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Analysis soil/compost/compost tea with a microscope  RSS feed

 
Posts: 19
Location: Brisbane, Australia
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Hi All,

I would like to learn how to identify the microbial life in the soil/compost/compost tea.
My understanding is, you have to try and get the right mix of microrganisms to get the correct results.
Example – make more fungal compost/compost tea and see what type of compost tea is being produced etc.

I know I will need a microscope to analysis soil/compost/compost tea but needs the steps and how to identify the different microrganisms.

I know of Elaine Ingham’s courses but they are too pricey for me.
Where else can I find the information to help me on my journey of discovery?

Thanks in advance
Anthony
 
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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Tim Wilson has a lot of available resources both free and purchasable. You can find them Here at his site
If you have a worm farm or worm castings and follow his recipes and methods for brewing, it is as simple as getting a dropper, slides, and microscope. You will most likely be able to quickly make a rough ID of fungal hyphae, flagelletes, and very small bacteria/archaea with his free videos.
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Anthony Saber wrote:Hi All,

I would like to learn how to identify the microbial life in the soil/compost/compost tea.
My understanding is, you have to try and get the right mix of microrganisms to get the correct results.
Example – make more fungal compost/compost tea and see what type of compost tea is being produced etc.

I know I will need a microscope to analysis soil/compost/compost tea but needs the steps and how to identify the different microrganisms.

I know of Elaine Ingham’s courses but they are too pricey for me.
Where else can I find the information to help me on my journey of discovery?

Thanks in advance
Anthony



First thing to do is gather some text books on microbiology, these are easiest found at your local public library, far cheaper than building your own library, unless you are taking the college courses, this is the best way to have access to a wide variety of knowledge with micro-photos of the organisms.
Some where on the site, in my soil threads, I've listed some not so expensive microscopes and some of the equipment that goes along with one to be able to use it well.

Perhaps one of the best resources you have is right here, just ask and I will be happy to guide you along the journey.

Redhawk
 
Anthony Saber
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
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Thanks  Bryant.

I looked through your posts and found this below. Can I bug you to recommend the make and model. As I known very little about microscopes I don't want to buy the wrong model.

Thanks
Anthony

2500X magnification capability. The step up model is one with EPI-Fluorescence for the light source, these are costly though, you can add this light source separately later on.
The average person will spend around 350.00 for the scope, slides, cover slips, stains and specialty tools for slide making.
The scope I usually recommend as a good starting point is around 250.00, it is designed Veterinary/Clinical use and has a good illumination module with iris.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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AMSCOPE
This is a great one, if you don't want the ability to take microphotos you can get the same scope with out the camera for under 300.00.

You will need the amenities for microscope work: slides, coverslips, stains etc. slide esenticals
 
Anthony Saber
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
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Hi There,

Having second thoughts on going down the microscope route as I am not sure what I will gain from it.

My understanding is that once I have learned the skill I will be able to identify what microbes I have in
the soil, compost or compost tea but then what?

I understand is that if you want fungal compost you can see if its fungal dominated or not.

For compost tea is it fungal/bacterial and what microbes are growing in the tea.

Now the big question what happens next?
Is this an observation exercise only or are there action steps to be taken thereafter.

Thanks fro your time
Anthony
 
Zach Muller
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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the next step after microscopic examination  depends on how you use it, but it is by no means absolutely needed to be a good gardener. You could use it to verify the microbe levels in different areas of your land and plant accordingly, or verify that your compost tea methods are optimized so you aren't wasting time and materials.

I personally used my scope extensively to get really good at making compost tea, and learning the details and conditions in which the microbes thrive or die. After i did that for a while my microscope started getting used alot less frequently. I can know by smell that my brew is good, and lately Im not even brewing much. Even still it was a good tool to learn about soil life and how to keep soil organisms happy.

I think alot can be gained from having one, but Microscopy is not for everyone. Im not sure I would have done anything drastically different without one, but it brought joy and first hand knowledge of the microscopic level into my life. To me first hand experience on that level gave me confidence with growing and parsing through the massive loads of information out there. 

Good luck, if you look closely in lively soil you can see alot either way, theres bunches of bigger bugs too.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Microscopes are very useful, especially if you have animals. For soil use they can help you determine which microorganisms you have and how many of each are present, for compost they allow you to know which organisms you are growing and again how many of them.
While these uses are mostly for those who want to rapidly improve their soil, it never hurts to know what and how many of these organisms you have.
You can also actually see the soil food web in action, learning how bacteria can and do move along the fungal network highway can be helpful as well as interesting to see.

You can also check your plants for microscopic pathogens and pests, check animals for parasites or other pests and you can even check blood samples for signs of infection, and other issues.

With a polarization filter you can check your soil for which minerals are present and which are missing or low in quantity.

If you think like a scientist you will probably never run out of things you want to check out with your microscope.

It is true that you can get by without one, it's been done for thousands of years and I don't say they are necessary for all gardeners, because they aren't, they are a tool that can help you a great deal should you want to make sure you aren't doing any harm to your good soil microbiome.

Buying and using a microscope is a choice that has to be put into perspective, if you aren't developing soil in a large area (acres) then your uses might be limited and it would not be the best thing to spend money on, unless you want to get to superior soil in one or two growing seasons.

Redhawk
 
Anthony Saber
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Location: Brisbane, Australia
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I am sold, I’ve had the microscope for a week and even though I have a lot to learn. It has opened my eyes to getting some
hard facts on what is in the soil, compost and compost tea.

Next step is to experiment with different compost tea recipes and see the results.
Maybe a business opportunity as I can offer this service to fellow gardeners and market farmers.

I enrolled in a Udemy online course https://www.udemy.com/microbial-analysis-for-growers/
Watched Elaine Ingham on youtube and purchased Tim Willsons DVD, so getting started has been pretty cheap.

Now to spending lots of time analysing lots of soil compost, compost tea samples.

If I find anything that I believe to be of interest I will add to this post.

Cheers
Anthony
 
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Interesting, thank you for posting how it is working for you. I would like to get a refractometer so I can track the brix of my plants- as well as getting the high quality soil tests.
 
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