In the course of this article on future agricultural possibilities that actually build the soil, George Monbiot passes on some interesting facts about plant interaction with soil. Plants release between 11% and 40% of the sugars they make into the soil, into the area around the plant called the rhizosphere. These released sugars activate bacteria in the rhizosphere needed for the plant’s health and growth. The rhizosphere acts as an “external gut” for the plant.
The soil is part of a web of relations, and to build the soil, to act in its interests, is to involve yourself in that web of relations.
Where does the being of the plant end and the being of the soil begin? The usual way of thinking would say the plant ends at its outermost layer of cells. But is that true? The plant could not survive without that area of soil known as the rhizosphere–but we separate the plant and the soil for the purposes of our systems of classification. Is our language part of the problem? Do we impose separation where there is none, simply because of the biases of our mental models?