The Quest for Super Soil a book preview

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Bryant RedHawk, Jun 29, 2017.

  1. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Soil is a living entity. Soil contains a microcosm comprised of bacteria, fungi, amoeba, protozoa (flagellates and ciliates), arthropods which include springtails and nematodes, earthworms, various insects and near the surface animals such as moles, voles, etc. If you look at any life form, its life is dependent upon soil, even if it is a creature living in water, some part of that life is dependent upon soil that has washed into the lake, stream or ocean, giving up the bacteria that flourished where that soil came from. Land animals are even more dependent on soil for their lives since their foods start in the soil and the plants that grow there. Soil is not only important, it is everything, for without soil, there can be no higher life forms than those that make soil what it is, the cradle of life.


    Since life is totally dependent on soil or more precisely the organisms that make the mineral dust on the surface of the crust of planet earth usable by all other life forms. Is it possible to make soil better than the best of it we can find? What attributes would the perfect soil have? We are still learning the answers to these questions.


    All life can be considered electric, brain cells communicate through electric charges, without electron exchanges cells can’t do anything. In the world of plants, roots need to be able to communicate with each other and then to the soil organisms in order to get the food items they need. This is done by exudates, chemical messages, in order to actually make and expel these exudates the root cells have to communicate and that is done by electron exchanges. One way we could make soil better would be to increase the electric conductivity capacity of the soil. Carbon is the primary conductor in soil, adding carbon to soil will increase the conductivity, bio char is one simple way to do this. Another way would be to increase the numbers of cations and anions by increasing mineralization.


    The “standard” is to till the soil, breaking up the matrix of life forms there, then adding synthetic, chemical fertilizers to add nutrients to the newly created dirt. All the needed basic nutrients might be in that fertilizer but these compounds will not be in best usable form for the plants to take in. These raw compounds won’t be processed because the life forms that do that job just got disrupted, broken down or buried far too deep to be able to survive. Long chain molecules need to be broken into “bite size” chunks so the plant cells can use them to make the long chain molecules needed by the plant. Since only the big three (N, P, K) fall into the “ready to use” form, it isn’t long before the plant looks nice and large and green and even puts off lots of fruits but, where is the real nutrition that comes from the complex sugars that are used to make the proteins, carbohydrates and bind the vitamins in usable chain molecules? They aren’t there because the microbiome was disrupted and then poisoned by the act of “farming”.


    Plants that grow in an environment full of synthetic nutrients do not acquire the nutritional values that same species plants grown in the presence of natural, mineralized soils, mostly because it is the soil life forms that break down the nutrient packets into a form the plants can use best. Synthetic nutrients (fertilizers) tend to either kill off soil life forms or are in such high concentrations that the organisms are overwhelmed and thus unable to do their job of breaking down nutrients before the plant roots suck them in. This leads to the plant having a glut of improper nutrients which, like a human who ingests too much vitamin C, passes the excess as excrement. The problem with this dependence on synthetic nutrients is that because they are not broken down prior to plant use, they are not in the correct form for the plant to use them well. Which leads to plants deficient in nutrition. These nutrient deficient plants are then used either as animal feeds or consumed directly by humans, the animal doesn’t receive the nutrients they need. This method has brought with it the concept of empty calories. You eat and feel full, but the nutrition simply isn’t there, resulting in cells not getting what they really need and end up substituting other items to complete the molecules needed for life. The organism then uses these wrong component molecules which results in all manner of health issues.


    There are other methods to make improvements, which would be far more beneficial and help the soil microbiome organisms thrive. We can increase the numbers of the micro-biosphere organisms that creates soil. This population increase can be accomplished through several methods; aerated compost teas, which contain living rhizosphere organisms, using finished compost as a mulch layer, which contains organisms of the rhizosphere, or through a combination of the two. You can also increase the quantity of minerals and the variety of minerals by applications of finely ground rock dust, sea weed or even naturally evaporated sea water (sea salt). The more varied we make our amendments to soil, the better the soil will become because life thrives in diversity. This is in direct opposition to what has become the “standard” thinking of farmers and gardeners.

    I'll add more as I get it written
    Redhawk
    When any organism can’t get the nutrition it needs to be fully healthy, diseases can grow rapidly. Diseases are usually caused by organisms (bacteria and viruses and most “pest” insects) which are unable to digest complete nutrients, they want incomplete items such as simple sugars and when these are in abundance, they have found their ideal breeding grounds. This is why infestations occur in fields, the pest insects are attracted to the incomplete energies the deficient plants put off. The plants are “sick” and the pest insects can literally see this, so they come in to eat the sick plant. This is the point where the farmer resorts to poisons so there will be a crop to harvest. This cycle is repeated, year after year . The result of this method is resistant insects and diseases, and we intensify the toxicity or we find new toxins to apply to keep the pest under control. This is an unsustainable method, both from a nutrient and pest control point of view. You can only do this sort of thing for a short time before you have killed everything beneficial and thus increased the numbers of the pathogenic organisms. We can find this is the case just by looking at farms all over the world. Everywhere that has followed this non-sustainable methodology has vast tracts of waste lands that used to be productive farm land. China is perhaps one of the best places to use as an example, simply because they have been farming longer than most other countries.
     
