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A story of microbes, how they can accomplish seeming miracles and how to culture or buy them  RSS feed

 
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Archaea will digest petroleum products very quickly. It can used in toxic and petroleum product clean up.

http://archaeaproducts.squarespace.com/about/

Pretty wild stuff...

Kevin
 
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Location: Oconahua, Jalisco, Mexico
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Hey all! I appreciate this discussion and have a question for the group.

We live in rural Mexico and many ingredients are either impossible to find or people stare at me like I have lost my mind when I ask. (one seemingly easy to find ingredient was molasses....it is just not available in stores here)
Last year I found a very easy recipe using milk and whey, then letting it ferment to use as fertilizer. The cost of milk started adding up but the whey is available from a local cheese maker for free.
I heard about local greenhouses using whey, diluting it, and using that to water plants as a fertilizer.

Has anyone just used liquid whey as a fertilizer? I did not do a proper study....and we have only been on our land a year and half.....but after using the whey last year our pistachio and cherry trees started producing just this season. May not be related but you never know.

Comments? I am trying to reduce ingredients to make it simple and very easy to find so we don't lose hope. Our ground is quite hard as this was a corn field for many years and while we have some mature trees now, we still need help to break it up and create new soil.
Thanks!
 
Kevin Lessard
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Michelle,

I would see about using manure. Most rural communities have animals. Chicken, cow, rabbit manure all work really well. And if you can compost it first would be a great way to add nutrients to your soil and kick start the soil building process.

As far as whey goes I have never used it before.

Good luck on finding sources for your land!

Kevin
 
Michelle Kelley
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Location: Oconahua, Jalisco, Mexico
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Appreciate the response and we do have a rich source of animal waste to use including worm castings which are made in the next town over, we even have our own worms and use the castings and tea.

What I am most curious about is the microbes and adding to our hard, cement like soil to help break it up and create soil in sand and clay like conditions. Maybe the worm castings or tea would work?

I seek easier recipes. With ingredients I can find locally. FYI, farmers here love love love Dow and Monsanto so when we go to the local seed stores, they sell tons of chemicals and seeds covered in chemicals. Fortunately, we found a first ever local organic and native seed festival where purchases were made but nobody had information on microbes.

Can I use powdered pumice in any recipes as a substitute for basalt? someone gave me a recipe that uses manure and among other items, ground basalt. Hmm.
 
Kevin Lessard
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Michelle,

What I do to make compost tea from scratch is use a old tube sock and put in a hand full each of compost, manure, worm castings if I have them, and tie off the sock. I then submerge it in a 5 gallon bucket of dechlorinated water and I use a cheap air pump like what you would use in an aquarium with one of those large and heavy air stones that sink to the bottom and get the sock wet and ring it out several times in the water, stir, and place the sock on top of the air stone. If you add molasses you will have very bacterial tea. If you can add something like fish emulsion then you will have very fungal tea. I brew for both.

Let it aerate for at least 2 days and stir at least twice a day with a stick or large spoon. You will then have a fantastic compost tea.

If you can add something like a organic liquid fertilizer like johns recipe:http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Bug-Johns-Recipe-Quart/dp/B0163GOKN2/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1463510886&sr=8-4&keywords=johns+recipe+fertilizer or something simular and plant success soluable: http://www.amazon.com/Plant-Success-Soluble-4-oz/dp/B00CJJ10W2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1463510939&sr=8-2&keywords=plant+success, And if you can afford it it take very little to add to your tea in the last hour of brewing and will last a very long time: http://archaeaproducts.squarespace.com/product/

The addition of these 3 products would take a great compost tea to super tea.

Hope this helps...

Kevin
 
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Michelle, the following may be a stretch, but may be of use. I think some of the recipes above call for sugar and if I'm not mistaken there is one or more kinds of unrefined sugar in Mexican markets. Look for the brownish sugar which will indicate either molasses still present in the unrefined product or at least added back to the sugar. This added to your concoctions may help with the bacterial growth, but maybe someone else can confirm using this as a source of your molasses component.
 
Kevin Lessard
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John Weiland wrote:Michelle, the following may be a stretch, but may be of use. I think some of the recipes above call for sugar and if I'm not mistaken there is one or more kinds of unrefined sugar in Mexican markets. Look for the brownish sugar which will indicate either molasses still present in the unrefined product or at least added back to the sugar. This added to your concoctions may help with the bacterial growth, but maybe someone else can confirm using this as a source of your molasses component.



Yes brown sugar which has molasses in it would also work. Hell you could use table sugar if you wanted too. Bacteria don't know the difference.



Kevin
 
John Weiland
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@Kevin L: "Bacteria don't know the difference. "

Maybe **your** bacteria can't tell the difference, but **my** bacteria are a Tate-and-Lyle connoisseurs exclusively! (just kidding)

But actually, I'm pretty sure most people, especially tea drinkers, say they can tell the difference between beet and cane sugar, even though they say the refining/crystallization removes all impurities.
 
