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TÉMA: Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web

Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9405

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Hello Elaine,

two questions:
1
Once the life is back to the soil with the help of compost and compost tea how do we feed the beneficial organisms? Is it enough to add organic matter (compost, green manure, chop & drop cuttings, fallen leaves, left grass clippings, etc.) regularly? Or do we need special foods (kelp, molasses, oatmeal, etc.) in special situations? Do I get it right we have to feed the organisms in the soil and not the plants directly? (And the organisms will feed the plants)
2
What is a soil food web friendly way of making the soil acid for blueberries?
Do I need to care with it at all? A healthy food web won't alter the soil's PH to the right level "spontaneously"? (So I only have to care to bring back the full set of organisms)
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Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9406

  • joz
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Dear Elaine!

In practice, how can it be carried out to use two cattle's manure which accumulates 10 tons a year as compost tea? It is enough for five hectar orchard?

Thanks,
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Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9408

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I'm looking forward to some good discussions with all of you. In the world of agriculture, the focus has been on the visible-to-the-naked-eye part of the plant. But more of the plant is actually below-ground than above-ground. Additionally, the plant only obtains two things from above-ground: carbon dioxide and sunlight. Everything else comes through the roots. And yet most agronomists ignore, forget, and belittle the below-ground.

In nature, when no one is applying inorganic, soluble fertilizers, or using toxic chemicals to "help the plants grow better", how is it that those plants survive? Where do their nutrients come from? How can they keep growing, year after year, immobilizing nutrients in their stems and roots, taking that set of nutrients out of circulation? How can plants attain massive size and hold all those nutrients, and yet, keep growing?

Was the "Green Revolution" in fact a long-term solution to "feeding the world", or just a short term, stop-gap? The nutrient-over-loading in our rivers, lakes, streams, and ground water are telling us that the Green Revolution was merely a short term measure, and that ultimately, more harm than good is the consequence of following those practices.

Permaculture needs to include, and already does in many cases, knowledge about the life in the soil. But the WHOLE food web needs to be understood. Not just bacteria. Or just fungi. but how these decomposer groups interact with protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods, roots, decomposing above-ground plant material, water quality, soil minerals, rocks, pebbles, etc.

So, I hope to be able to spur some thinking during these interactions, and help you understand life in the soil a bit better.
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Az alábbi felhasználók mondtak köszönetet: ecovitka, AttilaK, kovibali, mzozo

Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9410

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Response to the first part of #9401:
If I just started a new garden/field and before planting/seeding I want to amend the poor soil (dirt) with compost top dressing (without any kind of tilling, plowing, etc.) how long does it take to get better soil (better structure, better food web) in needed depth?

The time it takes to move organisms into the soil depends on a number of factors, soil structure probably being the most important. The better structured the soil, meaning the more airways, passageways and hallways that were built in the past by bacteria and fungi, and are being maintained by bacteria and fungi, the more likely that added organisms will be able to move deeper in the soil.

So, go to your soil, and determine structure as you go deeper into the soil.

One way to do this is to dig a hole, but gently left out the material, paying attention to visible signs of airways, passageways, and openings, pores, within the soil. Especially with clay, the soil can compact so easily if the fungi aren't present to solubilize calcium from the clays, sands, silt and organic matter particles, making that calcium available to floculate the clays.

Another way to do this assessment is to take a metal rod and push it into the soil. when it gets a little bit difficult to push the rod into the soil, the roots of your plants will have trouble. If the plant is healthy it will be able to push its roots through that little bit of compaction. But if you have to apply some force to push that metal rod into the soil, then most plants won't be able to grow into that area, and the plant will not grow well. Plants that can't put their roots down as deep as they ought to be able to go will not be healthy, will not be able to compete with weeds, will suffer drought problems, pests, etc. Yield will be low.

If you can't push the metal rod into the soil at all, maybe try another area a few meters away to make sure you aren't hitting a rock, but if you discover a compaction layer so bad that you can't push the metal rod into the ground anywhere, then it will be hard for the organisms to move into that area and fix the problem.

Please recognize that compaction changes with the moisture content of the soil. You will find all the worst-compacted areas in the spring when there is good moisture in the soil. But as soil dries out, you will discover additional layers of compaction that only come to light as the soil dries. check your soil often during the year and find out about these problems.

