Many farmers & agronomists will already be aware of the basic principles of soil health & the earthworm in particular has always been know as the farmers friend. But are there any other friends we should be aware of?
How about Fungi , bacteria & Lichens?
The soil food web matrix , soil is a living organism where the network of living plants, foliage, dead plants & tiny micro fungi, bacteria, nematodes, worms & animals all play a role in its maintenance.
- Global soil health is in huge decline
- Some soils are at 1% Organic matter content which will never grow plants at a profit
- Simple chemical fertilization of soil whilst initially improved global yields has now been shown to have less impact or hit per application & soils have become more susceptible to drought stress & slumping or compaction due to both mechanical methods of cultivation & over use of chemical fertilizer.
- More & more fertilizer is now needed to get the same yield hits of the 1980s & 90s but we need to reduce not increase.
- Potassium , phosphorus & nitrogen are all extracted chemicals from fossil fuel burning processes . These are not processes that can continue to produce longterm, in line with carbon emission requirements of all governments.
Sick of yellow & diseased looking barley crops ?
Sick of wet & compacted soil & underachieving crops ?
Low yield ,
high cost , NO PROFIT
likely to be poor in following years also
Its time to give back to your soils & restore the natural balance
Huge potential for yield
& opportunity to reduce overall N fertilizer required, high efficiency of soil minerals
How can we help our soils
Mycorrhizae are fungi that live in close association with plant roots and help plants to absorb more nutrients. Mycorrhizal fungi do not come from one particular group of fungi but include species from different and distantly related groups.
The hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi grow into the roots of plants and branch into an extremely thin network of hyphae. These hyphae are far thinner thinner than the thinnest roots of plants and so they are able to absorb more nutrients for their volume.
Over 90% of all plant species have mycorrhizal relationships with a fungal species. If soils are lacking in fungal populations then many plants will struggle to survive in the absence of mycorrhizal fungi.
So how can farmers get more bacteria & fungi into their soils?
- Straw chopping
- Dung & slurry
- Low disturbance tillage- encourages build up of the tiny hyphae to do their job efficiently.
- Cover cropping & rotation
- Liquid feeds for soil humus , bacteria & fungi building & attention to trace element deficiencies
How can we help our soils?
Looking at the options again we can breakdown positive & negatives for each scenario
- Straw chopping – effective method but can be detrimental to local suckler or dairy enterprise who need & want suitable straw for their animals & also ahs a tendency to lock up nitrogen for the next crop causing some problems.
- Dung & slurry, both excellent options if available but can be costly to move & VERY VARIABLE. This becomes evident at harvest time with issues such as lodging & malting failures etc.
- Low disturbance tillage- encourages build up of the tiny hyphae to do their job efficiently. This is a machinery specific method & not suitable for all enterprises or crops but definitely a good addition in the help of soil health
- Cover cropping & rotation . Both excellent additions & already well practised by many tillage farmers nowadays. Cover cropping has limitations where its again cost & time dependant on end of year harvest end time.
- Other options: The technology, expertise research & products are now available for farmers to make a better choice. Foliar feeding routinely is a cost effective way to build plant health, minimize disease & encourage a flourish of Mycorrhizae fungi & lichen pathways to develop. A lichen pathway is a balanced or symbiotic system where lichen is the word used to describe the relationship between fungi & the single celled photosynthetic organisms. Fungi receive benefit of excess sugars & nutrients by healthy green algae in the soil.
This can be done by applying the right products to your plants which we can offer for both Organic & commercial farms . Please go to our products range for the list of options available for your farm.
Soil Food web principles
- To eliminate fertilizer completely, plants need a healthy soil microbe community beneath the surface.
- Nutrients need to be balanced for this to work properly ultimately improving flavour & yield of your growing plant.
- Soil nutrients wont runoff, they are held in the soil
- No water runoff & less risk of drought stress
- Highly fertile aerobic soils decompose of toxi xhemicals quickly as the preadotrs are there to do this.
- Weeds are nitrogen scavengers . Balance your ammonium levels in particular, favours the growing plant, significantly reducing herbicide requirements
- Build your soil structure: Micro aggregates built by bacteria & macro aggregates built by fungi form airways, & pores allow free passage of air, roots & water. Roots are then able to reach soil water during dry periods & allow water to filtrate through in wet seasons.
Fungi & Bacteria building soil improvers
Routine use of humic / fulvic & amino acid plant sprays can provide the root system & abundant crops with less or completely eliminating traditional fertilizer