It all depends on the soils, species, and goals as to how many multi-species crops a soil can carry. A rich high carbon and nutrient rich fungally dominated soil that receives a lot of rain or run-off will carry more than another that is low in carbon and bacterially dominated. It doesn't surprise me they saw annual monocultures outperforming multi-species, especially if the soils were also tilled. There is a recent paper on soil networks showing that as restoration progresses those networks become more connected and sequester more carbon despite no appreciable increase in soil biomass. It's the connectivity that makes the entire soil food web more efficient and able to share resources for higher productivity. Building a community of microbes and plants that work together makes a big difference, but that can take time that big ag simply doesn't have, but is something people like Gabe Brown do recognise.
I've seen a large study on native grasslands that showed for up to about 4 grass species the results were a linear increase in biomass at best, with lesser gains all the way up to 32 species. Another flood study showed 16 native species reduced soil bulk density the most and reduced flooding.
I've also seen low count multi-species lab and greenhouse studies showing wildly varying results with researches scratching their heads as to why.
I'm terrible at chemisty, however to produce that calcium oxide John mentions, a study I've browsed showed that to yield well eggshells need to reach over 800C (1472F) which is pretty close to the melting point of calcium at 842C (1547F). Compared to other calcium soil amendments, another study suggested slaked lime was the most effective at reducing soil bulk density. But in a fire would it form calcium carbonate or another compound?
Phosphorus boils at 280.5C (536F), no idea what happens to that. I assume it goes up in smoke unless it bonded into something with a higher boiling point?
The deeper in the soil profile you go, the less oxygen there is, making soil more of a spectrum from aerobic to anaerobic, however a lot of plant available nutrients including nitrogen are formed in the top aerobic layer where there is most microbial activity, which is part of the reason aerobic microbes tend to get the most attention and results. This in the permaculture world is the edge effect in action.
The question however assumes anaerobic microbes are all human or plant pathogens. Studies I've read suggest otherwise, and that both aerobic and anaerobic brewing will result in human or plant pathogens if the material you start the brew with contains those pathogens and creates an environment they thrive and multiply in over other organisms. This is why I believe diversity in the soil food web is important in preventing any one organism taking over and overcoming a host. That means an array of aerobic to anaerobic microbes and that means an array of feed material and environment. The reason many superbugs are super is because they work together as a collective using techniques like quorum sensing to overcome a host that may not have a diverse line of defence.
I'm no Bokashi expert but it's likely there is still some level of oxygen in the upper layer of Bokashi, especially if you keep opening the container to check it or when adding material, however it can be a pathogen to some soil organisms. It's often used to eradicate plant-based pathogens. The phenols it contains, which are weak acids, and other acids such as lactic acid produced in Bokashi have a sterilizing effect on some microbes. Bokashi can be quite acidic with a pH of 3.5-4.5 or lower apparently.
From soil microbial genetic studies I've read, acidic soil reduces microbial diversity. But as the study below mentions, the pH of Bokashi may not be a factor in plant growth when used in appropriate concentration, and used that way it's likely that Bokashi or many other Natural Farming anaerobic or fermented formulations could add to microbial diversity long-term. Especially in soils high in organic matter that tends to buffer changes in pH.
Below is an abstract from a study on Bokashi used to germinate and grow a brassica, with a recommendation of limiting Bokashi to 30% mixtures with soil by volume. Keep in mind the study only trialled one species of plant. It's probably also a good idea to dilute any Bokashi water extract before applying it.
