British scientists have cracked the global earthworm mystery: they have worked out how the planet’s great subterranean reprocessing system copes with the poisons that would choke most herbivores.
Earthworms underwrite almost all life on earth: they drag fallen leaves below the soil and digest them, to excrete that rich mix of loam and living things called topsoil. Every year, 35 billion tons of dead grass and leaf litter get turned over by the worms and other soil fauna. But the catch is that some plants are really poisonous, and all plants contain some toxins designed by evolution to discourage demolition by herbivores, and these toxins carry on working even after leaf fall.
But earthworms seem to have the stomach for almost anything vegetable. And Manuel Liebeke and Jakob Bundy of Imperial College in London have the answer. They and colleagues report in the journal Nature Communications that that the earthworm’s gut contains a suit of molecules that neutralise the polyphenols that give plants their colour, serve as antioxidants and discourage many ravenous grazers.
The worm’s internal defences have been identified and pinpointed by sophisticated visual imaging, and named drilodefensins. The researchers calculate that drilodefensins are so abundant that for every person on the planet there may be at least one kilogram of the molecules in the worms under their feet.
Which is why we are all here: researchers last year confirmed that the simple existence of earthworms in the soil means that crop yields may increase on average by 25% and the weight of all foliage above ground by 23%. The great biologist and evolutionary pioneer Charles Darwin called them “nature’s ploughs.”
But, the Imperial team point out, without the earthworm’s arsenal of drilodefensins, there wouldn’t be much soil to plough.
Continue reading “Answer To Earthworm’s Ability To Digest Poisons Unearthed By Scientists”
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.
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
I found this a really interesting video showing how bacteria and fungi, along with the rest of those little critters from the soil food web work together to create humus (soil/compost) from just a sand substrate. This captures the process over a one year period in a time-lapse video showing the formation of algae and moss on top of the inoculant and then seeding it to create plants, as the process develops it results in the creation of a soil layer. It also details the process she went through to get to this point and at the end shows us some microscopy sequences of the organisms in this soil food web. There is also another video below which briefly shows a little more details. Seeing this makes me want a microscope even more now.
MORE INFORMATION: https://vimeo.com/117682077
EBOOK (GERMAN): http://www.boku.ac.at/seiten-ohne-oe-zuordnung/humusplattform/humusbuch/
DIRECT VIDEO DOWNLOAD: https://vimeo.com/122856716/download?t=1427851098&v=348742480&s=e938bd1055c8c0714e5b837fefae97e2
“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
Check out this excellent talk by respected soil biologist Dr Elaine Ingham who was the keynote speaker at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (in England).
Discover what is going on down there in the life of the soil? Who is eating who? Who is releasing and who is locking up nutrients? How can you put these organisms to work and reduce your own workload?
Relatively short video talking all about Mycorrhizal fungi, from what it is to what it does. Interesting for those of you who want to get a good overview of what the processes are that these fungi utilise and how they form a symbiotic relationship with the plant.
My advice would be to inoculate the roots of your potted plants with these beneficial fungi/bacteria to give them a good protection for the period before they and transplanted into the ground/soil. Give them the best start in life they can get I say, get that good fungi in before the bad can get its foot in the door.