Tree Food  - Lets try to set the record straight.

Tree Food is one of the products of photosynthesis.  Energy from the sun is trapped and photosynthesis is the energy trapping process.  The tree manufactures its own food, (as well as food for many of its associates), with water, essential elements (such as phosphates, iron and magnesium) and the energy trapped from the sun.  Essential elements (not nutrients or food, play key roles in the processes of manufacturing food, but they are not the food). If you think that a bag of fertilizer is tree food, I suggest further study of photosynthesis.  People who claim to "FEED TREES" simply just do not understand photosynthesis.  If we could buy bags of true tree food, and feed trees, we would put the sun out of business.  Think, think, think. See "Food".   See "Photosynthesis".
Photo Compliments of Toni Keslick

Also, in the United States, when we say fertilizer we mean Nitrogen (N).  Hey buddy, there are 16 other essential elements.  When we add "N" we increases growth of the symplast and apoplast.  The apoplast holds the symplast in place and stores water, in the form of bound water, bound to the walls of cellulose, for future needs of the symplast.  With this increase in growth (addition of "N") comes a needed increase in food, thus an increase of the needs of the other 16 essential elements and water, for proper photosynthesis and maintenance of the increased mass of the  symplast.  So can we say we feed trees - that's silly.  What happens when photosynthesis fails because lack of water and essential elements?  Decline!  Did you know - Nurse logs add nutrients like cellulose, which certain microorganisms, can alter to glucose and use as food or nutrient?  Nurse logs also add elements like calcium, to the system, that becomes available, by the succession of microorganism and organisms, when trees need it.  Calcium is an important element starting to get more recognition with the decline of the Sugarbush.  See "Law of the Minimum".  See "Nitrogen".  See A Touch of Chemistry and Troubles in the Rhizosphere,  for starters.  Think, think, think!

Did you know, some plants require glucose, yet do not have chlorophyll for photosynthesis, e.g., the Ghost Flower?  It receives its food from plants which photosynthesize and transfer food, the process is called the bicarbohydrate transfer of plants.   See "Ghost Flower".  Did you know?  Nurse logs (downed wood) in certain ecological stages, are water reservoirs, which provide water to trees during dry times, which we do have, i.e., dry times, and now we are back to photosynthesis -water -and true food.  Water is one of the important chemicals needed for photosynthesis and the manufacture of food for the tree and associates.  So are we feeding trees and their associates?  Or are we removing components of photosynthesis thus limiting tree food in once fertile forest?.  Think! Think! Think!  We can feed the system by bringing back materials such as composted wood chips which provide food (Carbon based substances) for some of the the living soil components of tree associates.  Outer bark that contains suberin is often used for mulch, since bark mulch will not be broken down by soil microorganisms because of the suberin.  The bark mulch has aesthetic value, but the bark is of little value for providing energy-releasing compounds to soil microorganisms. Some trees store fats and oils as their reserve energy source.  The fats and oils are not soluble in water.  Many palms store oils.  Waxes on leaves and fruits are called lipids.  A Touch of Chemistry and Troubles in the Rhizosphere.

Note: If you look on page 373 in Merriam-Webster’s CollegiateŽ Dictionary, Tenth Edition you will find a list of Chemical Elements as well as symbols, atomic numbers and atomic weight.
In other words: If Dr. Shigo had ever talked about nutrients for trees or plants, in front of his professor, Dr. Lilly, he would have flunked the course, yet it is commonly used.  Everybody is doing it.  Well, we are not a part of that everybody, please understand.  A nutrient is a substance that contains the essentials for life in the best amounts.  That is why we have a nutritious food.  We have a nutritious this and a nutritious that.  It not only has an energy source, but it usually has elements, vitamins and all the other kinds of essentials.  Plants cannot, cannot, cannot, can’t, absorb nutrients.  Well everybody says it Keslick, it’s in the best of publications.  It’s because nobody has stopped them.  Are you going to stop them?  Saying you feed plants with plant food, calling fertilizer food and saying plants absorb nutrients, indicates an absolute ignorance of “photosynthesis”.  So when we hear people talking about plants and nutrients in the soil, which plants are absorbing, we know they just do not understand.  Do you not think it is time to stop some of these things?  Will you help us?  There are a few helpers out there and we need more.  Elements are single groups of atoms of the same kind.  They are potassium, phosphorus, etc.  So think about these things.  Next time you hear someone use the word nutrient, ask them what they mean?  Ask them how a plant absorbs an energy source?  Do you want to put the sun out of business?  Do you know what photosynthesis is?  Ask them.  Think about these things.  See we live in a world where if somebody makes a mistake and is not corrected pretty soon, they begin to believe its true.  Tolstoy said that years and years ago.  Read (Tolstoy).  His quotation is in Dr Shigo’s book on Modern Arboriculture right in the front.  We keep hearing things and we hear them in big places and we think their correct.  Dr Shigo’s professor would have flunked him if he would have used that word incorrectly or any other word incorrectly.  Think about these things, please, please, please think. 

In other words:  Food is a substance that provides an energy source, mostly.  Nutrient is a substance that provides an energy source, elements, and other substances essential for life, in types and amounts that can provide a healthy life.  Fertilizer is a substance that provides elements, as salts mostly, or in bonded forms, that require microorganisms to alter to forms that can be absorbed by plants. 

Foods are substances that contain an energy source mostly, and may contain some elements, and other substances.  The main part of food is the energy source.  There are junk foods, fatty foods, and healthy foods.  There are many diet books telling you about healthy foods.  Animals can absorb an energy source.  Plants cannot absorb an energy source. fertilizers are not plant foods. Fertilizers provide elements essential for growth of plants.  The elements are part of salts, usually, that ionize in water. Ions are charged particles; anions, negative, and cations, positive.  Plants "make" carbohydrates by trapping the light energy of the sun in a process called photosynthesis.  Sad that so many people who work with plants do not know this.  They call fertilizers plant food. Very sad.

If you believe that you can feed a plant, put the "food" on and then put the plant in the dark. See what happens. If you could feed plants, there would be no need for photosynthesis, or the light energy of the sun. Ridiculous! Stupid! Why do we keep using the sloppy term? Because everybody does it. More ridiculous! More Stupid! I, and many other people, refuse to be part of the everybody. Fertilizers are not plant food in the sense of having an energy source.

Outside Links On Topic:

1. Plants' essential chemical elements by Dr. Kevin T. Smith

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