Herbicides containing glyphosate are widely used in agriculture and private gardens, however, surprisingly little is known on potential side effects on non-target soil organisms. In a greenhouse experiment with white clover we investigated, to what extent a globally-used glyphosate herbicide affects interactions between essential soil organisms such as earthworms and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). We found that herbicides significantly decreased root mycorrhization, soil AMF spore biomass, vesicles and propagules. Herbicide application and earthworms increased soil hyphal biomass and tended to reduce soil water infiltration after a simulated heavy rainfall. Herbicide application in interaction with AMF led to slightly heavier but less active earthworms. Leaching of glyphosate after a simulated rainfall was substantial and altered by earthworms and AMF. These sizeable changes provide impetus for more general attention to side-effects of glyphosate-based herbicides on key soil organisms and their associated ecosystem services.
“Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, earthworms, and what lies between—a healthy ecosystem underfoot is key to the vigor of life above ground. A leader in soil microbiology and author of the USDA’s Soil Biology Primer, Dr. Elaine Ingham will detail the complex interactions within the soil that make clean water, clean air, and life for higher creatures possible. Learn to foster and sustain the proper balance of soil organisms, and hear how compost tea can stimulate plant productivity and stave off disease. Dr. Ingham is also the founder of Soil Foodweb, Inc. and the former chief scientist for the Rodale Institute.”
I found this to be an excellent and completely fascinating introduction to the soil food web, I’d highly recomend it. This comes in 5 parts and is around 3 hours long in total, I know I’ll be listening to this one more than once thats for sure, check it out and be prepared to learn a lot from this fasinating woman.
I came across a fantastic free ebook today, found on a website called Farming Secrets. It originally appears to be from the Sustainable Land Use department within the State of Tasmania. The full title is “Soil Alive: Understanding And Managing Soil Biology on Tasmanian Farms”. It looks extremely useful, I’m going to be printing it out to digest over the coming days, it’s a short one at 76 pages but looks jam packed with knowledge.
Soil health requires a balance between the physical, chemical and biological components of the soil.
This book aims to support soil health by promoting improved understanding of soil biological characteristics. It describes soil as an ecosystem, helps identify the beneficial organisms in your
soil and provides guidance on how farmers can adapt their management practices to extract maximum benefits from a thriving soil biological community. With clear photographs and illustrations, this book will be of value to anyone with an interest in growing healthy and vigorous plants on healthy and fertile soils.
You can also find other free things on the link below.
South-west plants share fungal symbiosis for nitrogen uptake
An investigation into nitrogen transfers between plants has found that different species can share nutrients through fungal interactions.
The study looked into numerous nutrient-acquisition strategies of plants to determine if nitrogen transfers between native plants exist in nutrient-poor soils in south-west Australia.
We’ve had this question [of] how is it possible that our ecosystem has so many species when the soils are so poor?” co-author Professor Erik Veneklaas says.
“What we’ve shown here is that it is the balance between positive and negative interactions that could help species survive together and in a way collaborate whilst they also compete.”
Lead author and UWA’s François Teste and his team found that plant species connected by both arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungal interactions benefitted most from nitrogen transfer between plants.
AM interactions penetrate plant roots allowing nutrient intake, whilst EM interactions form sheaths around the roots of plants rather then infiltrating them.
I really enjoyed this talk by Prince Charles on sustainable food production, couldn’t fault it what so ever really, I particularly liked the part he discussed regarding farming subsidies and a redistribution of funds towards more sustainable systems of production. Make sure you watch the full talk to get the full context of his argument for including the “true cost” of how we are currently producing food and why it is we need to change.
The Prince of Wales told an audience of students and faculty (in May 4 2011) that the model of food production prevalent in the 21st century world just doesn’t work. This was at the “The Future of Food” at Georgetown University, hosted by Washington Post Live.
“We will have to develop much more sustainable, or durable forms of food production because the way we have done things up to now are no longer as viable as they once appeared to be,”
I suppose if your lazy, busy or have a short attention span you could watch this quick 10 minute speech he done on the same issue:
I found this documentary really excellent. Its definitely worth watching the full thing but I found it particularly fascinating (at 20min, 24seconds) when the lady speaks about her farm having 20 different species of grass on her pastures. She goes on to explain how this enables her to have a constant ground cover all year round and due to how dense the roots are it holds and binds the soil together preventing the hooves tearing it up. Really quite amazing information on how biodiversity of grass species is the key to farming cattle year on year without the ground being damaged by the animals them selves, lets the farm continue on without being affected by things such as global oil prices too.
“Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.
With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family’s wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year’s high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.+
Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.
This documentary was first shown in 2009 on BBC2 as part of the Natural World series.”