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I have used generic cola and it seemed to work just fine.
 
Kevin Lessard
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Nothing special has to be used to provide energy for the bacteria so long as what you gave them in the form of simple carbs is not contaminated with something bad that might kill the bacteria.

Sugar
brown sugar
Molasses

They should all work fine...

Kevin
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Marco Banks wrote: But we must be careful with our language: Microbes cannot eat the earth, they can only eat carbon rich bio-mass, and thus produce rich soil.



Could the microbes be taking atmospheric carbon (CO2) and turning it, with their dead bodies, into humus?



Marco - thank you! I was reading this thread and getting a bit frustrated - getting lush plants and good topsoil out of desert sand with one inch of rain sounds, to me, like there are some sources of water and nutrients missing from the equation.

Tyler - your excellent comment was partially addressed earlier, but I thought it would be fun to expand on it.

There are many microbes that can take CO2 and convert it to organic matter. All of them, however, need a source of energy.

There are a couple of possible energy sources. The best, as mentioned before, is the sun. Photosynthesis is not limited to plants; there are many bacteria that do it quite well. The catch is that they need light, which means they can't grow more than an inch or so below the surface. So 6 inches down - this is probably not the main player.

The other one that might be relevant is inorganic chemicals - hydrogen gas, sulfide, methane, and yes, some solid minerals. So in this sense, there are some bacteria that can "eat rocks" (and they are AWESOME!). The catch is that the rocks need to be of a very specific type - they need to have specific metals that can be oxidized to release energy. You are not likely to find a lot of accessible energy in typical sand. These microbes are also slowpokes - the energy locked in solid rock is not easy to get to, nor is it enough to make big gobs of biomass.

So, what might explain the results described in this thread? Well, as people mentioned, plants do photosynthesis and produce quite a lot of carbon, releasing some of it as root exudates. So a symbiosis between the plants and the microbes could be doing quite a bit. My money would be on this being the biggest factor.

There might also be some microbial photosynthesis happening at the surface - especially if you seen green, pink, orange, or rust colors in the top layers of the soil; these pigments help phototrophs capture the sun's energy. Charlotte - can you post pictures of some of your soil from sand?

There might be organic matter in the subsoil. As far as I understand (and Charlotte would have to weigh in on this) the subsoil is described as having no organic matter based on the way it looked, not by any other measure. So, there may have been organic carbon within the subsoil that was not visible, which the microbes converted into something richer looking.

Gases coming up through the earth and feeding the microbes could be happening - I'm not sure how much, but it is possible.

So to summarize, there are a number of ways that microbes can and do produce organic carbon and build soil - I'd say the most likely in a farm situation is getting stuff from the plants, maybe with some small contributions from the other sources, etc.

I'm more puzzled about the water - there was a description of a situation where Charlotte was working with sand with an inch of rain the whole season. I'd be very curious for an accounting of exactly how much water the plants got. The description made it sound like other than the inch of rain, they got almost none, which does not seem possible. Microbes can help keep water in the soil sure, but they aren't going to create it - and crop plants need more than an inch of rain over several months (unless there was a huge catchment, and rain from a large area was collected...?) I'm wondering if perhaps there was water coming from a nearby human source, or perhaps the groundwater was close to the surface? Or perhaps the regular application of microbes was diluted in a significant amount of water?

There is a ton of exciting stuff in this thread, and I hope that I and others can experiment with it - but for it to be useful, all of the inputs need to be recorded and described. The only difference between science and messing around is - writing $%#t down!
 
pollinator
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Covering the soil so that the sun and wind does not dry it out is of utmost importance. Geoff Lawton had good success in a desert situation by using drip irrigation (which uses far less water than normal), mulching -- he did chop & drop style mulching using any available vegetation and brush trimmings, planting tall growing plants to shade the ground for shorter plants, planting tall plants in rows for windbreaks purposes, and planting closely enough to help retain whatever little humidity built up around the plants. I'm sure he would see evidence of soil microbes at work under that mulch if he checked.

Microbes are just one part of the formula for amending soil. If they are protected from the direct sun, drying wind, and are kept moist, they can propagate on their own. Drying or cold will cause them to die back and sporulate.

If the soil is "dead", there very well could be various microbes and spores just waiting for their environment to improve. Provide them shade, moisture, warmth, and organic matter and they should spring to life. But of course outside microbes could be added to give things a jump start. Or if the soil is exposed (no mulch), then microbes could be reintroduced from time to time to repopulate the soil.

I'm not a soil scientist thus don't know which microbes are the best for a particular situation. What I did was find robustly growing plants in my area and take soil and mulch from their bases to use to grow my own. You can buy garden soil micro organisms but who can say if they are the best for you situation. But at least it's start. And as the soil improves I suspect that the microbe population will shift to what does well in that particular garden spot.

