On the Move: Hungry Plants Actively Seek Nutrients in Rock Minerals

Plant Roots

Just 25-cents when it was published, the May 1948 issue of Popular Mechanics is filled with advertisements and articles from a very different era. (You can view an online copy of the magazine here.)

One article, titled “Hungry Plants Guide the Ore Prospector (pp. 130-133),” begins like this:

“Flowers make a tireless search for valuable minerals, too. By following botanical signposts, one prospector found a fortune in gold through the stem of a horsetail weed.”

The hunger of plants for certain rock minerals is described as the secret behind geobotanical prospecting. In their search for the nutrients they need to grow, plants and trees send their roots to probe deep in the soil. Instead of carrying picks and pans, modern prospectors carry glass jars to collect leaf and stem specimens. By combining plant knowledge with a bit of common “horse sense,” they can then pinpoint areas of high mineral concentration.

In a way, experienced farmers are a bit like the ‘modern’ geobotanical prospectors profiled in the 1948 Popular Mechanics article. By analyzing the appearance and overall health of their crops, they can readily identify the presence—or rather, the lack of—essential minerals and trace elements necessary for healthy plant growth and optimal yields.

Of course, healthy crops require healthy soil. When rock material decomposes and reacts with soil microorganisms and plant material, it releases essential minerals and nutrients that are the keys to soil health. Unfortunately, most of our world’s agricultural soils have been depleted of rock minerals. One solution is soil remineralization with rock dust.

By mimicking the Earth’s own method for producing healthy soil, rock dust helps support the biological processes required for optimal and sustainable plant growth. We need only to observe the self-preserving behavior of plants as described in the article from 1948. Recent research supports the conclusion that plants aren’t nearly as passive as they seem. Given the opportunity, plants will actively seek to acquire nutrients from their surroundings to overcome any imbalances. Fine roots will attack rock particles as a physiological consequence of mineral deficiency.

In soil that is properly mineralized with rock dust, however, plants don’t have to work nearly as hard to survive.

So which rock dust is best? Across a variety of conditions, volcanic basalt has been proven to minimize deficiencies, improve root systems, and help grow stronger crops with higher yields and higher levels of nutrition. For a closer look at the benefits of basalt, read our previous blog post.


When looking for a soil amendment made of volcanic basalt, look for a high-quality product that is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) for use in organic production. One product that meets this standard is Cascade Minerals Remineralizing Soil Booster which is made entirely in the USA from all-natural volcanic basalt from Central Oregon.