Ask Ellen: Can lightning help my grass grow?

Ask Ellen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After a dry stretch, nothing can green up your garden like a good spring soaking of rain, but can lightning also act to help your grass grow?

The answer is, yes! To an extent.

When it comes to grass, one of the most important nutrients it needs to grow green is nitrogen. Nitrogen is often times found in fertilizers to help grass and plants get a boost.

Our atmosphere is rich in nitrogen, but the soil can’t just absorb it from the air. Nitrogen needs to have its bonds broken so it can transform into something the soil can absorb.

Lightning is powerful enough to break nitrogen bonds in the air.

As a bolt of lightning strikes through the sky, it’s shear strength breaks apart nitrogen bonds and leaves them stranded in the sky. The nitrogen looks for something to cling to and ends up attaching itself to two oxygen molecules. When this happens it creates nitrogen dioxide.

Nitrogen dioxide on its own won’t help the soil, but if there is rain with the thunderstorm (which there usually is), the nitrogen dioxide can dissolve into the water droplets and form nitrates!

As the rain hits the ground, it brings water and nitrates to the soil, helping the grass grow even greener than just rain alone.

It is difficult to tell how much nitrogen lightning can help bring to the ground, but the process is definitely real and scientifically proven. The question becomes; how much of the nitrates actually make it to the surface?

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