I grow my own extra microbes via compost. I initially inoculated my compost piles a shovelful or two of nice looking leaf mold and soil that I gathered locally. Since that start, I just inoculate new compost piles with a few shovelfuls of older compost and a few of my garden soil. The cycle goes on and on. Soil microbes reproduce rapidly in warm, moist, rich compost pile. And also under the mulch layers in my gardens.
 
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your local feed store should carry molasses well mine does.
 
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Michelle Kelley wrote:Hey all! I appreciate this discussion and have a question for the group.

We live in rural Mexico and many ingredients are either impossible to find or people stare at me like I have lost my mind when I ask. (one seemingly easy to find ingredient was molasses....it is just not available in stores here)
Last year I found a very easy recipe using milk and whey, then letting it ferment to use as fertilizer. The cost of milk started adding up but the whey is available from a local cheese maker for free.
I heard about local greenhouses using whey, diluting it, and using that to water plants as a fertilizer.

Has anyone just used liquid whey as a fertilizer? I did not do a proper study....and we have only been on our land a year and half.....but after using the whey last year our pistachio and cherry trees started producing just this season. May not be related but you never know.

Comments? I am trying to reduce ingredients to make it simple and very easy to find so we don't lose hope. Our ground is quite hard as this was a corn field for many years and while we have some mature trees now, we still need help to break it up and create new soil.
Thanks!


The whey should be a good source of sugar [lactose] or lactic acid if the cheese was cultured with that kind of bacteria. It also contains many minerals in an organic form available to the microbes and possibly directly to the plant roots. The nutrition in the whey is basically obtained by the cow by the same bacteria that is in the manure. so it is one step closer to what the plant needs.

You also asked about pumice as a mineral source. That should be easily broken down by the acids produced by the bacteria and be available for the ions that are used to build complex enzymes and proteins.
 
Michelle Kelley
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Location: Oconahua, Jalisco, Mexico
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Thanks everyone for your input....this is a great topic. I will try a brown sugar sold locally and will go back to get more whey this season. I also appreciate the comment about using powdered pumice instead of basalt in recipes. Local "feed" stores here do not sell molasses but I recently heard if you have a connection with a sugar refinery, you can get some from there and farmers use it for feed for pigs. Interesting. Need to network, I guess. Just as a reminder, we live in a VERY rural area of Jalisco, Mexico and many items you are all used to buying at local stores are just not available here. As a result, we are improvising on a daily basis. Appreciate the ideas.....
Saludos!
 
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wanted to post this from elaine ingham via anne melloy. perhaps it will cast some light on how microbe innoculations can get immediate results with plant fertility.


Charlotte Anthony 5:58pm Sep 28
an easy to understand description of living soil, how every soil contains what is needed for plants to grow and therefore why adding fermented microbial "potions" can dramatically improve your plants access to what they need. .

this is from anne melloy from Elaine Ingham who is working mainly in the U.S. but very relevant to Goa as to soil everywhere. great for helping us get out of "green erwevolution thinking."
An Ecological Approach

Elaine Ingham Seminar
Elaine Ingham <soilfoodweb@aol.com>
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 3:34 PM
To: ameloy75@gmail.com, info@nature-technologies.com
Reading through your summary, there are a couple things I would like to point out.

You describe sand, silt, clay particles, rocks, pebbles, gravel, etc as the framework for the soil "house". In fact, sand, silt, clay, rocks, etc do NOT make any such structure on their own accord.

It is the life in that matrix that builds the framework. Sand, silt, clay, rocks, etc are merely the base materials from which bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods, earthworms, enchytraeids, etc build the framework, build structure.

No life, no aggregates, no pores, no way to maintain structure, no way to alleviate compaction.

Soils people who do not understand how soil structure is built will often talk about how tillage aerates soil. No, really, all that tillage does is fluff soil for a very short period of time. As soon as water begins to pass through the mineral particles, the fluff is lost. Rather like making cotton candy. Sure, blowing air into a syrup solution causes a light, airy structure, but at the first sign of moisture, wind, or other disturbance, the fluff is lost and it all compacts right down again.

Life builds structure. Soil organisms are much more like people, who build houses, buildings, urban, sub-urban, town, village, farm infrastruture. Without humans, none of that structure occurs. Any disturbance can destroy that structure and it may take days, weeks, months, years to re-build. But, without life, no structure will be built.

Definitions:

Probably best to start with what soil is.

As defined by Hans Jenny, the Father of Soil Science: 1. The mineral component (sand, silt clay broken down ---- by organisms for the most part --- from rocks, parent materials, gravel, pebbles, boulders, etc), 2. Organic matter component (plant detritus, debris, residues, exudates, whatever label you want to give plant material, and any and all decomposed organic materials --- possibly we need to be clear what is meant by organic: any material which contains carbon in chains ultimately produced by photosynthesis) and 3. Organisms which perform all the processes in soil that transform organic matter, release nutrients in plant available forms, structure soil, retain, hold and sequester nutrients, including carbon, etc. Of course all abiotic factors affect rates of transformation of organic matter, building of soil, etc.