These problems can be fixed by adding organisms. when is best to add organisms..... in the spring, with the moisture helping the organisms to get deeper, without you having to work to get the organisms into the soil.

What I have found is that applying good, aerobic compost, or mulch (lightly ground up organic plant debris) with a little good aerobic compost mixed into it (or compost extract or tea applied to the mulch to get the organisms into the mulch, in the fall is best. that way the organisms have the entire winter period, or dormant period, to move into the soil. Mulch is good if there are hard freezes where the soil itself freezes, because the organisms then have places they can overwinter, and start working whenever the soil thaws a bit. Thus come spring they often will have started to make the soil structure better.

In the spring, apply more compost if soil structure isn't improved enough. Or apply one to three applications of liquid compost (extract or tea), until you start seeing good soil structure, or that rod starts moving deep into the soil without any effort.
Utolsó szerkesztés: 5 éve 9 hónapja Beküldte: Dr. Elaine Ingham.
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Az alábbi felhasználók mondtak köszönetet: ecovitka, AttilaK, kovibali, mzozo, attilar

Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9411

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Responding to the second part of #9410

Organic matter is MADE by bacteria and fungi decomposing dead plant material. So as long as plant material is in the soil, in the form of roots, soluble materials coming from decomposing plant material on the soil surface, organic matter will be made throughout the soil. The deeper the roots can grow, the faster the soil can be built. So, again, soil struture is critical to allow roots to grow as deep as they can.

I have seen completely compacted soil become completely structured within 6 weeks. The way we showed "completely compacted" was to use a metal rod with a pressure gauge on the top to push on so we could read how hard we were pushing. This instrument is called a penetrometer. When we start in the spring time, even with the soil completely moist following snow melt, we could not push the rod into the soil even a cm. Compost tea with REALLY good levels of FUNGI (we have determined the soil had lots of bacteria, but was completely lacking fungi) and protozoa (the soil was also lacking protozoa, so no nutrient cycling had been happening, the farmer was completely dependent on inorganic fertilizers up to this point) was applied when the soil reached 18 C.

When we applied the compost tea my heart sort of sank, because the tea puddled at the surface of the soil, showing us how compacted the soil actually was. The grower wanted to till the soil to get the organisms into the soil, but we said, "No, don't do that, you will destroy more than you benefit." It took a full day for the liquid to finally sink into the soil. But, the organisms started building structure, and in 6 weeks, we could push the penetrometer into the soil a full 1.2 meters without any effort.

On the other hand, I have seen it take a year to get the organisms to establish good structure. Especially when dealing with a heavy clay soil with no organic matter left in it, it seems to be best to actually till the compost into the soil. The depth of tillage needs to be below the first badly compacted layer. We have to physically put the organisms into that depth. Do not water the soil, do not apply irrigation until the organisms have had a chance to grow and form structure. If it rains too soon, the clays will just compact back down, and the beneficial, structure-forming organisms will die, or strop working. They need air; no air, no work.

So, please look at the organisms in your soil, using a microscope to see what you have, so you know what is missing. Then make sure the compost you are using has the organisms that need to be added into your soil. You can't KNOW these things unless you use a microscope to see if they are there.

So, starting in the autumn, apply aerobic compost by tilling it in with the residues on the soil surface. Check as you can through the winter to see if structure is being built. But plan on applying compost extract at snow melt, and again a few weeks later. Check the soil to make sure life has established and is doing well.

It can be the toxic agricultural chemicals, i.e., pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, have built up in the soil. In that case, you will not see the crop residues you tilled in decomposing. Even though you added what you thought was good compost, either it didn't have what is missing in your soil, or it wasn't actually good compost, OR, even more likely, the toxic chemicals killed the organisms.

So, making sure you have really good balance of bacteria and fungi in your compost, make a compost extract and apply. As you apply, add in about a gallon of non-sulfured (IT HAS TO BE NON-SULFURED!!!!!!!), blackstrap molasses, or syrup, or something high in sugar. Reason? You have to give the bacteria and fungi that can decompose those toxic materials some extra food to attack the toxics and get rid of them. Then, expect good decomposition to occur, and good soil structure to happen.