A kind of fermented organic fertilizer known as Bokashi in Japanese has been used by many Japanese farmers for many years. Bokashi is the fermented product of some organic materials such as bran, oilcake etc. mixed with soil under low temperature (below 50 - 60 deg C) during short period (about 10 days). In this study, experiments were carried out to find the influence of application of Bokashi on germination and early growth of komatsuna, [Japanese mustard spinach] (Brassica campestris L.) by using the water extract from Bokashi and different volume percentages of soil and Bokashi mixture. The results obtained were as follows. 1) The germination percentage, stem and root length of komatsuna decreased with increase of concentration of phenolic substances in the water extract from Bokashi, and a close negative correlation was found between the inhibition on komatsuna growth and concentration of phenolic substances. 2) It was found that volume percentages of Bokashi mixed with soil should be limited below 30% because the emergence percentage of komatsuna became lower on increasing volume of Bokashi in the soil, and many plants died, to above 50% of their volume. In addition, the emergence percentage and the concentration of phenolic substances in the soil had negative correlation. From these results, phenolic substances can be used as an indicator to investigate the effects of application of Bokashi on plant growth. 3) Early growth of komatsuna on the soil applied with fermented Bokashi was better than that on the soil applied with unfermented materials of Bokashi. Consequently, it was suggested that fermented Bokashi had an effect of promoting plant growth, but the cause of promotion should be investigated further. 4) pH of the Bokashi fermented under high temperature (above 60 deg C) was higher than those fermented under low temperature (below 50 deg C), but there was no difference on plant growth between them. From this result and 3),it was found that the fermentation was important, but the different temperature ranging from 40 to 60 deg C had few influences on plant growth. 5) The number of lateral root was increased by application of Bokashi and the effects of application of Bokashi on plant growth were more effective at root growth than germination percentage and stem growth. Therefore, it was suggested that detailed investigation of root was very important in order to find the influence by application of Bokashi.
If you want to read more about how different natural farming formulations can impact microbial diversity, the following genetic study compares a number of fermented products and sequences their genomes to see what microbes are in the formulations.
The heat map shows the number of bacterial species isolated from different organic formulations and their ingredients. T1 100 % panchagavya; T2 33 % panchagavya; T3 plant extract with native microorganisms; T4 commercial organic fertilizer extract with 2 % leaf soil extract; T5 commercial organic fertilizer extract with 2 % yogurt; T6 cow urine; T7 cow dung; T8 cow milk
Effect of different organic formulations on dry weight of radish (a) and Chinese cabbage (b) under pot culture condition. T1 100 % panchagavya; T2 33 % panchagavya; T3 plant extract with native microorganisms; T4 commercial organic fertilizer extract with 2 % leaf soil extract; T5 commercial organic fertilizer extract with 2 % yogurt. Control, 0, 50 and 100 times of dilution organic formulations are represented in different shades. Values are mean ± SE of three replications, and same letters in each treatment are not significantly different from each other at P < 0.05 according to DMRT
I haven't seen any microbial fuel cells with high power outputs yet. The following better explains plant-e for nerds. It requires aquatic plants, hence a lot of water and in their case plastic to hold it. It would be interesting to try if you had a pond and a bunch of carbon plate electrodes for a larger surface area.
One of the following videos in Italian shows a pot plant outputting 180mV and 10uA, which isn't much power.
The other MFC example below may be better and uses Soil + Microbes + Blood meal + Electrodes.
I also remember reading about a filamentous organism in river sediment that exchanged electrons between upper and lower layers. I can't remember if it or other aerobic organisms were photosynthesising in the upper layer providing the electrons for exchange, I can't find that article now...
If they are LEDs and not hot to touch, the closer you can get the lights to the plants, the better. NASA studies I've seen have even embedded their LEDs inside the plant canopy to maximise use of the power available. You could also try adding a reflective material around them. Basil ideally needs about 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight per day. Consider veges that grow well in partial light and shade and like lower temperatures if that's a problem. Large leaf plants high in chlorophyll that make them dark green are probably your best bet. Temperature plays a large role in how long seeds take to germinate and how fast plants grow, as shown in the Basil photo below. Sometimes thick or insulated containers can help keep the soil warmer, so can a dome over the plants which also keeps in moisture. I've just started adding a stick-on temperature gauge like those on fish tanks to my domes to monitor them, when it gets too warm they have to be opened up or come off or the plants will bake. A quality propagation soil mix that holds moisture but is free draining to let air in is important too. The more soil the better too, it acts as a thermal mass buffering temperature and moisture changes, and it can be surprising how long and fast roots will grow from seed when given the space. Watering once a day should be enough unless the plants wilt, water more if the soil looks or feels dry, so long as that soil drains freely. I've taken to using wicking to keep the moisture up. It saves me having to guess, and I'm not washing nutrients out of the soil.
