Take a look at this amazing resource I’ve just discovered, it’s Dr Elaine Inghams lessons on the soil food web, as well as creating your own composts and compost teas/extracts. The information contained hereinafter is often behind a paywall.
“Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist at Rhodale Institute came to Hawi, Hawai’i in July 2012 to deliver a 5 day seminar dedicated to studying, understanding, and improving our soil biology to assist in ecologically sound agricultural practices. This is where I got my introduction to the microscope and learned much of it’s importance. This was some of the best 30 hours of class ever, and I often re-watch this epic series to refresh myself and discover more as I tune my own magnification of understanding this microscopic wonderland.” – Drake of Natural Farming Hawaii.
This presentation consists of 18 videos containing a total of 26 hours of footage. For information purposes the audio quality is a little poor and the presentation slides are slightly out of focus.
“Neem seed cake also reduce alkalinity in soil, as it produces organic acids on decomposition. Being totally natural, it is compatible with soil microbes, improves and rhizosphere microflora and hence ensures fertility of the soil. Neem Cake improves the organic matter content of the soil, helping improve soil texture, water holding capacity, and soil aeration for better root development.” – Wikipedia
There it is, another added benefit of the Neem Cake is its ability to create a favourable growing environment on the more alkaline soils. So not only are you getting an excellent source of organic nutrients and the “pest and disease resistance” it’s also working as a soil conditioner too.
The below shows how soil PH affects the availability of nutrients to the plants, it’s useful as a general guide.
Check out this incredible talk that took place in March at the ‘Permaculture Voices 2 (PV2)’ conference. This is a free talk shared by Diego, the creator and host of the event, he shared it to promote the talks done by the other speakers.
Paul’s central premise is that habitats have immune systems, just like people, and mushroom forming fungi are the foundation of the foodwebs of land based organisms.
Our close evolutionary relationship to fungi can be the basis for novel pairings that lead to greater sustainability and immune enhancement. As we are now fully engaged in the 6th Major Extinction (“6 X”) on planet Earth, our biospheres are quickly changing, eroding the life support systems that have allowed humans to ascend. Unless we put into action policies and technologies that can cause a course correction in the very near future, species diversity will continue to plummet, with humans not only being the primary cause, but one of the victims.
Fungi, particularly mushrooms, offer some powerful, practical solutions, which can be put into practice now. Paul will discuss his groundbreaking research utilizing their cellular networks to create molecular bridges governing the evolution of sustainable habitats. The implications of his research are far-reaching and could spark a paradigm shift to a better future.
A biochar-based soil improver, enriched with species of mycorrhizal fungi, actinomyces bacteria and trace elements is helping to combat the root-knot nematode – significantly increasing yields for organic tomato growers in Portugal.
Biochar is a highly porous, high carbon form of charcoal used to improve soil nutrition, growing conditions and soil structure. It is made from any waste woody biomass that has been charred at a low temperature with a restricted supply of oxygen, a process called pyrolysis. This process results in a stable form of carbon that is removed from the atmospheric carbon cycle when added as a soil amendment.
“Where we have incorporated Carbon Gold Soil Improver in the very sandy soil at our Portuguese nursery we have seen a 7% yield increase and a lower level of nematode infestation than areas that were not treated.” – Paul Howlett, Head of Agronomy at Vitacress Tomatoes
Vitacress Tomatoes (formerly Wight Salads) trialled Soil Association and SKAL approved enriched biochar from UK biochar company, Carbon Gold, from June 2013 to April 2014 in order to improve the sandy soils at their Portuguese nursery. They applied 2kg per square meter to a 5 hectare trial plot taken to a depth of 30cm, analysing the outcomes against a 5 hectare control area with the same crop.
The increase in crop yield was significant. By week 24 they realised a 7% higher yield, (an additional 0.9kg per m2) compared to the 5ha control plot. This equated to an additional 2,600kg Piccolo Cherry on the Vine tomatoes.
In the Vitacress trial plots it became evident that the colonies of mycorrhizal fungi, using biochar as a refuge in the soil, were able strike out at parasitic Meloidogyne nematodes, enticing and devouring the microscopic pests and protecting the plant roots from attack.
Field investigations between 2002 and 2011 identified soil structural degradation to be widespread in SW England with 38% of the 3243 surveyed sites having sufficiently degraded soil structure to produce observable features of enhanced surface-water runoff within the landscape. Soil under arable crops often had high or severe levels of structural degradation. Late-harvested crops such as maize had the most damaged soil where 75% of sites were found to have degraded structure generating enhanced surface-water runoff. Soil erosion in these crops was found at over one in five sites. A tendency for the establishment of winter cereals in late autumn in the South West also often resulted in damaged soil where degraded structure and enhanced surface-water runoff were found in three of every five cereal fields. Remedial actions to improve soil structure are either not being undertaken or are being unsuccessfully used. Brown Sands, Brown Earths and loamy Stagnogley Soils were the most frequently damaged soils. The intensive use of well-drained, high quality sandy and coarse loamy soils has led to soil structural damage resulting in enhanced surface-water runoff from fields that should naturally absorb winter rain. Surface water pollution, localised flooding and reduced winter recharge rates to result from this damage. Chalk and limestone landscapes on the other hand show little evidence of serious soil structural degradation and <20% of fields in these landscapes generate enhanced runoff.
DIRECT DOWNLOAD: https://planetpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/sum12068.pdf
Found this book on soil biology which highlights the importance of this soil food web. Excellent microscopy photos here, well worth checking over if you’ve never seen them before or if your thinking about looking at soil under a microscope. It also covers several other things like Seasonal Microbial Activity, Typical Numbers of Soil Organisms in Healthy Ecosystems, Methods for Measuring the Food Web etc. I loved reading this, I’m sure anyone who’s interesting in anything plant/soil related would too.
DIRECT DOWNLOAD: https://planetpermaculture.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/soil-biology.pdf
A good little video showing different aspects that affect how well a soil manages the water that falls on it, will it run off or move down into the soil. Will it have a negative impact with run off and flooding or will it have a positive impact on plants and aquifers.
Altough only an introduction it touches on things such as soil compaction, drainage, leaching, capillary action in unsaturated soils, gravity as the dominant force that moves water downward in saturated soils. The soils texture and structure, platy, prismatic, columnar, granular, and blocky soils. Percolation rates and pore sizes etc