Dirt then is comprised of factor 1 above: the mineral component, with a minimal amount, or no organic matter or organisms.

• compacted soils --- Compaction occurs when compression, occurring by whatever means, packs the mineral fraction, and if present, the organic fraction of soil to greater than 100 to 150 psi. Work done by Penn State clearly shows that most plants cannot push roots through soil more compacted than 150 psi. Taprooted plants may be able to pressure their way through soil up to 300 psi. Compaction as low as 50 psi can reduce oxygen and all gas movement as well as infiltration of movement of water. This means if any organism activity is present, these compacted areas will rapidly become anaerobic.

• soil structure is the formation of microaggregates (bacterial function), macroaggregates (fungal function), peds (all soil organisms working together), passageways, hallways, small pores and large pores, allowing for the movement of oxygen and other gases, water, organisms and roots.

• soil aggregation: flocculation (chemical surface interactions involving clays surfaces), and structures built by bacteria and fungi,

• mineralization/oxidation actions Mineralization requires organic compounds to be converted to mineral forms. For each compound on the Periodic Chart of Elements, mineral (including purely mineral forms in the crystalline structures of rocks, sand, silt and clay, to the soluble and exchangeable forms of each nutrient) and organic forms occur, and the role and function of each in plant growth should be understood. Oxidation: forms of nutrients when partially or wholly oxidized, along with the recognition that in SOIL, all these interactions are typically dependent on organism transformations. Extreme environments operate differently, but those conditions do not exist in soil. Reduction: All interactive sites wholly or partially occupied by hydrogen. pH: the concentration of hydrogen ions expressed in a logarithmic scale. Note that in SOIL, pH is completely dependent on BIOLOGY. Organisms control the pH of soil.

• photosynthesis, the process of storing sunlight energy in carbon - carbon bonds

• Dynamic Soil Property, ----From Anne's summary: Dynamic Soil Property (DSP) studies which quantify the changes in soil properties over a short time frame such as differences from native condition to cropped land on similar soils. Whoa ---- this concept is extremely scale-bound. When is soil NOT in a state of flux? Daily changes in organism activity abound. What are the daily, weekly, monthly inputs of organic matter? When did the herd of herbivores walk by? Rainfall, snowfall, temperature,s humidity all work to invoke changes. there is a seasonal cycle, and that cycle must be understood. This Dynamic Soil Property seems to actually be talking about DISTURBANCE impacts, not a dynamic property. A dynamic property, to me, implies how the system responds to normal seasonal shifts in conditions, not how the system responds to one particular disturbance, which may not happen again for decades, or centuries or eons.

How does each system respond to being plowed with a mould board plow? A chisel plow? A disc plow? A sub-soiler? A deep-ripper? A keyline plow with or without compost extract or tea? The response to each is different, and the effects will be different, especially if amendments are added in: inorganic feritlizers, or reduced waste, or compost or teas? If compaction is broken up and structure built, the long term response is going to be massively different than the soil just compacting back down again because no life survived the tillage event. What happens if a herd of cattle walks over the tilled ground too soon? Or when the ground is wet? Will there be a difference if there is lots of organic matter, or none? how much life was present in that organic matter? Massively different end points............

So, by DSP do you really mean, what's the effect of disturbance? There is much more useful ecological terminology present that covers this type of subject material.
----------------------------------------------
So the question for the microbiologist is: What is the role of the mineral soil?
1. Mineral nutrients: The crystalline strucutre of clay, sand, silt, rocks, pebbles, etc hold withiin it a great deal of EVERY nutrient that plants require. Bacteria and fungi make the enzymes to remove those nutrients from that crystalline lattice work and pull those nutrients into the body of bacteria and fungus, retaining, holding and keeping those nutrients bound inside the organism. The organic matter, or food, for the bacteria and fungus to do this work is usually provided by the roots of plants, or to a lesser degree, organic matter present in the soil.

Consider that there is no soil on this planet that lacks nutrients. Do not be mislead here by thinking I'm talking about SOLUBLE nutrients, because I'm not. Plants need a certain amount of each nutrient important to that plant's growth. Those nutrients are present in the sand, silt, clay, rocks, pebbles, gravel, parent materials, and so forth. No soil lacks the nutrients to grow any plant you care to grow. Please look at tables that show TOTAL NUTRIENT CONCENTRATIONS from all soil, in any part of the world where they have been tested. All the nutrients the plants could possibly want are present. And if life is present, every second of every day, new nutrients are being replenished in that soil from the bedrock, parent materials, rocks, boulders, pebbles, gravel..........etc. Until the bones of the planet are gone, there will always be nutrients in the soil.

