By now most of us should agree that happy, healthy plants produce tight, dank buds. What makes a plant happy an healthy though? Simply put, plants that have a strong taproot rooting them deeply into the earth and connected to the web of organic sentience while absorbing energy directly from the source of life energy, the sun, have a certain vibrance which is visible to the in-tune eye. They are happy. Happiness is the first step to health.

The second step to health is nutrition. As with humans, happy plants that have a complete range of macro and micro nutrients, including all the trace elements availlable to them, are able to build strong and resilient bodies with advanced immune systems capable of fighting off parasites and diseases.

Biophilic cultivators know that the most effective way to give a plant access to the nutrition it needs, is to cultivate in living soil where the complexities of nature’s living technology, the soil food web, nurtures our plants and takes care of their every need. For some of us, this is all that we need to know to cultivate. For those who wish to gain a deeper insight though, I highly recommend following the work of Elaine Ingham and John Kempf respectively. The infographic we are discussing today was put together by John and is a beautiful synopsis of the requirements for peak plant health.

John’s Plant Health Pyramid is comprised of 4 levels with a logical break between level 2 and 3. Let’s take a closer look at the various levels:


Level 1 happy plants’ level of photosynthesis increases by 150 – 600% and the carbohydrate profile changes to be composed of a high proportion of complex carbohydrates with low levels of non-reducing sugars in the plant sap. This aids plants in developing resistance to soil-borne fungal pathogens. The plant’s critical mineral requirements to reach this stage is; magnesium, iron, manganese, nitrogen, and phosphorus.


Plants that reach level 2 will begin converting all soluble nitrogen compounds into amino acids and proteins very efficiently. What this means is that there will be no nitrates or ammonium in the plant sap and as such, level 2 plants become resistant to insects with simple digestive systems, especially larval and sucking insects such as tomato horn worms, cabbage loopers, corn borers, corn ear-worms, aphids, leafhoppers, white flies, and thrips. Critical minerals for level 2 are magnesium, sulfur, molybdenum, and boron.


At level 3, plants will start absorbing most of their nutrition in the form of microbial metabolites. This highly efficient way of absorbing nutrition allows the plants to start storing surplus energy in the form of lipids (fats). The stored fats increase the plant’s resistance to all of the airborne fungal and bacterial pathogens such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, late blight, fire blight, rust, bacterial speck, and bacterial spot which land on the leaf surface because the waxes and oils on the leaf surface serve as a shield to prevent the enzymes from working.

Level 3 is where the logical break lies in the pyramid because to reach level 3, plants require a very aggressive plant microbiome in the rhizosphere to begin absorbing the majority of their nutrition in the form of microbial metabolites. It is at level 3 that we can start seeing the effects of an intact microbiome. Biophilic cultivators know that a no-till strategy with companions and cover crops is crucial to maintaining a living rhizosphere and the incumbent vigorous microbiome.

Level 4: Increased Plant Secondary Metabolite Synthesis

The plant’s immune pathways (SAR and ISR) are triggered by microbes in the plant’s microbiome and the immune system is now at peak performance. Plants develop increased resistance to the entire beetle family as well as root rot nematodes, and viruses.

The direct link between the micobiome, plant metabolic efficiency and disease resistance can be observed here and while the details are incredibly complex, the Biophilic cultivator can benefit from this complexity by adhering to a few simple principles. Good compost, high quality mineral rock dust, companions and cover crops in no-till beds with a broad spectrum microbial inoculant is a sure fire recipe for success.

The original, high resolution infographic can be downloaded here.

Till next time; May the microbiome be with you!

All credit to John Kempf from AEA.