If you don't see things improve, it is a really special case. Send me your assessments of your soil life, compost life and extract or tea life. Send pictures of the critters, and we'll figure this out.
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Az alábbi felhasználók mondtak köszönetet: ecovitka, Luti, AttilaK, kovibali, mzozo

Dr. Elaine Ingham - Soil food web 5 éve 9 hónapja #9412

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Replying to #9402

My project is to support the soil food web on my new farmland, where the biological processes do not work, despite my best efforts to feed the soil.
I do not see any sign of decomposition within the accumulated debris, mulched stalk, straw on the surface or incorporated into the soil. Even the alfalfa hay is intact underground and on the surface equally.
The yearly precipitation is 3oo-4oo mm, the clay loam soil (the "minute soil" type) is always covered with plants, green manure, large variety of cover crops (8-15 ways mixes) for 3 years, since I am waiting for the processes to begin.
I am going to inoculate the soil, plants, seeds to establish the life from the early spring.
However using compost tea (I do not have access to significant amount of compost yet), I would be able to increase the diversity of bacteria and fungi.
What is the most efficient way to increase the quantity and quality of the beneficial arthropods and nematodes? How should I inoculate the soil with these beneficial guys in large numbers and variety?

See my answer. to #9401... And your soil is pure clay? No organic matter, just un-decomposed crop debris?

You have an available calcium problem. The clays are completely compacted and the least amount of rain or irrigation will cause even freshly tilled soil to compact back down again.

So....... when you get ready to work on this, spread a SMALL - operative word here is SMALL - amount of crushed oyster shell (or lime or calcium carbonate), LESS than 100 kg/HA, harrowed lightly into the soil about a week before tilling about 2.5 ton/ HA of good aerobic compost into the soil, or 20 L per HA of a super-good compost extract Super good meaning really outstanding levels of the organisms your soil is lacking. .

The point of the inorganic lime (oyster shell is acceptable in the organic world) is to supply just a little, tiny bit of soluble calcium to get the process of flocculation going. Then once the chemical process of flocculation gets going, addition of the compost will add the organisms who can now function with at least that amount of airflow. Then they can build all the needed structure.

So, if you don't have lots of good aerobic compost, to the level of 2.5 tons/HA, then you turn that little bit of good compost into extract, or if you have just a tiny amount of good compost, make compost tea. Again, microscope needed to make sure you are extracting, and growing, organisms in the extract / tea.

OK --- finally --- improving nematode and arthropods. When you start the compost pile, add a few handfuls of O-horizon soil from a really healthy forest. You do not want to choose a forest with lots of dead trees or downed logs. The reason the trees are dead is lots of disease, or negative impacts to the soil, and the trees are dying because things are not good. You don't want that life in your soil.

So, you need to compost anything where you aren't sure that the whole set of organisms present are beneficial. When in doubt, compost it. Let nothing into your fields that you aren't sure is excellent biology.

So, handfuls of good soil, and make it soil from a number of different places. But just a handful, you odn't need more. the beneficial organisms will flourish in a properly aerobic compost pile with lots of diversity of plant materials in it. Remember, that THERMAL compost has to be above 55 C for a full 10 to 15 days, during which time you turn the pile to make sure it stays aerobic. You make sure it is staying aerobic by turning the pile when it reaches above 70 C.

WORM compost requires that any added material in the pile gets processed immediately by the worms, and the worm need to number at least 6 worms per kg of added food material. Well, that's the best estimate we have so far.......more work needed to document that's the right relationship, but more or less 6 worms for each kg of new organic matter added, and that kg of organic material per 6 worms has to be completely turned and processed by the worms in 3 days. Not until all that material has been used and turned can more fresh organic matter be added.

So, that's how you make sure the pathogens and pests and parasites are properly dealt with, and the compost stays aerobic. Once you have the beneficial bacteria and fungi growing, the protozoa and nematodes added in the handfuls of good soil will flourish as the temperature of the pile comes down when dealing with thermal compost, or with worm compost, as the worms finish processing the new organic matter. Worms actually come with an inoculum of beneficial organisms in their digestive system, so in either worm or thermal compost, it would be good to add worms fresh from the outdoors during the composting process. Get the local, good-guys inoculated.
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