So why do plants grow better, green up, yield more when inorganic fertilizers are added? Because those fertilizers are the soluble forms of nutrients that plants require. All that is necessary is to convert the TOTAL sets of nutrients present in any soil, in the sand silt and clay, into plant available, soluble forms, and you don't needed inorganic fertilizers.

How does that conversion occur in the real world? Soil biology does that job. Inorganic, soluble fertilizers ONLY WORK, only give a plant response if soil biology is destroyed.

How did human beings destroy soil life? Tillage; compaction; use of high salt manures, and we have maintained that lack of life by using inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.

Want to return to an agriculture where we don't destroy soil, but build it? Must return soil life, in the proper balances, to cycle and retain nutrients, prevent disease and pest organisms from being able to grow, build structure to allow water, air and root to move as deep as they can into the soil, decompose toxin, present weeds..............

-----------------------------------

A clay particle is about the same size as a bacterium. But bacteria growing, increasing in number, given enough food, can increase to larger than the size of the Planet Earth within about 96 hours. Luckily, lack of food stops this from happening, but given infinite resources, they could do that.

So consider that within a few hours, a bacterial aggregate can be the size of a sand grain, and those bacteria happily glue all sorts of organic matter, clays, silts, etc into that aggregate. With the help of a few fungi, the microaggregates can be turned into macro-aggregates that people can see with their eyes. And consider all the benefits that come with building these structure, and that this structure can only occur IF THE ORGANISMS ARE PRESENT AND FUNCTIONING.

We can certainly see clays, silts and sand grains using a 400X total magnification. but if the sand is big and hard to see what is on it, then we back off to 200X, or 100X or 40X. Or a hand lens. We can look at interactions are any scale that is useful.

“The secrets of soil are being un-earthed. <wink> All puns intended!” Elaine R. Ingham. 2015

Elaine R. Ingham
Soil Life Consultant
 
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Hello All,

I'm new here in all senses of the word, but am a big fan of micro-biology in recent years, taking quickly to fermenting pickles, acchars, and sourdoughs and drinking raw milk/kombucha/"compost" teas for the human body, and now thinking hard about how to replicate this in my gardening and farming activities. I wonder whether the impasse between Charlotte and Marco might be in attributing the "soil eating" (casual speak) to bacteria rather than fungi mycorrhizal networks.

I enjoyed reading this work about the micro-mining operations of mycorrhizae which was originally posted in Scientific American a few months ago, but now has been taken down. I found it on the blogspot:
http://earthhaven.ca/blog-s217.php?postID=174&article=Mycorrhizal-Fungi-run-the-Largest-Mining-Operation-in-the-World

Quite enjoying this thread -- and the compost recipes. Thanks!

Best to you all.
 
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Charlotte,
Thank you for starting such an interesting thread. I'm following closely and absorbing as much as I can. I so appreciate that there are posts looking at this from a different angle too. You had mentioned in your OP that you wanted to " whet our appetite " with a story, I believe you've started a feeding frenzy for those of us with inquiring minds.
 
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Well, I have observed, life brings about more life. I have used raw milk to improve the top my a dry hill where the soil was hard and dry. I had to get a cover crop on during the month of favourable conditions. Once covered the raw milk fed the soil life and eartworms came. Now the soil is much more productive.

I am going to try this microbe brewing thing in combination with living soil cover. So, I banged together a 30 gallon brewer made from a drum, a PVC gyser air pump and a stone. I prefer to have the stirring done automatically and for the mix to be aerobic. I tried a batch in a 5 gallon bucket with no air and it stank like crazy after a week. I did the same batch again, but this time with an air lift and it smelled funky, but not in a bad way..

Any ways, if this works I'll get back to this thread and post the results at the end of the growing season.
MicrobeGyser.gif
[Thumbnail for MicrobeGyser.gif]
30 gallon air geyser pumpes microbe weed fermenter
 
John Weiland
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Don't know if this link made it to the Forum within another thread, but it seemed appropriate in a tangential way to this discussion:

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/150325/ncomms7505/full/ncomms7505.html
 
charlotte anthony
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john weiland, thank you very much for this post. i will take it over to posts regarding polyculture and human diseases such as cancer. it is very relevant, as we take the diversity out of our diet, we take the microbes out of our bellies.
 
charlotte anthony
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lena joanna, marco and others. thanks for all your brainstorming about where the energy source is for the micobes to grow. the one elaine ingham talks about is that the dead microbes provide a carbon source.
 
John Weiland
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Just wanted to add this additional link to this thread. I was beginning to wonder about the different ways that water might be concentrated by the microbial population in ways that we haven't considered. This link points to some surprising ways that other organisms gain access to water in areas of scarcity: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/drawing-inspiration-from-nature-to-harvest-water-from-the-air/470547/


EDIT: Still a bit obsessed by this thread and will add an additional (open-source?) reference on water vapor in carbon cycling for arid regions: http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13767
 
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Marco Banks wrote:It would appear to me the just as important (or perhaps even more important) as introducing beneficial microbes to your bio-system, is to create a habitat for those microbes to continue to live, thrive and multiply.