  2. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    looking good, waiting impatiently for the next chapter
     
  3. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i see it all around me every day. they're down to subsoil here and
    they keep propping it up with nitrogen and lime once in a while
    and that's about it. 2 crops, corn and soybeans, most don't do any
    sort of cover crop or green manure.
     
  4. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    So, what is soil? Soil has two components, the mineral or geological component and the biological component. On the geological end, we are talking about ground up rocks or the dirt as I like to call it. Dirt is made up of; sand, silt and clay. These are different “grinds” of the base rocks in any area. Sand is small particles of ground up rock, large enough to be seen as individual grains with the naked eye. Silt is even smaller particles, not discernable as individual grains with the naked eye, but if you were to rub this material on your teeth, you would feel them. Clay is rocks that have been ground to a paste, these are particles so fine they feel smooth when given the “tooth test”. Let’s build some dirt. 35% sand, 20% silt and 15% clay, yes that doesn’t equal 100%, it comprises the dirt component though which is 70% of soil. The last 30% will be some rocks along with at least 15% and preferably closer to 23% being the biological component. The rocks allow for larger pockets of air which will fill with water during a rain event, thus adding moisture to the conglomerate we call soil. The water is necessary for life to thrive and turn the dirt into soil, without it all the microbiology of soil has to go dormant or die. To make up the biological component we need organic matter, tree litter, roots, grasses, etc. are the way Mother Nature does it, she has lots of time and she uses all those years very well. We don’t really have that amount of time, we only live for 1/100th of the amount of time Nature uses to build soil, so we need to be able to speed up her processes so we can build soil and be around to make use of it.


    If you were to go searching, it is doubtful you would be able to locate any soil that was even close to nearly perfect, component wise. You will be able to locate fertile soils though, in many places, usually where humans have not used the soil for anything. We can take the soil we find and make it much better very quickly or we can grow things in it and let it get better slower, even though it will get better faster than Nature would do it. The limiting factor is how much effort and money we desire to spend to build this perfect or close to perfect soil. For humans to improve soil we make amendments to it or we apply artificial nutrients so it will produce bigger crops. The second method has been shown to actually speed up the depletion of soils and because of those findings, that method is not what we want to use.


    First we want to have an idea of what is already there. This is where a soil tests becomes a valuable asset, it gives us information on our starting point and usually we are also given recommendations on how to put back what the soil test found missing. Unfortunately, the recommendations will be for artificial products, or natural products that are not the best choice but just a good choice, in order to bring the soil to “quality”. Thus we need our own arsenal of amendments so we aren’t just throwing chemicals at the soil organisms.


    Gypsum is a natural rock that is ground up and used to make a material usually found in houses called drywall. Gypsum is a wonderful item to add to soils. It lasts a long time, helps adjust pH just like lime and you can add wood ash along with gypsum to bring acidic soils up in pH to get to that magical 6.5 to 6.8 that most plants love to live in. An added benefit is that since it is a calcium carbonate product, you are giving those soil organisms goodness without harshness. Rock dust is one way to add trace minerals naturally, after all we are just using one of the dirt components, ground up rocks. For different minerals we just use a different rock dust product. If we need more sand in our base then we can add it. If we have high clay content then we want to first give those clay particles something other than sand to cling to so we don’t end up with something that resembles cement. That means we fist would increase the humus (organic materials) content then add silt and finally we would add the sand. We have two ways to do these basic amendments, tillage and seepage. Tillage sounds counterproductive but in the real world it is part of disruption, just like fire or trees being blown down or herds of large animals coming through. We are not talking about a yearly event but rather single disruptive event in most cases. While we would indeed destroy much if not all of the life in that soil, it is probable that most of the life there would not be the organisms we really want to flourish there. So we gather our basic amendments, lay them down and till them in, one to two at a time so that our base dirt has the quantities and make up that we need for our superior soil goal. It is a onetime event if we have done our homework prior to making the base amendments.


    To get those all-important microbes, bacteria, fungi and the larger microbes such as springtails, amoeba and nematodes we need a source that already has them, so we can seed our new soil. Forest soil, especially from the drip line area of deciduous trees like oak, hickory and aspen is a great place to borrow some great microbes from. These trees, when growing robustly, will have mycorrhizal fungi growing around and even inside the roots, taking a shovel full or two from this area will provide many of those desirable microbes. Mycorrhizal fungi are one of those must have fungi so if you get hold of that type of soil, you are well ahead in the soil building game. This same tree soil will have bacteria along with the larger microorganisms we want too. Bacteria are easier, they are everywhere you look so just by making some compost we can grow most of the bacteria we need. Once we have the compost going well we can even extract some of the microbiota that we have grown and install that into our dirt simply by watering with the extract. We can also grow more of these microorganisms by brewing an aerated tea with a portion of our compost and we can feed those guys with easy to dissolve nutrients while we are brewing the tea. Teas are normally good for up to 48 hours of maximum bacterial growth so once we start the brewing we want to be ready to pour it on within that time period.


    And this will be continued of course


    Redhawk
     
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