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About Soil Microbes

SFWEveryone is familiar with the role of plankton in the ocean. The food web in the sea is built on the backs of these microscopic creatures and consists of the balance seen in the abundance of small fish being eaten by the bigger fish. 

 

So it is in the soil with microbes. Soil microbes are the plankton of the soil, they are what attract the arthropods, the earthworms, and the birds that eat them. This is a familiar concept, yet very few make the effort to cultivate microbes in their soil, gardeners are more focused on growing plants. In fact, the majority of mainstream gardening and famring is geared towards discouraging microbes with fungicides and artificial man-made fertilizers. 

 

Success in gardening comes from growing soil, not just plants. Here is an important point, the very essence of "organic" growing is that natural fertilizers feed microbes and artificial fertilizers do not; but the microbes have to be there to be fed. The lack of connection to this simple concept is the source of most of the frustration experienced by the average gardener. 

 

The lack of attention to soil microbes is also the reason that organic methods are seen as more expensive, when growing biologically is actually a fraction of the cost considering soil microbes make perfect plant food (humus), save significant amounts of water, work to prevent disease and pests, and enhance the yields experienced in the garden.  

 

The soil has a life of its own if we let it. In the forest, the trees don't eat the leaves that fall, they eat the result of the work of soil microbes. And make the connection that the forest grows trees with zero fertilizer. We can get the power of living soil working for us in our gardens and landscapes by composting and brewing compost tea. 

 

In order to take advanatge of soil micorbes it helps to understand them. The "soil food web" is made up of microscopic creatures with funny names, but we are already familiar with many of them. The mushrooms that we eat for dinner are the fruiting body of the fungi, for example. 

 

ProtozoaBacteriaHere are some facts and statistics about the major categories of the soil food web:

 

BACTERIA
• An estimated 500,000 bacteria can fit in the period at the end of this sentence.
• 1 tsp of garden soil can contain 1 billion bacteria, 1 tsp of compost can contain 4 billion.
• Oldest fossils known – 3.5 billion years – are bacteria.
• There are more bacteria in and on a healthy human body than human cells.
• It is estimated there are 5 million trillion trillion bacteria on Earth. A 5 with 30 zeros!

 

FUNGI
• Hyphae are the main mode of vegetative growth and are collectively called mycelium.
• The fruiting body of the fungi is called a mushroom, many of them we eat for dinner. 
Nematode Captured by Fungi• Over 70,000 species identified, but estimated there could be over 1.5 million.
• 1 tsp of compost can contain up to 40 miles of fungal hyphae.
• Largest organism on Earth is the Honey Mushroom in Oregon that is 4 square miles!

 

PROTOZOA
• Protozoa means “first animals”, but are single celled organisms.
• They are larger organisms called “shredders” because they eat bacteria and fungi.
• Diverse group of single-celled organisms, with more than 50,000 different types.
• Consist of three categories of organism - amoeba, flagellates and ciliates.
• Difficult to define protozoa due to diversity, but very important in nutrient cycling.

 

NEMATODES
• Most numerous multicellular organism on Earth, over 20,000 species identified.
• Many think they are harmful, but of the 20,000 only ~10 cause problems for plants.
• Most nematodes feed on bacteria, fungi, and other soil organisms.
• Used effectively to fight flea, grub, chinch bug, mole cricket, ground early, fire ant, etc. issues in soil.
• The largest of the microscopic organisms, some can be seen with the naked eye.

 

Soil microbes are powerful. We took a soil sample and split it into two parts. The control (Daniels A) was sent as is, and the other sample (Daniels A+) was fortified with only 1 teaspoon of Earth Compound. Check out the results of what Earth Compound did compared to the control in only 2 days on its way to the lab! Note that the calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and other elements doubled. This is a direct result of microbial nutrient cycling. Microbes make plant food, people don't!

 

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 There is so much more to be discovered. It was not until recently that mocern agriculture began to pay attention to the importance of soil microbes. But you can take advantage of their abilities right now through our compost tea recipe. If you have questions let us know. Get brewing, grow life!