That's a great technique Joseph. I read a few days ago that being overweight can change the dopamine receptors in the brain in a way that means those people don't experience the same reward for physical activity that others do. This could be a great way to help those people starting out. I've also read that the opposite may be true for those with anorexia nervosa that exercise excessively.
I do something somewhat similar on my exercise bike, but instead of joy, my gauge is how much I sweat! That way I can get off before I'm dripping with sweat, cool down and go again. It made starting back on the bike after a break much more pleasant.
My understanding is that algal blooms form from excess nitrogen and phosphorous where there is a carbon and oxygen source that is then consumed. I'd be hesitant to use a lot of manure or other high phosphorus materials unless a bioinfiltration system was in place. While manure is much slower at leaching phosphorus and other nutrients, it can still leach a lot with a lot of rain. If it's all you have, you can always buy some cheap nutrient test strips, simulate or wait for a downpour, and take a water sample and measure it. Inorganic fertilizer can be much much worse however.
One Aussie superphosphate farm study found that “Over 92% of P, 76% of total dissolved C, and 93% of S was lost in overland flow.”
Other farm nutrient runoff studies I've seen have shown that surrounding them with a trench of woodchips, biochar, or creating a biodiverse green boarder some meters wide that is then left to act as a bioinfiltration/bioretention system, do work.
Studies that inoculated bags of woodchips with fungi and distributed them along waterway edges also worked.
A swale on contour that was planted out with a diverse range of plants, or a hugelkultur with high carbon content and plants should also work, but I haven't seen any documented studies.
When I was learning about Terra Preta and the African Dark Earths with high charcoal/biochar content, I noticed they had high levels of phosphorus which tells me the soil carbon was likely filtering and retaining it for plants and soil organisms to consume.
My advice would be to at least have a green strip on contour, swaled or not, with high plant diversity such that water is infiltrated into the landscape and doesn't simply runoff into the lake when it rains, especially under heavy downpours. And also to reduce the soil bulk density as much as you can so water infiltrates the rest of the fields.
A plant diversity study showed that using at least 16 species produced the best water infiltration and soil bulk density results, but that may depend on the climate.
Another 5 year tree study showed that for compacted soil compost tea improved soil bulk density as much as 2" of compost did (many composts have high levels of phosphorus), but that 6" woodchips (low phosphorus) performed twice as good, and grew twice as much, mostly because it was able to maintain soil moisture and keep the microbes active and improving soil bulk density and water infiltration. Ramial woodchips are a good option. Mulch, living or dead, matters!
Soils are complex though, and what works for one soil may not another, or may cause detrimental effects, case in point was a study on a forest that researchers added calcium to replenish acidic clay soils affected by acid rain. Adding the calcium resulted in increases in dissolved organic carbon runoff into streams, not what the researchers expected!
The best way to really know how what you're doing affects nutrient leaching and runoff, is to observe and test.
Good to hear they're improving. Maybe they were just cold and had wet feet? I found the following graph of peas in a propagator with and without a lid from vegplotting. You can see how not having a lid and those peas possibly being colder, slowed them down, but almost caught up again at 5 weeks. Perhaps the soil was colder this year or that the brown you're noticing is from another type of pathogen slowing progress, it's hard to say. Sometimes seeds do carry the pathogens with them.
I learned recently from a NASA plants in space talk that plant growth tends to follow an s-curve where the seedlings start in what's called a lag phase where they're trying to establish roots and once they have they then enter an exponential phase, so sometimes we just have to be patient or work out ways to help like warm the soil. Apparently the lag phase for lettuce is about 15 days in perfect conditions, I'm not sure what it is for peas. Otherwise it might be soil density impeding root growth, soil acidity, moisture or nutrients.
