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Soil Organisms and Their Role in the Nutrient Cycle  RSS feed

 
                            
Posts: 41
Location: Colorado
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Hi Folks,

I am interested in brushing up on soil organisms and their roles in the nutrient cycle.  Specifically, I'm interested in how various organisms interact with minerals, organic matter, and other life forms in the soil, and during their life cycles, how and what nutrients they make available to plants...nutrients that might otherwise be locked up (or unavailable).  Also, it is my understanding that some of the more well known and necessary nutrients, even if present in the soil, may still be unavailable to the plants if certain trace minerals are absent, or in insufficient or excessive quantities.

If anyone has any thoughts on this topic that they would like to share (or recommended books, videos, articles, etc.), I would love to hear about them.

Cheers,

David
 
Mark Vander Meer
Posts: 74
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David,
Sounds like you need a book or a bunch of books.  I use Soil Microbiology & Biochemistry by Paul & Clark or Cycles of Soil by Stevenson.  These are both text books and not alot of fun.  For a good preview I like "Soil Scinece Simplified" by Eash et al.  This is a good quick read.  I also really enjoyed "The Hidden Forest" by Luoma. 

I'm a soil scientist, specializing in forest soil ecology, disturbance ecology and soil bio-physics, so if you can narrow the scope of your interests, let me give your questions a try.
 
rose macaskie
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Mark vander veer, I am trying to think of a question. ·What do microrganisms do apart from breaking up vegetable matter? Provide protiens in the soil to enrich worms diet, make the whole earth vibrant.
     i found an article  that brings to bare on this question. In connection with zenrainmans You tube video in which he or some other Bangalore water harvesting person, has plastic rain barrels planted full of cattails on the roof to clean up his grey water. He runs his grey water through the barrels planted with cattails before using the water for his roof top paddy feild, I looked up cattails  clean detergent, and found an article that says that cattails  do break detergent  down into its component parts, do fito remediation, if its plants that break down a polluting molecule into its component parts it is callled fito remediation, so they can gooble up the carbon, hydrogen and phosphorus, in the deterrgent. the article on cattails  also said the microrganism at the foot of marsh plants break down the detergents. So that microrganisms breaking up detergrents and such is a reason to have them in the soil.
  Microrganisms breaking up pollluting molecules is called bio remediation.  agri rose macaskie.
 
duane hennon
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Jordan Lowery
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this is a very long read, but its really good info. and most likely has the answers you are seeking about soil microbes.

http://www.soilandhealth.org/01aglibrary/010112Krasil/010112krasil.toc.html
 
                            
Posts: 41
Location: Colorado
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Hey, thanks everyone!

It looks like I've got a little more reading material to sift through (on top of the 100 or so books I've collected and yet to start)!

Mark, regarding specific questions, I'm glad to see you frequent this site as I'm sure you will be a great source to consult in the future.  I'm going to browse some of the materials that were suggested to me first, as I may get some questions answered and new ones will surely be generated.  What prompted my interest in this rather complex topic is that I'm in a position to write/edit construction specifications for soil preparation work, and I'm hoping to get off the petrochemical treadmill that most commercial design offices seem to be stuck in.  Depending on the project site, it would be typical for us to contract with specialists such as wildlife biologists for recommendations on planting palettes, but rarely is the soil given any special consideration, except maybe for green roofs or other special situations.  I hope to change that trend, or at least better my own work.  There seems to be quite a bit of non-specific "cookie cutter" information out there on the basics of "natural" or "organic" soil building and restoration, most of which is very useful and can certainly improve most situations, but I also see situations where people just throw everything out there kind of willynilly that they've heard good things about.  I want to take things a step further, tweaking my amendments and techniques so they'll be more site specific, and to have reasonable confidence I'll be getting the results I seek.

~David 
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I have done soil restoraiton specs on project sites involving major excavation of fill (some not so nice fill.)  The following issues summarize the topics I have and to work through for building soil from sub-soil to meet restoration targets -- half social, half technical.  I'd encourage you to look at specs from the mining industry which focuses on "rootable depth"... a critical feature depending on ecosystem for building self-sustaining forest, frequently overlooked in landscape construction (which dumps 6" on the surface and calls it good).  A key challenge is the timeline of contracting and the push for delivery of spec following a single treatment... rolling adaptation into stewardship planning is important for working in ecosystems.

