in Farming & Forestry
an almost-lost legacy
Dr. Maynard Murray
trace elements in plant health & animal nutrition
© 1990 David Yarrow all rights reserved
Life on Earth began in the ocean. Of Earth's millions of species, 90% of all life is found in the seas. One teaspoon of seawater contains more life than a teaspoon of topsoil. Water is the solution of life's challenge to turn geology into biology—to tranform minerals into protoplasm.
Water dissolved minerals from the planet's crystal bedrock, to wash into early Earth's vast ocean. Rain and ice scoured the infant orb's dense granites, gathered in streams and rivers, which all ran together into a sea. Minerals in endless flowing solution accumulated in the ocean over many millennia—concentrated. Gaia's gently gestating belly gradually became seven salty seas.
Salt of the Earth
At evolution's eve, Earth's early ocean was a womb within which bacteria were born—the first living organisms—to begin to build a planetary biosphere. In this saline soup of minerals and amino acids, life learned to condense and crystallize molecular order inside a thin film oil membrane. Biological life appeared and cells were born. Simple, primitive bacteria lived by feeding on chemical energy stored as mineral ions and heat.
The earliest bacteria ate elemental iron, with a strong, dense charge of electrons. Certain cells fixed iron into crystals—insoluble dust that precipitated out of solution. Iron is magnetic, and its removal altered water's elemental ability to capture, hold and conduct energy. Over many millennia, these bacteria removed enough iron to form thick sea floor sediments. In thousands of millennia, these beds hardened into iron-rich rock.
Cell into Shell
In gradual geological time, iron was depleted in seawater, so new bacteria flourished by feeding on calcium and magnesium. These cells began to build tiny crystal capsules to surround and shield their soft plasmic bodies. Life learned how to house each blob of protoplasm in awesome architectures of atomic arrays—complex crystal shells to surround the living protoplasm. These primitive microscopic mineralized structures grew more complex into hard, dense, bony shells.
Over millennia, this developing diversity of living one-celled organisms evolved into complex cellular communities—colonies of coral, anchored like plants—and crustaceans, able to scuttle about. In death, the skeletons of these shell-making cells drifted to the sea floor to form sediments that became fossil beds of limestone.
More and more minerals were removed from Earth's early ocean to be store stored in seafloor sediments that in millenia became bedrock. And endlessly, water washed ever more minerals into the ocean. Meanwhile, in the deepest sea, hot molten magna from beneath Earth's mantle boiled up more minerals in hot springs and thermal vents. Thus, ever more salty grew the seas.
Sea in Seasoning
New solar-powered bacteria appeared to capture sunshine with magnesium, and spin photons into carbon rings called sugar. Photosynthesis with chlorophyll allowed life to unlock water's hydrogen energy, and store sunlight as dewdrops of sweetness: carbohydrates. Cyanobacteria, the first bluegreen algae, were first in the Plant Family of Earth's evolutionary path.
More and more minerals melted into Earth's waters and the seas grew saltier. All the while, the new photon-fixing fuel cells breathe in carbon dioxide, breathe out oxygen. Ions, oxygen and carbohydrates accumulated in Gaia's oceans to form a rich, living liquid brew.
New organisms appeared to exploit this energy-rich environment. Using the now abundant oxygen, new cells developed that could burn sugar to unleash its stored sunshine energy. These early evolution innovators were progenitors of the Animal Family: fish, reptile, amphibian, bird, mammal, and—eventually—man.
Full Menu of Minerals
Sea salt has all the elements needed for life. Over two billion years, land was worn down by wind and water, and elements washed out to sea. Thus, the sea received the enormous chemical richness and balance that once supported life on land.
So, when we savor the flavor of food, our fundamental flavor enhancer is salt from the sea. The sea is the original source of seasoning. In similar respect for the survival wisdom gained by hard-earned experience, we say that a veteran is "seasoned."
Natural sea salt is a faint gray-green, or faint beige, with soft, complex crystal structures.
But today's refined table salt is only sodium—pure white cubic crystals of chloride.
All the other elements in seawater are refined away—removed and taken out. Gone is the iron. Lost are potassium, calcium and magnesium. And many more minor minerals and trace elements that we can barely measure, and whose biological purpose we only recently began to recognize and understand.
However, many more mineral elements are essential to Nature's most delicate and intelligent biochemical operations, such as hormones, neurotransmitters and genetics. Heavy metal elements in the bottom three rows of the Periodic Table of Elements are also critical to biology, but they are present—not at parts per million like trace elements—or even parts per billion. Rather, it is becoming clear that elements in the lowest rows of the Periodic Tableare needed at parts per trillion—one million millionth. This is the current threshold of laboratory detection by biochemistry. These heaviest, most complex of all elements are used in such miniscule tiny amounts, I call them "pico-elements."
The Earth Renewal and Restoration Alliance — www.ancientforests.us — www.carbon-negative.us — www.nutrient-dense.info — 2/14/2009