BASIC CONCEPTS OF THE SOIL FOODWEB
What is the Soil Foodweb and why is it so Important?
The soil foodweb is the tonnes of beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that live in soil or compost whose value has been overlooked, undervalued and misunderstood for decades. Recent discoveries in soil biology show a huge potential to improve current organic, biological and conventional growing and farming and move away from costly synthetic inputs.
Today, soil ecologists recommend thinking twice before adding ingredients blindly to soil. Instead, we should actively measure what is actually living in the root zone of our crops before adding anything because they have discovered that the plant we see above ground are in a complex symbiosis with microbes in the root zone. It is soil life that provides the ‘living bridge’ to store and make nutrients in the soil available to plants. It is the protective barrier of friendly fungi and bacteria around the roots of plants that protect plants from disease and crop stress.
So, encouraging the growth of life in the soil by creating better habitat and providing proper and adequate foods, sets free currently unused levels of profit-making potential in soil, naturally. Use of chemicals and excessive tillage or poorly composted manures has destroyed this huge potential. This way of growing plants is called soil foodweb health management and was developed by world-renowned soil micro-ecologist, Dr. Elaine Ingham. She has dedicated her career to help us grow crops better by directly observing and promoting life in the soil.
Soil foodweb management puts back the valuable life in the soil that has been destroyed or is missing. This allows us to move away from costly synthetic inputs that cause so many problems. Commercial growers using the soil foodweb management programs, report substantial savings in crop production input costs, reduced water usage and increases in yield and quality.
Why are the Soil Foodweb Labs Attracting Growing Interest?
Over a period of a few years, growers, farmers and gardeners applying the “soil foodweb approach” to growing commercial food crops, parks and golf courses and plant everywhere see:
1. Crop input costs drop (re: chemicals and fertilizers)
2. Water is saved
3. Soil structure, mineral balance and humus improves (increase capital value)
Note: Tillage, summer fallow and the use of chemicals has caused the loss of between 15 and 50 % of original humus content and drives biological potential out of the system.
4. Yield and quality improvements
Why does the “Soil Foodweb Approach” to Growing Plants Work?
Thirty (30) years of research in soil biology/ecology in soil biological fertility and natural disease protection dynamics clearly shows that life in the soil is more important that we first thought:
1. The more biomass and diversity of beneficial life in the soil (bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes) that you have, the greater your potential to grow a large biomass of quality healthy plants (Ingham 1984 and many other papers)
2. Life in the soil is a ‘living bridge’ between plant roots and soil
3. Biological nitrogen fixation is still reliable and significant when used
4. 75% of the available N and 65% of available P are a result of biological processes (Clapperton 2004, AAFC, Lethbridge, Canada)
5. 40% of net N mineralization is a result of the predatory activity of soil protozoa and bacteria and fungal feeding nematodes (Brussaard 1996)
6. Soils low in organic matter and microbial activity tend to be conducive to root diseases (Hoitink Ohio State Univ 2004)
REALIZED 50+ YEARS AG0…
“When a soil loses fertility, we pour on fertilizers…without considering that its flora and fauna, which built the soil to begin with, may likewise be important to its maintenance.”
– Aldo Leopold, 1949 – World Renowned Ecologist
…STILL RECOGNIZED TODAY
“Plants can pick and use nutrients more easily and efficiently through ‘biological processes’ than they can with chemical fertilizers.”
– Dr. Jill Clapperton, 2004 – Lethbridge Research Station