Photosynthesis is the process whereby plants fix carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, combined with water molecules (H2O), they utilize light energy (the sun) and convert it to chemical energy to produce organic compounds (C6H12O6) releasing oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere. Most references simply call the organic compounds sugar and, yes, the formula is a broad formula for glucose. However, I believe just saying “sugar” leads people to picture a sack of refined sugar you buy in the store. Plants do not produce highly refined, white sugar. But I digress.
Most descriptions of photosynthesis stop there emphasizing the benefits plants give us by releasing O2. After all, that is what we need to breathe. Maybe you are wondering what else can be said.
The thing is, the cycle doesn’t stop there. Please read on.
Recap: Plants fix CO2, combined with H2O they utilize light energy and convert it to chemical energy to produce organic compounds and O2. Now, here we go…
Plants utilize the organic compounds in structural growth, store some for future resources and use them for other regulatory processes. It (the plant) also exudes a portion of these organic compounds through the roots into the soil to be utilized by soil organisms for energy and food.
Organic matter (OM) builds in the soil as plants and soil organisms die. Microbes process the OM releasing plant available nutrients as they do so. As soil organisms die, more plant available nutrients are released. While all this digesting and processing is taking place, plants and organisms respire. Respiration is essentially the opposite of photosynthesis in that they utilize oxygen and exude carbon dioxide into the soil for release back into the atmosphere where it is taken up by plants once again.
This cycle is part of the soil’s self-regenerative capability and is, in fact, mandatory to all life on Earth.
Reality check: We need plants, but they do NOT need us! They created the atmosphere that enables us to exist. They are in essence environment builders.