Delineate and stockpile existing topsoil, maximize soil protection zones.
Specification, testing, inspection for any imported material
Specify equipment type to reduce compaction (tread for low lbs/sq ft)
Manage work flow and related equipment movement to minimize compaction of any material
Loose tipping for material placement http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/LRU_BPG04.pdf/$FILE/LRU_BPG04.pdf
Retention, surface placement or burial of all woody material.
Reducing precision of the elevation spec, allowing contractors to leave a rougher surface to increase water retention, to reduce working soil
Seeding or planting of soil restoring 'nurse crops'
Plant species selection for rapid biomass production
Strategy for locally importing raw organic matter (hog fuel or the like) from local waste stream
Schedule discussions with site manager AND equipment operators at key times (spec in contact) to work through how and why of workflow.
Timing the inspection regime so that remediation can be done for substandard work without further damaging site
Include contingencies and limitations for rain and working wet.
Specify compensation for substandard soil work in contract specs.
Show up on site regularly with a shovel, and eveleop a positive relatiuonship with the equiment operators.
 
duane hennon
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this is new to me. i don't know if it has been discussed here before

Cho Global Natural Farming-USA,

http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Jan10_Prell.pdf

http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/hawaiinews/20110118_Natural_selection.html

Natural selection

A self-sufficient system of farming is increasing yields across Hawaii

Farmer Samson Delos Reyes reached into his bluejeans pocket to grab a phone call from a buyer and ended up smiling but shaking his head.

The caller wanted to triple her order of his pungent Thai basil, to 60 from 20 cases a week, but S&J Farms of Waianae is already booked solid. Since trying "natural farming" last year under the guidance of a folksy South Korean master farmer known as Han Kyu Cho, Delos Reyes said production on his 10-acre plot has doubled — and demand is growing even faster.

"This is my first time having earthworms on my farm," he said, scooping up a handful of earth and nutrient-rich worm castings in his fingers. "They're cultivating the soil for me."

Unlike conventional or even organic farming, "natural farming" is a self-sufficient system to raise crops and livestock with resources available on the farm. Rather than applying chemical fertilizers, farmers boost the beneficial microbes that occur naturally in the soil by collecting and culturing them with everyday ingredients such as steamed rice and brown sugar. They also feed their crops with solutions containing minerals and amino acids made from castoff items such as eggshells and fish bone
s.

"What others consider rubbish, we use," Cho told gardeners and farmers at a workshop in Honolulu last month. "Natural farming uses local resources, but you have to give what the plants need, when they need it and in the right amounts."

On land once classified as unsuitable for farming, Delos Reyes' sturdy stalks of Vietnamese kalo now stand taller than he does, and his basil bushes are thick with leaves. He no longer has to buy fertilizer, herbicides or pesticides, and he has cut water use by 30 percent. The indigenous microorganisms in the dirt — bacteria, fungi and protozoa — help nourish his crops. The plants grow hardier because their roots have to reach further to find water, according to Cho.

"You use less water, you use less inputs and you end up with a healthier plant which produces more nutritious food, of a higher quality," said landowner David Wong, who ran Oahu's last dairy on this Waianae property and is working with Delos Reyes in the first commercial operation using Cho's methods on Oahu. "Here's a system that is not freight-dependent, and it changes the economics of how agriculture could be done in Hawaii."

Cho, founder of the Janong Natural Farming Institute in Chungbuk, South Korea, held his first workshop in Hilo last February. Dr. Hoon Park, a retired physician in Hilo, heads Cho Global Natural Farming-USA, a nonprofit that promotes Cho's approach. Its workshop last month was sponsored by the Hawaii FFA Foundation, the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Kamehameha Schools, among others.

Across the state, an unusual piggery in Kurtistown on the Big Island is another showcase for Cho's system of "natural farming." The pig farm's claim to fame: It does not smell or attract flies or even require cleaning. And its pigs are thriving.

"It is the first piggery of this kind in the United States," said Michael DuPonte, a livestock extension agent with the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and a technical adviser on the demonstration project. "It's been in production for 20 months, and I haven't cleaned the piggery yet. It looks the same as the day I opened it. No smell, no flies. It's a combination of the dry litter soaking up all the liquids and the microbes working together to break down the manure."

DuPonte said the idea of not cleaning a pigsty did not sit well with him at first blush. "When Master Cho came to see me, I was a skeptic," DuPonte said. "I asked him, 'What about disease?' You don't clean a piggery in Hawaii, guarantee your pigs are going to get sick. He said, 'on't worry about disease. The microbes will take care of that.' I didn't believe him."

But after a trip to Korea to see a piggery in action, DuPonte became a convert. The Kang Farms "Inoculated Dry Litter System" piggery building, opened in August 2009 in Kurtistown, measures 30 by 60 feet and handles up to 125 pigs. It uses natural ventilation and is oriented for sunlight. The pens are filled with a deep bed of dry sawdust and wood chips, spiked with microorganisms cultivated from local soil that help break down the manure. The pigs are fed rations made from agricultural waste, including sweet potatoes, macadamia nuts and bananas.

