As always, readers are encouraged to email or otherwise advise of any topics that they would specifically like covered in future newsletters. Suggestions can be emailed to me, Peter Pond (
"There be three things which make a nation great and prosperous: a fertile soil, busy workshops, easy conveyance for men and goods from place to place."
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626), philosopher, lawyer, scientist, author
DR INGHAM IN TOWN
Or, more accurately, in the country. Yes, Dr Elaine Ingham is again in Australia. In May she presented at the ISAAC Conference in Adelaide, and followed that with a two-week course, in conjunction with the Environmental Analysis Laboratory (EAL) in Lismore, NSW. As this newsletter goes to press, she is just completing another two-week course in Dookie, Victoria with Melbourne University. Dr Ingham's deep understanding of the world beneath our feet is continually providing new insights to people around the globe.
TIP OF THE MONTH
If submitting a soil sample to the SFI for a biological assay, don’t forget to include some healthy roots with the soil. This will enable us to establish the level of mycorrhizal colonization. Mycorrhizal fungi form associations with 90% of plants – this is a symbiotic relationship – that is, the relationship is of mutual benefit to both the plant and the fungus. Without such a relationship, plants often suffer, and in some circumstances will not even grow. Mycorrhizal fungi perform many functions, including delivery of moisture and nutrients to roots as well as providing protection from pests and pathogens. In many ways, mycorrhizal fungi are a bit like an immune system for plants.
Image from NASA
SFI Australia is continuing to ride the wave of new communications. Visitors to our website will have already seen that SFI has a presence on
We have now added an RSS feed to our communications options. Interested readers can subscribe to the RSS feed and receive online updates about SFI and their activities. To receive RSS feeds though, you will need to have an RSS Reader - available free from the Internet - see http://email.about.com/od/rssreaderswin/tp/top_rss_windows.htm for details about RSS readers. The logo below is now located on the SFI home page, indicating the availability of an RSS feed.
SFI US WORKSHOPS
Sustainable Studies Institute in cooperation with Soil Foodweb Oregon & Earth Fort will be conducting workshops from August 16th-19th on the principles of the Soil Foodweb as developed by Dr. Elaine Ingham. Interested US readers can find out more at http://www.soilfoodweb.com/calendar.html
Under instructions from Merline Olson ("she who must be obeyed"), I am writing this to let you know a little about my background. There you see me, as an 8yr old, in the centre of the second row (above the class identifying sign). Amazingly, I encountered a number of the others in this photo at a 50th anniversary of our high school in 2009.
After taking a degree in Economics from the ANU, I worked for 13 years in the IT industry with various federal government departments - and was involved in the computerisation of the Australian Electoral Roll, the computerisation of ACT Drivers Licencing and Motor Registration systems, as well as the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. Later I worked in IT at the Department of Trade, where I was involved in the contentious tender battle between IBM and Fujitsu over a new mainframe computer for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Department of Trade. In 1981, I moved out of IT and into export related activities with the Department of Trade, and then with Austrade (the Australian Trade Commission). This included several short-term tasks in various SE Asian countries, including participation in the first Trade Mission to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Perhaps the most important activity was the Trade Mission to Malaysia/Brunei which returned with a very strong recommendation to the Australian Government that the education sector should be allowed to sell commercially to overseas students. This is now an extremely important sector in the Australian economy. I spent three years in the mid-90s in Malaysia as a Trade Commissioner, where I met my wife (yep, an office romance!)
Retrenched from Austrade in 1996, I then worked for the NSW State Government for 7 years as an Export Adviser, based on the NSW South Coast, where I learnt about the reality of small businesses in rural and regional areas. In 2004, I again "retired", and for the next three years undertook a series of part-time assignments with Austrade in Canberra and Sydney, mainly in the Human Resources area. This was followed by a year or so as an occasional "Scribe" for a Wollongong-based HR firm, as well as a couple of contracts with the Public Service Commission in Canberra. I started writing newsletters for SFI in 2008, checking out and communicating about the latest soil biology research (much to the amusement of my wife, who holds an honours degree in Genetics and is askance at my lack of biological knowledge!)
We have two high school-aged children and live on a one hectare block on the outskirts of Nowra, on the NSW south coast.
And the moral of this short story? You don't need a degree in microbiology to understand that what is happening below ground level has a huge impact on what happens to the growth of the plants above ground level.
"If you build up the soil with organic material, the plants will do just fine."
John Harrison (1693-1776), inventor of the marine chronometer