all being essential, but they all have to be there together for all the plant parts to work together. You can’t have a stem without roots, Apparently the volcanoes cant create (this particularly pattern of elements in relation to each other in the Periodic Table. elements - that needs star size power. So the stuff that comes out of volcanoes is coming from the centre of the earth. That molten lava is predominantly iron. So that fits..
See how the volcanic dust helped both the evolution of soil and the evolution of higher plants.. Next Page