Dr Elaine Inghams ‘Soil Food Web’ Lectures

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.

LINK: http://naturalfarminghawaii.net/learn-natural-farming/elaine-ingham-seminar/
PLAYLIST: https://youtu.be/a5Lbag-4Dew?list=PLEF3AC2CFE07692A4

Biochar Helps Combat Nematodes And Increases Yields


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.
Continue reading “Biochar Helps Combat Nematodes And Increases Yields”

Microscopy Photos Showing The Hidden Life Within The Soil


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

Life In The Soil: A Perspective To Healthy Farming

“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.

PART 2: https://vimeo.com/90902847
PART 3: https://vimeo.com/90908150
PART 4: https://vimeo.com/90913699
PART 5: https://vimeo.com/90913700

Soil Biology Premier Book


The creatures living in the soil are critical to soil health. They affect soil structure and therefore soil erosion and water availability. They can protect crops from pests and diseases. They are central to decomposition and nutrient cycling and therefore affect plant growth and the amounts of pollutants in the environment. The soil is also home to a large proportion of the world’s genetic diversity.

The free online Soil Biology Primer version is an introduction to the living component of soil and how it contributes to agricultural productivity and air and water quality. The Primer includes chapters describing the soil food web and its relationship to soil health and chapters about soil bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms.

The online Primer includes all of the text of the printed original, but not all of the images of the soil organisms. The full story of the soil food web is more easily understood with the help of the illustrations in the printed (or PDF) version.

Elaine R. Ingham
Andrew R. Moldenke, Oregon State University
Clive A. Edwards, Ohio State University

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/soils/health/biology/ (free online version)
http://urbanext.illinois.edu/soil/SoilBiology/soil_biology_primer.htm (also sell phyical copy $16+shipping)
http://www.nofanj.org/LiteratureRetrieve.aspx?ID=104155 (online version in PDF format)


https://sellfy.com/p/sINN/ (Digital copy $25)

Toxin Produced By Oyster Mushroom Effective Against Nematodes


The toxin produced by pleurotus ostreatus reduces the head size of nematodes.

“Many detrimental nematodes exist, including parasitic plant and animal nematodes. The Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is a famous mushroom that preys upon live nematodes. However, there have been no details reported on the mechanism of this predatory activity. Therefore, we investigated the predatory relationship between the nematode and P. ostreatus as a potential way of exterminating other various detrimental nematodes. Upon invasion by the nematode, the mushroom defends itself by causing the nematode’s head to shrink in size (anti-nematode activity). Our data suggest that this anti-nematode mechanism is associated with the peroxide of linoleic acid.”

Maybe this could be useful for things such as root-knot nematodes. Growing Oyster Mushrooms on your patch could turn out to not only tasty but also act as a natural “pesticide” as well. I’ll certainly be inoculating a few logs for the allotment this summer, maybe even some burlap sacks like Paul Statmets mentions in the last video, I believe he said the weaving is conductive to the fungi developing quickly.

SOURCE: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18379043

Neem Cake Pest And Disease Resistance


Interesting little study concerning the positive effects this product can have on pests and diseases. Neem cake is a by-product from cold pressing of neem tree fruits and kernels and the solvent extraction process for neem oil. It’s often used as a natural source of macro (NPK) nutrients and other essential micro nutrients, it also acts as a “nitrification inhibitor” which prolongs the availability of nitrogen in the soil. I always add this to my potting mix in very small amounts, it goes a lot way, I think it’s great stuff. I’ve also started using it as a soil dressing on my allotment too. Nice permaculture product too, multifunctional uses, “recycled/reused” and organic.

“The effects of neem cake, a nutrient-rich organic material derived from neem seed, on plant-parasitic nematodes, Verticillium dahliae, and seedling damping-off diseases caused by Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium aphanidermatum were investigated. In greenhouse trials, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) caused a 67%–90% reduction in the number of lesion (Pratylenchus penetrans) and root-knot (Meloidogyne hapla) nematodes in tomato roots grown in three different soils. In the field, 1% neem cake (mass/mass soil) reduced the number of lesion nematodes by 23% in corn roots and 70% in soil around roots. Population densities of free-living nematodes were either enhanced or not affected by neem cake treatment. In laboratory tests, addition of 3% neem cake (mass/mass soil) to soil killed V. dahliae microsclerotia and increased soil pH from 5.2 to 8.7. Killing of microsclerotia appeared to be caused by generation of ammonia during decomposition of neem cake. In growth room assays, addition of 2% neem cake (mass/mass peat-based mix) to R. solani -infested peat-based mix 28 days before planting radishes reduced damping-off severity. In a sandy loam soil artificially infested with R. solani and a muck soil naturally infested with damping-off pathogens, addition of 0.5% neem cake (mass/mass soil) had no immediate effect on damping-off, whereas incubation of the amended soil for 7 days before planting radish or cucumber reduced damping-off severity. This suggested that neem cake was not directly toxic to the damping-off pathogens but that during incubation neem cake may have created a biological climate that was suppressive to disease.”

Continue reading “Neem Cake Pest And Disease Resistance”

The Green Manure Crop With Added Bite

The Green Manure Crop With Added Bite

Caliente Mustard Seed is not just a green manure it also acts as a “biofumigant” for the soil. Biofumigants suppress various soil borne pests and diseases by releasing naturally occurring compounds when you incorporate them back into the soil.

The foliage must be crushed or finely chopped for it to release a natural gas (isothiocyanate) which effectively reduces and suppresses a range of harmful nematodes and diseases in the soil.

The combination of biofumigation plus the digging in of the green material (organic matter), increases beneficial soil microbes, which out-compete pathogen microbes helping to keep soil diseases down.

Caliente Mustard is a Brassica so if problems are present with Club-root, Caliente Mustard will succumb to the disease so use appropriately within a rotation

The benefits of use for the home gardener for most crop and soil types are:
-Improved root systems and a measurable increase in yield of following crops
-Suppression of a range of soil-borne diseases including Verticillium wilt, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Fusarium, and Sclerotinia
-Suppresses a range of harmful nematode species
Improved soil structure and fertility
-Suppresses weeds; mainly soft-seeded annuals, soon after incorporation

Caliente Mustard can be sown in spring or late summer for a quick crop, or mid-autumn for over-wintering in milder areas.

The finer the chop the better the result, running over the area with a rotary mower or strimmer to chop well before digging the chopped up foliage and roots into the top 15-20cm (6inches) of the soil within 20 mins of chopping up, otherwise 80% of the beneficial gases will escape into the air.
Rake the soil to a fine tilth and firm or roller to keep gases locked in. Water the area thoroughly.
Rest the soil for 14 days before sowing/planting new seeds/crops, then sow/grow crops as soon as possible to get the best benefits from Caliente Mustard.

Although I’m in the colder area I’m going to experiment and mix this in with my “field bean” crop for over wintering and cover with fabric, hopefully some will survive in amongst the field beans and I’ll dig the lot in come Spring 2015. I’m hoping they’ll survive in little “micro climate” pockets with the added assistance of the horticultural fabric.