Thus, while the evidence of the benefit of compost teas, comfrey tea, etc. is still largely anecdotal, with scientific studies showing mixed and inconclusive results, we do know that soil that has high levels of carbon and a multiplicity of living roots will be thriving with biological/microbial life. So it doesn't make much sense to go to great lengths to brew microbial-rich teas if we are introducing them into soils that will not be able to support them. Please hear this: I'm not in any way against microbes. Clearly they are an essential keystone to the soil food web. But the question of whether or not the best way to build microbial communities is via compost and comfrey teas is still very much open to debate. But what we do know is that if you build the "house" for them, they'll come into that house and take up residence.

Imagine going to a pet store, buying a dozen tropical fish, and then dropping them into an empty aquarium. They look full of life . . . for a bit . . . flopping around, and doing fish stuff . . . but within a short time the environment I've introduced them to will not sustain them.

I believe that most soil has the parent material for all the microbes you will ever need ---- but we need to create the environment for them to multiply and thrive. (Putting the water into the aquarium). By dumping copious amounts of carbon onto the soil surface via organic mulches and chop and drop gardening, you create the habitat your microbes need. In the rare circumstance where there are not adequate soil microbes, a one-time "jump start" of compost or compost tea might be needed to introduce these microbes, but from then on, you only feed the system, not the tea.

Every time it rains on my food forest, I am getting thousands of gallons of compost tea spread over the surface of my food forest. How? I've got 6 inches of wood chips, mulching and decomposing on every open surface, and thousands of plants pumping root exudates into the soil. That rain washes through the composting wood chips and pushes those microbes down into the root zone of those plants, where they feed on the sugars provided by the plants. I'm not brewing anything, but I don't have to. Further, because plants self-select and feed the microbes that they find most beneficial, I don't have to worry about brewing the "right" kinds of microbes: the plants are already doing this for themselves.

As permaculture is all about biomimicry, this is exactly what is taking place in a forest. The rain washes through the carbon layer on the forest floor, and the microbes there-in wash down into the soil profile. No one is brewing compost tea out in the forest, but the soil is getting everything it needs. Nowhere in nature will you find compost teas being sprayed onto the leaves of trees.

Build the right home for the microbes, and they'll multiply and distribute themselves aggressively. But if you are pouring microbe rich teas onto denuded and bare soils, it's a lot of effort for minimal return.



i totally agree with you and most likely the same applies to most elements introduced in a field. there is no efficient watering (no matter the method) if there is no organic matter to absorb/"hold" the moisture and so on.
 
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Inspired by this thread, I tried an experiment. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm, I made some pretty big blunders that gave me inconclusive results, but I'll probably try it again soon.

An area of new garden built on poor soil. I have growing there young flax, safflower, mustard seed and amaranth. They were all quite small and showing signs of stress.

I poured a bucket of fermented nettle tea on the soil for half of them. That was about two weeks ago. The plants where the tea went, are now about 4 times as tall and super healthy compared to the others. That's nice. Maybe it's doing something... only...

The problem is I didn't do the experiment properly.

I failed to water the other half of the plants, so of course they are stunted. It has hardly rained in 3 weeks.

I also forgot that I applied a huge amount of llama manure to half the area, the half I put the nettle tea on. Llama berries make things grow fast and healthy. Llama berries seem to need moisture for the plants to get the benefit of them. The nettle tea provided that moisture.

So the results were good, but I set up the experiment wrong.

Did the microbes help? Maybe. Results from my first try are inconclusive.
 
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Good effort there Ransom. Glad you're willing to give it another try.

I am planning to experiment as well. I don't have time (may be out fishing) to do a properly prepared ferment (21 day method) to make my own microbes, so I've ordered the EM-1 from Teraganix, the Fungi Perfecti for the mycorrhizal fungi and azomite to feed the little monsters. I'm all in.

I believe some (not all) of what Charlotte has said, but I agree with Marco too in that the environment has to be suitable to sustain their lives. This is my first year trying a BTE garden and would like to "kick start" the microbial activity before my chips start to decompose.

Note: For anyone who has mentioned manure or compost in their brew, this is a fermented plant tea in which you can stir by hand, using only plants and water. A manure tea or compost tea I would aerate, but if not aerating don't go over 3 days. If you do your microbes may use up all the oxygen and cause your tea to become an anaerobic breeding ground for bacteria. You don't want to chance introducing e coli or other unwanted pathogens into your soil. Do your homework. Be safe.
**I'm no expert, these are just my opinions based on things I've read**
 
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Good effort there, R.

Too many people try experiments wherein they try something and see what happens, and forget a control.