Last week I read a study indicating that legumes are some of the first to die off after floods, and also that in the dig versus no dig garden of Charles Dowding in the UK, the broad beans were the only plant to produce more yield in his dug beds. So legumes may love aerated roots for the rhizobia in the nitrogen-fixing nodules to do their thing!
From memory they were sown at the start of May and have been picked since the start of September. So four months. I grew Snow Peas, Sugar Snap, and Shelling Peas. Those that found a trellis to climb are doing well. Broad beans I also planted at the same time in a sunnier spot have loads of flowers but no seed pods as yet. The garden is really loving all the rain we've had and I haven't watered at all.
As David suggests it could be fungal, carefully pull one, wash and have a look at the roots and rest of the plant for any signs of disease. Snow peas I planted over winter that didn't get much sun grew slowly but are now producing well for me here in Melbourne.
The product sheet says: "
SAMBA® Lump Charcoal 5kg is made
from renewable timber. Logs are lit
and wood smolders for a few days -
what is left is almost pure carbon also
known as ‘lump charcoal’. This allows
SAMBA® Lump Charcoal 5kg to
light easy and heat hotter than other
BBQ fuels with less smoke and it is
chemical free. The rich wood aroma
complements the natural flavours of
your choice of meat. "
It should be fine if you've soaked it. Just make sure you add it to soil and not to any leaf matter you might eat as cow manure can harbour human pathogens but the ones I know about tend not to persist in the soil.
The only part I'd question is if it's made in Victoria and trucked to WA then it's not very local. You can email them at email@example.com to ask if you're concerned.
A forest floor has all the nitrogen a plant needs because it contains a mixture of decomposing organic matter, microorganisms and fauna that shuttle it about. Trees and other plants are also continually shedding plant litter over their life times whereas they only add stem wood once. If that forest floor was covered in stem wood chips alone the story would be completely different, have a look at the chart below. Without years of leaves, branches and bark the microorganisms that break down the stem wood have to draw that nitrogen from somewhere, about 7 g per kg if you want the equivalent of a forest floor. Lower rates of N aren't the only issue, phosphorus is also 5-6 times lower in aged stem wood. Adding aged stem wood chips alone will make soil deficient in many nutrients and potentially add diseases. Have a listen to a story by Hendrikus Schraven:
Fallow studies show you shouldn't lose mycorrhizal fungi colonization if roots aren't disturbed for 30 days. However for every further 30 days you do reduce the mycorrhizal root colonization by ~12%. If you do till those root residues then that reduction starts from day 1 and not 30 and also significantly reduces the ability of that tilled mycorrhizae to recolonise new plants.
Also, while a month under the tarp tends to reduce the overall microbial abundance, changes in community and diversity are mostly because of temperature or moisture extremes. For example solarization of the soil for a month with clear plastic changes the soil community towards more thermophilic microbes and will kill off some mesophiles that like temperatures under 45C (113F).
If I were to tarp, I'd only go a month at most, and choose one that doesn't heat the soil excessively and maybe poke a few holes in there if it doesn't breath or if it covers a large surface area.
I do remember reading a study showing that growing in plastic row mulch developed more plant pathogens over time, however if you're only using tarps to kill off weeds and they're only on a few weeks, I wouldn't worry too much. I'd probably just wait a few days after uncovering and before planting in so as to let the soil aerate. Plastic tends to increase soil moisture by up to 50% and it can help speed up plant residue digestion, you just have to be careful the soil doesn't become waterlogged and go anaerobic.
Tyler Ludens wrote:
This would seem to indicate that regular irrigation is at least as important, if not more important, than applying special microbes. Maybe the secret to microbes improving the soil is that the people applying the microbes are irrigating at the same time...
Absolutely, maintaining moisture for a healthy, diverse and active population will hold more nutrients in the soil. The worry is that with climate change we'll see longer periods between rain events and that natural ecosystems will suffer for it. To augment arid areas that might not have the moisture for microbes in order to maintain high fertility, fertigation as mentioned in Steve Solomon's book Gardening Without Irrigation Or Without Much Anyway may be beneficial, and compost teas may be a good choice there to get through long dry periods where water is scarce.
