Living Soils

not yet complete – still editing and clarifying


Living Soil is a home suitable for micro-organisms.
As Artemis & Angel say,

Soil bacteria are the primary digestive system of the soil. Their activity is responsible for almost 90% of all biological and chemical actions. For instance, key macronutrients such as nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus all require microbial transformation in the root zone to make them more available to the plant. Soil bacteria transform nutrients from “forms not usable by the plant” to “forms usable by the plant”. Again, soil microbes improve aeration by loosening dense and compacted soils. Water is then able to better infiltrate and percolate. Most important, soil bacteria decompose organic waste materials such as leaves and manure into organic humus, which stores both moisture and nutrients. Further, microbes can balance soil acidity and alkalinity, create the carbon dioxide plants need, as well as produce vitamins, toxins, and hormones that both feed and protect the plant system.

What Do Bacteria Do In the Soil?

Soil micro-organisms are living, breathing organisms and, therefore, need to eat. They compete with plants for nutrients including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and micronutrients as well. They also consume amino acids, vitamins, and other soil compounds. Their nutrients are primarily derived from the organic matter they feed upon. The benefit is that they also give back or perform other functions that benefit higher plant life.

Bacteria are able to perform an extremely wide range of chemical transformations, including degradation of organic matter, disease suppression, disease, and nutrient transformations inside roots (e.g. reducing bacteria in roots, bacteria cause nitrogen fixation).

Azobacter, for example, is a genus of free-living bacteria that converts atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium, making it available for plant use. This process may only take place, however, if the following conditions are met:

  • An easily degradable carbon source is available.
  • Any nitrogen compounds such as ammonium or nitrate, are not already in present in substantial concentrations.
  • Soil pH levels are between 6 and 9.
  • High levels of phosphorus are present.
  • Very low levels of oxygen are present.
  • Azobacter is inhibited by a large range of toxic mineral and organic compounds, but may tolerate relatively high salinity and their activities are enhanced in the presence of clays.

In general, bacteria are the organisms in soil that are mainly responsible for transforming inorganic constituents from one chemical form to another. Their system of external digestion means that some of the metabolites released by the use of extracellular enzymes may be used by other organisms, such as plants. The bacteria gain nutrients and energy from these processes and provide other organisms with suitable forms of chemicals they require for their own processes, for example, in the conversions of nitrate to nitrite, sulphate to sulphide and ammonium to nitrite.

In “Soils and Men, Yearbook of Agriculture U.S. Dept. of Agric. 1938″,  William J Albrecht (Professor of Soils, Uni of Missouri) says in Loss of Soil Organic Matter and Its Restoration:

Decomposition by micro-organisms within the soil is the reverse of the process represented by plant growth above the soil. Growing plants, using the energy of the sun, synthesize carbon, nitrogen, and all other elements into complex compounds. The energy stored up in these compounds is then used more or less completely by the micro-organisms whose activity within the soil makes nutrients available for a new generation of plants. Organic matter thus supplies the “life of the Soil” in the strictest sense.

Soil-Foodweb

Soil organisms and their role in decomposing residues. Modified from D I. Dindal, 1978

Inspired by the living soils of forests, Woody Mulch Method results in a soil base which matures into a true Living Soil found in forests.

So, yes the idea for optimum results of non-irrigation, pest-free, virulent plants is to provide an ideal home for the micro-organisms.  A soily home which is identical to the naturally sustaining forest soils  ie nothing is added by man – they are not watered or nourished – they do not need anything from man.

 Further Reading

http://lifeunderyourfeet.org/en/soileco/intro/biodiversity.asp

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/gardening-techniques/mycorrhizal-fungi-zm0z14aszkin.aspx

http://www.soils4teachers.org/biology-life-soil

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