The Permaculture Association has a research handbook that helps with the design of such trials: https://www.permaculture.org.uk/sites/default/files/page/document/research_handbook_version_1.5_-_printer_friendly.pdf

I don't know how much land you have, but you may want to try a more complex split-plot design (see pages 12 and 13 of the link above):

Unwatered, no llama dung, no nettle tea (this is your control)
Unwatered, no llama dung, with nettle tea
Unwatered, with llama dung, no nettle tea
Unwatered, with llama dung, with nettle tea

Watered, no llama dung, no nettle tea
Watered, no llama dung, with nettle tea
Watered, with llama dung, no nettle tea
Watered, with llama dung, with nettle tea

It's best if you can do as many iterations of this as possible, and measure averages. Otherwise treat all the plots the same way. Another common mistake I've seen is to make the plots too small (how big is "big enough" depends on what plants you are growing). If it rains, having some means of measuring that would be great. It tells us very little if there is more rainfall than actual watering (1 millimetre of rain equals one litre of water per square metre).

It would be useful to measure both yields and net primary productivity (it may be that you are causing the plants to put on top growth at the expense of edible food - llama manure is probably very high in nitrogen). This is information I'm realising we sorely need.

Letting us know about your soils, climate and what plants you grew would also be of great benefit, because different people may get different results in different conditions.

This will help us sort out the relative value of nettle tea and llama manure and, at least in your climate, watering.

 
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That's a great idea Neil. With your encouragement, I would like to give it another try. Small scale, but big enough to decide if I want to dedicate more space to it next year.

I think I would like to do some experimenting without the llama berries for now. Llama berries are actually really low in nitrogen, but very good in the things I can't remember name of right now for circulatory system building, which seems to help with drought tolerance and resilliance. They are also really high in trace minerals, akin to organic goat manure.



Where I would like to try the experiment is an area with even worse soil (glacial silt) but something like was described earlier in the thread. I'm trying different methods to see if the soil can be built with no other input but seeds, so no added manure. I figure rainwater fermented weeds could make a bacteria rich potion which would stick with my original no outside input plan.

This is more a proof of concept stage, so I'm thinking of making a batch of fermented weeds for microbes, then an equal size bucket of just rain water. 2 plots for each type, about 1-meter square should give me an idea if it's working or not. A few meters apart.

So basically control and home brewed fermented liquid and doing my best to keep the moisture the same.

Not sure what to plant yet. I have an area of failed quinoa (soil too dry) that I'm thinking to use. I'm looking for an annual (have some winter pulses I plan to put in there in the fall) that is exceedingly drought tolerant and really affordable to get seeds and that will show an obvious result. Maybe a selection of seeds?
 
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R Ranson wrote:. 2 plots for each type, about 1-meter square should give me an idea if it's working or not. A few meters apart.



Unless you are growing something very small, like radishes, that's probably too small.
 
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I'm thinking about mustard seed, fenugreek, fennel.. basically cleaning out my old herb seeds. Maybe I'll try Finnish ash turnips, as they are ready for harvest in about 6 to 8 weeks. These should be fairly small plants and if it's right that it will only take a month to see the results, then I think the small plots would work okay for the first trial.

For me, the biggest challenge is that I don't have the resources to do a quantitative analysis. Now, if someone wanted to pay me... yeh, like someone like me could get funding. On the farm, my primary goal is to put food on the table, something like this is secondary.

I generally rely on qualitative observations as they are easier for me to work with on a day to day level. Quantitive (numbers) are great if we are massing together a great big data set for further analysis; however my goal is to find out if this is a tool that might work at my location and if it's worth investigating further or not.

I don't know if this experiment would be of any interest to others or not. All it will tell me is how it reacts under my local conditions. If it does not work, I may have done it wrong or it may not be right for my place. If it does work, there may be confounding factors that aren't related to the experiment. So a success means further investigation, a failure means possible further investigation.
 
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@Su Ba Nice to 'see you'. Not sure where we've met but I remember you from somewhere. I can show you how to make Natural Farming work if you're interested. Just let me know.

@Marco Banks wrote: "But what we do know is that if you build the "house" for them, they'll come into that house and take up residence." As we've seen from Dr Ingham's work the microbes build the houses. Without microbes there is no structure. Therefore, if you inoculate the soil with indigenous microbes the dirt will develop into structured soil.

With adequate microbial populations the nutrients can be made available for plants in situ, as happens in the forest, in the wild. By inoculating the soil and keeping it mulched you can accelerate the creation of topsoil without all the work and hauling involved to creating, turning, and applying compost. This is what Korean Natural Farming is.

As for water, the microbes themselves are approximately 85% water by weight. Therefore, having a high concentration of microbial communities offers a water reserve. This is Master Cho's way of greening the desert, something he has been very successful at doing. Even small amount of moisture condensation from the air is taken up by microbes and holds the water in the system. Pretty cool huh?

