Healthy soil is full of a diverse variety of beneficial soil food web organisms, working every second of every day to help your plants access the nutrients they need to thrive from the parent materials (sands, silts, clays) and organic matter in the ground. With a healthy, fully functioning soil food web, artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides aren’t needed for your plants to flourish. Mother nature knows how to take care of herself.
“Dirt” consists of parent materials alone. Without biology, there is no structure – nutrients are lost with water as it flows through, resulting in erosion, compaction, decreased fertility and weed problems. Soil that has become dirt must rely on artificial fertilisers, large portions of which wash out into waterways before being taken up by plants, causing much known damage downstream. Dirt has a likely history of repeated tillage and application of fertilisers and -icides. The suffix “icide” means “to kill”, and kill it does… indiscriminately taking out the good guys as well as the bad guys in the soil. Tilling or turning over soil is an excellent way to chop, slice and dice beneficial fungi and cause bacterial communities to become out of balance.
So, are you trying to grow in soil, or dirt?
Finding out where your soil lands on the spectrum between the two is important for optimizing plant growth. A complete soil food web analysis will quantify which micro-organisms are home in your soil, providing numbers of beneficial and detrimental organisms present. You will get a total bacterial count, total fungi count, and predatory organism count. Predatory organisms are incredibly important in a thriving soil – it is their poop at the root zones that provides plants with the nutrients that they need in a bioavailable form. Without predators in your system, yields will be affected and reliance on artificial inputs increased. The fungal to bacterial (F:B) ratio of your soil will be calculated and this is very important for understanding which plants are likely to grow best in your soil in its current state. We’ll help you interpret your results for the plants you want to grow.
Where is your soil at now? Where do you aim to take it? Soil food web analysis is a robust way to establish a baseline and measure progress towards the desired state for your plants. The plants win, you win by reducing input costs, and most importantly of all, the soil wins. Whether you tend plants on a windowsill, a backyard garden, a market garden or a large acreage, working with the soil food web is an easy, accessible and incredibly impactful way to do your bit for the planet.