In a recent podcast with Elaine she mentions that the ions of minerals dissolved in water that are then attracted to the surfaces of sand, silt and clays in soil, will after about 2 weeks detach without the biology to hold onto them in place using exudates and glues like Glomalin-related soil proteins.
You can listen 30 mins in here if interested.
A glue like Glomalin that arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi make could take 7–42 years to biodegrade, now that's some long-term fertility holding there! From recent news I also understand that individual water molecules themselves are needed for the protein folding that takes place to create proteins like these glues.
While I agree with Elaine that most of our soils have all the minerals plants need, building and then holding onto them in a form that creates lasting fertility especially in upper part of the soil profile is the challenge.
From soil microbiome studies I've read, soil moisture plays a large role when it comes to maintaining microbial population and diversity. What some studies have found is that when the interval between rain events increases in some climates, then after about two weeks microbes slow and become dormant, and the longer the dry period, the more microbes die off and the less diversity you end up with. Diversity in the form of both microbes and the plants that fed on the nutrients the microbial ecosystem provided. And when the rains do then come, all those dead decaying microbes may wash away with their nutrients and exudates and so the soil organic matter declines along with the ability of soil to hold onto those nutrients.
Studies also show that clearing land, tilling and practices that reduce habit, compact soil, increase soil acidity, reduce soil moisture and increase soil density, and dramatically alter the soil composition and microbial community. This in turn impacts the amount of soil organic carbon sequestered and can end up creating a tipping point of ecosystem collapse. I remember seeing a comparison of conventional till, no till, no till organic, and biodynamic microbiome studies and microbial population and diversity went in that order. In restoring ecosystems where she recommends tilling once, adding microbes and plants back in the form of compost and cover crops, or teas for ecosystems on the brink, I have no doubt when done properly will in the short-term help restore these ecosystems to a stage where they can harvest and hold more moisture to allow the microbes to survive the long-term and mine and cycle nutrients in a way that the system becomes regenerative.
However I don't see compost tea as a magic bullet, and there's a big difference between regularly feeding with liquid fertiliser in the form of what some people call compost tea, and restoring ecosystems such that they are regenerative and proceed or are moved through succession.
I'm sure the quality and composition of the compost or tea matters in the short-term, however every microbiome study I've read says another thing long-term.
They all show that long term it's the inputs in the form of plant litter, animal manure, soil organic matter in the form of plant root diversity, and climate that ultimately dictate soil community. That the bacteria:fungi relationship of soils ultimately depends on these inputs, not the other way around.
I like to use soil organic matter as a measure of soil fertility, and organic matter like biologically diverse compost is amazing stuff. It has large surface area, holds lots of moisture and increases the cation exchange capacity or ability of soil to hold onto minerals that dissolve in water. As a result it provides easy access to food and habitat for plants and microbes to cycle and sequester carbon from the atmosphere in the form of plant roots and microbial cells. However without something like carbon the building block of life to hold onto those minerals and nutrients that dissolve, and for microbes to build from them, soil simply erodes and compacts, and so we till it and/or think we need constant inputs to maintain fertility.
One of the most interesting aspects of biochar for me is it's ability to last in soils, filter water, and hold onto moisture and nutrients thereby forming macroaggregates that reduce soil density and improve water infiltration and prevent erosion. The importance of keeping our top soils up top can't be underestimated if we want long-term fertility.
To raise water 100 meters you'd need 142.2 psi or ~1 MPa of water pressure. A 200 psi pump would deliver 58.8psi at the top of the mountain. My first google result for a 200 psi pump was a 0.8 GPM 200 psi pump on eBay that consumes ~100W. That may deliver about 0.234 GPM (0.87L/min) or 14 GPH if my calculations are correct, so depending on how much volume you'd need, 900W may be plenty depending on pump efficiency. If by washing machine generator you mean the hydroelectric ones, then so long as you use full wave rectifiers for each of the three phases I doubt you'd need a battery or smoothing capacitors to run a pump, just a regulator or inverter for whatever voltage the appropriate pump requires. The Fisher and Paykel washing machine conversion I saw on YouTube generated 21A at 29V so I'd chose the pump appropriately if going that route, and always over size pumps and consider running two in parallel and live with half the flow rate when one fails, same goes for the generator.