As for making fermented comfrey or other weed teas, I imagine that although some microbes are being added to the system, mostly what is happening is making the nutrients in the fermented weeds available. While beneficial, there are better ways of increasing indigenous microbial communities in agricultural systems.

The Indigenous Micro Organism (IMO) system developed by Master Cho involves collecting wild communities of microbes on dry cooked rice (IMO#1) the mixing well with an equal weight of brown sugar (IMO#2). By the way brown sugar is refined sugar with molasses added back in. Raw or turbinado sugar is sugar without the molasses removed. Any form of brown sugar is better that white because it includes mineral and nutrients while white sugar is simply simple carbs. In the IMO#2 form the microbial culture can be kept indefinitely. A spoonful is enough to make about 400 pounds of IMO#4, which is the preferred method for inoculating the soil, animal bedding and animal feed. IMO#2 is amplified by growing on a carbohydrate source. Wheat mill run or rice bran are the best. IMO#2 is added to water with a few nutrients. The water is mixed with the mill run/rice bran to achieve a good moisture balance (when a handful is squeezed it forms a clump but not so wet that water drips out). The pile is placed on soil in 70% shade and covered with breathable material. It gets very hot and needs to be turned for 2-3+ days depending on weather/temperatures. Eventually the IMO will become fuzzy white and clumpy and is called IMO#3. This amplified culture is then mixed with an equal weight of soil and fermented again. Again it gets hot and becomes white-ish and clumpy and is called IMO#4. IMO#4 can be used as bedding for animals. It is warm enough that baby chicks can be raised without any other source of heat. I do this. In an inoculated deep litter system the IMO can be used to thermo-regulate barns and buildings through cold freezing winters and hot summers. In this litter system there is no smell and no flies and the bedding does not need to be cleaned out. But back to plants. The IMO#4 is added as a layer of clumps on top of the soil one week before planting Mulch protects the colonies from sun and desiccation. And because this method cultures the microbes as an aerobic system, the anaerobic pathogenic microbes are eliminated.
 
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R Ranson wrote:

For me, the biggest challenge is that I don't have the resources to do a quantitative analysis. Now, if someone wanted to pay me... yeh, like someone like me could get funding. On the farm, my primary goal is to put food on the table, something like this is secondary.
.



It depends how deep you want to go. The simplest quantitative analysis simply requires you to weigh things. With such a small sample it would probably be tricky to demonstrate statistical significance, but if it's just some quick-growing herbs you should be able to show something indicative. You won't prove anything, but science rarely does. This would still be useful as an indication for future larger-scale trials. Treat it as a pilot study. It's still useful. You just need to be careful not to overgeneralise.

Give us total weights and edible weights. Others can see if they can replicate your results. This helps all of us learn how to put more food on the table, and that's something permaculture has been lacking.

Thanks, though. This is useful for a long post I'm putting together.
 
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R Ranson wrote:yeh, like someone like me could get funding.



This might sound like a dumb suggestion, but I bet enough people on permies are interested in these experiments to contribute small amounts to a GoFundMe to pay for analysis if it were only a few hundred dollars. Worth a try!
 
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Neil Layton wrote:

R Ranson wrote:

For me, the biggest challenge is that I don't have the resources to do a quantitative analysis. Now, if someone wanted to pay me... yeh, like someone like me could get funding. On the farm, my primary goal is to put food on the table, something like this is secondary.
.



It depends how deep you want to go. The simplest quantitative analysis simply requires you to weigh things. With such a small sample it would probably be tricky to demonstrate statistical significance, but if it's just some quick-growing herbs you should be able to show something indicative. You won't prove anything, but science rarely does. This would still be useful as an indication for future larger-scale trials. Treat it as a pilot study. It's still useful. You just need to be careful not to overgeneralise.

Give us total weights and edible weights. Others can see if they can replicate your results. This helps all of us learn how to put more food on the table, and that's something permaculture has been lacking.

Thanks, though. This is useful for a long post I'm putting together.



Let's start a thread for this.

I bet having the skill to do this kind of small experiment would really help on the farm. I know it's just a small farm, and I'm just one person, but I think this kind of thing, if done well, could make a difference, at least on my tiny plot of land.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

R Ranson wrote:yeh, like someone like me could get funding.



This might sound like a dumb suggestion, but I bet enough people on permies are interested in these experiments to contribute small amounts to a GoFundMe to pay for analysis if it were only a few hundred dollars. Worth a try!



That's what I'm trying to get at. For a pilot study like this you need a little bit of time, some seeds, a watering can, a tape measure, the stuff to make up your nettle tea/whatever, a decent set of scales and a pen and some scrap paper. A set of good enough scales (because you probably need to be down to the nearest ten grams or better with herbs) might set you back a bit, but it's unlikely to lead to bankruptcy.
 
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