|Soil Foodweb is an international soil biology group providing laboratory soil testing and soil biology consultancy services. It was founded by Dr Elaine Ingham, a leading international soil microbiologist. The systems developed by Dr Ingham have been designed to analyse the microbiology present in soil samples and to develop appropriate responses to achieve desired levels and balances of soil microbiology.|
When considering living organisms you should picture that they all eat, excrete and, in turn, are food for something else therefore these processes can be said to be cyclical in nature. Bacteria and fungi feed on plant residues and in the process break them down and capture the nutrients (e.g. nitrogen, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, etc.) in their bodies. Their bodies are glued and bound to soil particles, preventing them from being lost through leaching. The nutrients bound in the bacteria and fungi are not available to plants until protozoa, nematodes, small micro arthropods, and earthworms consume the bacteria and fungi. These creatures complete the cycle by releasing these nutrients in plant available forms. Plants excrete foods from their roots which bacteria and fungi thrive on. Many of these organisms are beneficial species that inturn protect the roots from pathogen and pest attack.
Throughout this complex web of interactions the organisms also produce hormones that plants need to absorb and some that break down pollutants in the soil. The soil food web protects all plant surfaces from disease-causing organisms and other pests, often by out-competing them for food, and sometimes simply by eating them. Also, by occupying the plant surfaces, they ensure pathogens cannot gain access. At other times they perform a similar function by altering the soil conditions so that the disease-organisms cannot thrive.
So many of the practices we have adopted in modern agriculture production have actually damaged the natural processes by destroying these beneficial organisms that are found in the soil and on plant surfaces. The goal was to destroy specific pathogen and pest organisms through the use of toxic chemicals but in doing so we have also destroyed the beneficial, protective organisms that existed. Over time, disease-causing organisms have developed immunities to these over-used chemicals and now thrive, continuing to infect crops but in greater numbers. It is not surprising that pests and diseases are now almost impossible to control after 30 to 50 years of chemical warfare has been waged against the beneficial organisms in soil and thereby upsetting nature’s balance.
Your first step is to contact the friendly staff at the Soil Foodweb Institute who can tailor a program to help rehabilitate your soil and set things right. The services are extremely cost effective particularly if you factor in the savings you will make by being able to cut down on water, fertiliser and pesticide usage. A richer more fertile soil also adds to your land value. SFI are the soil rehab specialists helping growers to get the right biological balance back in their soil.