What are Dynamic Accumulators?
Because some plants tend to be very high in certain minerals, and because many of those plants have a deep root system, it is thought that these plants mine minerals from deep in the soil, accumulate them in their leaves, and fertilize the soil when their leaves drop and decompose. Such a plant is considered to be a dynamic accumulator.
I began this post 3 years ago. At that time, my working title was Dynamic Accumulators: Plants Which Solve the Problem of Mineral Deficient Soil. As I read, though, I found lots of lists of plants and the minerals they bring to the surface. I found many articles and books touting the practice. I found lots of anecdotal evidence. What I couldn’t find, however, was proof. And my article languished.
In the Permaculture world (of which I am a proponent) dynamic accumulation is often discussed as a proven fact. The truth is that there is little in the way of scientific research at this point to confirm the theory.
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When I trained to become a Master Gardener, it was stressed that I could never provide information to someone (in my role as a MG) that was not research-based. That does not mean that within my own garden I don’t try things, or implement practices that have not been scientifically studied.
And yes, I have dynamic accumulators growing in my garden.
What We Know
We do know, through scientific research, that there are plants that grow well in soils with high concentrations of heavy metals and essential nutrients, which do accumulate in the leaves of those plants. (Source)
According to this article, a 1939 study showed that white bud disease in corn was associated with zinc deficiency. Allowing zinc accumulator weeds to grow in the fields during fallow years prevented the disease in later years.
We also know that a plant cannot accumulate a mineral that is not present in the soil. So, to claim that a certain plant will accumulate a certain mineral can be misleading. (This leads to another promising idea that has been much touted but little researched – that weeds are indicators of the minerals in the soil below, and will not grow if certain minerals are not present).
. . . And What We Don’t Know
What has not been studied is how available the minerals in the leaves are after decomposition to the plants to which the leaves have been applied. There are several factors which can affect availability such as soil life, soil ph, soil structure, and even climate.
Where Does That Leave Us
My layman’s opinion concerning dynamic accumulation is that it is an idea that makes a lot of sense and an idea that I hope will be studied so that we can have proof that it is a valid way to bring needed minerals to the surface of our soils.
The fact that this method mimics nature strongly suggests to me that it will be proved a valuable method of re-mineralizing soils.
In the meantime, do I recommend that you incorporate plants which are dynamic accumulators into your garden? Sure. As long as you do so in an educated manner. In a way that understands that this is still a theory and not a proven fact.
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