Microbes contribute in may ways, from causing gene expression in plants during times of stress against pathogens, or with symbiotic relationships that lead to the creation of new compounds, to populating plant cells themselves and contributing to our own microbiome as we eat or are exposed to them and the medium they're grown in.
Mittleider is considered a form of hydroponics whereby the growth medium is usually sawdust that absorbs and holds water-soluble nutrients and when given enough sun and regular nutrient feedings plants respond like body builders do on protein shakes. There are also variations on this technique using mediums like sand. The key is a low density medium that affords root growth through air and soluble nutrient delivery that makes for light work on the plant's behalf, but more regular work on the gardener's. It'd be wrong to say hydroponics or Mittleider's method is devoid of microbes as plant microbiome studies show otherwise, however those studies also show a difference in communities of microbes depending on growth mediums and any nutrient solutions.
There are studies showing soil heat treated to kill the vast majority of microbes, as well as sterilised seeds and grown in a sterile chamber using that soil, won't grow.
Also, of all the plant and soil microbiome studies I've read, the most diverse communities result from organic gardens that use dry, green and animal manures and involve plant polycultures of greater number than 16.
Good to read raw milk may be working for you. Your story reminded me of this image @microbiomedigest posted yesterday. It's the distribution of microbiota in a number of samples of raw milk. Some of these guys populating you after the chemo and other antibiotics wiped them out could be the reason you're feeling better.
I also understand that bovine colostrum contains antibodies that can help with leaky gut syndrome and nutrient absorption, and that athletes use it to improve recovery.
Drink a raw glass for me, we can't legally buy it here in Australia anymore.
If you use a first flush system you should be okay, taste the water and if it has an unpleasant metallic or bitter taste there may be high levels. You can get copper test kits from aquarium or pool supply stores if you're worried. You can read about copper toxicity here.
Ollas and bottles are great but are not easy to regulate the flow so may need regular manual filling and the alternative in very slow gravity drip systems usually block.
I've been meaning to try the flow adjustable hose clamp around wicking rope idea for Efficient Irrigation Systems by David Bainbridge. There's also a paper. He had a website too but I can no longer find it. He also used a deep wick in order to wick subsoil moisture UP to plant roots. Also, if you do plant, decompact and aerate the subsoil as deep as possible in order to help the plant send roots down deep to any water there, I'm thinking post hole digger. Also, If you have it, put any organic material down as ground cover to keep moisture in the surface soil, and shape the soil around the plant to collect any run off.
It may not be applicable for you, however an improved wick/drip system I plan on trying is one that harvests rain in a container with concave lid with center hole and then wick irrigates with any harvested rain in-between showers, thereby reducing or eliminating manual filling. A test I did showed a single pin prick drip on bare soil wicked about the diameter of my extended thumb and index finger in my hard packed clay soil, it may be less in sandy soil, so keep the wick, bottle or Ollas close if you go that route. When I do my trial over our summer I'm also considering a loop or helix wrap of the wick rope around the root system about 6" or 150mm in diameter to ensure coverage of the root zone.
Another technique I'd like to explore is fog/atmospheric moisture harvesting using fine stainless tubular mesh windbreaks for young plants that double as water harvesters or permanently as a structure for companion plants to climb. A study I read about optimum atmospheric moisture harvesting gave me the idea.
Free floating compost could result in different strains of microbes dominating. Straining the slurry at the end may also remove many microbes and in particular fungi attached to the compost. Only one way to know, compare the two with a microscope or try both methods and do a field trial.
My understanding is that the time duration and temperature at which the wood is heated dictates the internal structure and surface area of the biochar. It's this surface area formed by the internal honeycomb-like shape of cells that is akin to the Edge Effect permaculture principle. Creating very long lived homes for microbes and surface area upon which to chemically react.
It's impossible to know what you're getting unless you trust the supplier or stick it under a microscope to see for yourself.