Not that long ago, we had a lightning storm. Lightning is such a rare occurrence in my neck of the woods that a few us gathered underneath a gazebo (with a well-stocked bar) to watch it.
Lightning happens when warm air hits colder air above it. The coming together of positive and negative charges to create a flash of lightning can result in the production of up to one billion volts of electricity. If a lightning strike hits a tree, it is capable of blowing it apart but, for those lucky plants that don’t take a direct hit, lightning is great news.
Our atmosphere contains around 78% nitrogen gas and plants love nitrogen. As a primary component of the amino acids that make up proteins, it is essential for building mass in plants. It is also one of the elements in chlorophyll, which is the green pigment so important to the process of photosynthesis. Amongst other things, nitrogen encourages green and leafy plants and, without it, they will struggle to grow and may even appear yellow and sickly.
Unfortunately for plants, they cannot take in nitrogen from the atmosphere the way they can carbon dioxide. This is because atmospheric nitrogen is triple bonded and plants are incapable of breaking that bond. Most plants get their nitrogen from organic matter in soils so they must rely on decaying plant or animal material to help them grow green and healthy. That is, until there’s a lightning storm and then they get a welcome boost of free liquid fertiliser.
The one billion volts worth of electricity created by lightning, breaks the triple bonds in atmospheric nitrogen. The free nitrogen attaches to water droplets, raining down on plants, a gift from above.
So, as I sipped my glass of wine that night, and watched the lightning, there was one thing I knew I didn’t need to do for a while and that was to feed my plants.