DuPonte says the pigs seem "stress-free and contented," and they are good neighbors because the piggery produces no waste, runoff or telltale smell. That is important for Hawaii's swine farmers, who have been pushed from one location after another by urbanization and complaints from neighbors. The piggery project was supported by the University of Hawaii, Farm Pilot Project Coordination, Hawaii County and Agribusiness Development Corp., among others.

"Pig farmers are very, very interested in the system," DuPonte said. "I've had 50 people come in and ask me if I would build these piggeries in their place. It's going to take off, mainly because of lack of odor. Pig farmers have been kicked out of Kam IV Road and then Hawaii Kai, and now they're getting challenges in Waianae and they don't know where they are going to go next."

Versions of natural farming have been practiced for generations in Asia. But scientific proof of its efficacy is hard to come by because it is a complex system that adapts to local conditions, said Ted Radovich, assistant specialist in the Sustainable and Organic Farming Systems Laboratory at the UH College of Tropical Agriculture.

"It looks like there is value there," Radovich said. "There is increasing interest in doing research. While I think there is potential, we're quite a way from understanding how it works."

He said the appeal of Cho's approach in Hawaii lies in its "localness." "Any system that makes some inroads into decreasing our reliance on external inputs and improving the profitability of our local farms is important to consider," he said. "We're not at the point where we can make recommendations yet."

DuPonte estimates that 150 people are practicing "natural farming" techniques in the Hilo area, mainly backyard farmers and gardeners.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering small grants to a few farmers in each Hawaii county who want to try converting part of their fields to natural farming, though not livestock. DuPonte said the ideal candidate is a farmer with about two acres, who would use the money to cover the cost of switching to "natural farming" on a quarter of an acre and keep track of costs and yields.

Cho will return for another workshop in July in Kohala, and he urged folks to give "natural farming" a whirl. "on't doubt," he said through an interpreter. "Just jump in and try and practice and see how it works out."

 
maikeru sumi-e
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kahunadm wrote:
Hi Folks,

I am interested in brushing up on soil organisms and their roles in the nutrient cycle.  Specifically, I'm interested in how various organisms interact with minerals, organic matter, and other life forms in the soil, and during their life cycles, how and what nutrients they make available to plants...nutrients that might otherwise be locked up (or unavailable).  Also, it is my understanding that some of the more well known and necessary nutrients, even if present in the soil, may still be unavailable to the plants if certain trace minerals are absent, or in insufficient or excessive quantities.

If anyone has any thoughts on this topic that they would like to share (or recommended books, videos, articles, etc.), I would love to hear about them.

Cheers,

David


Soil organisms are the nutrient cycle, are the fertility, are the key to healthy soils and healthy plants. They are the unseen, unsung partners in a vast web of life which we're only scratching the surface of.

This is a good start and overview:

http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/soil_food_web.html
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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There's a guy in the Philippines who's been doing the same thing - Gil Caradang, of Harbana Farms (http://www.herbanafarm.com/).

I've toyed with the idea of taking one of his classes, but I've been waiting to see if anyone has successfully implemented the same techniques in a temperate climate. It also sounds a lot like biodynamics, without the mystical explanation of why it works.



 
duane hennon
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here's the website for natural farming

http://naturalfarminghawaii.net/
 
rose macaskie
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  axxording to paul stamets fungi and some microorganisms are fungal I believe try secreting different substances to break down whatever there is around them so they can feed on it.
H ebelieves in fungi give them a job to break down this or that and they will do it. he does chose fungi who use phosphorus to break up a molecule containing phosfurus though rather thaqn one that does not use this atom.
  We see acid as some how disolving subsances but in chemistry i believe the question is that each atom in a molecule is held together by elector magnetic force and you have to find some thing with a stronger pull to attract the aton¡ms out of the partnership they have formed if you want to seperate out the atoms of the molecule beccause you need the carbon say to make up mushroom flesh.
  Paul stamets explains that fungi are older than humans an dso they have had more time than us finding out how to do things he explains this in relation to there defenses from viruses and bacteria which he investigates in order to find new cures for illnesses . he believes they are like us an dso you can find lots of cures to illnesses in fungi.
  HTeir ability at digestying must be the same, they have been trying to  digest substances for millions of years and aso you can expect they will be good at it digestion is a question of breaking up molecules into component parts that can then be absorbedas i understand it it is by digesting substances that the microbes put breaking them down an dliberating the nutrients. agri rose macaskie.
 
Joy Banks
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Location: Southeast Arizona, USDA zone 8b, 4200 ft elevation, 12-16 in. rain annually
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I just stumbled on Dr. Cho's book about Korean Natural Farming, free PDF, 110 pages!

https://ilcasia.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/chos-global-natural-farming-sarra.pdf

 
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