Dr. Elaine Ingham: How to Build Great Soil

By Alex Ferris

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We need to avoid soil compaction where nutrients can’t be created, otherwise anaerobic acidic lifeforms that are not healthy will kill plants with a low pH environment.

Good pH is always alkaline so binding micro-aggregates build structures for healthy soil allowing water to pass and roots are nourished and grow. Bacteria that take hydrogen off ammonium replace it with oxygen only in an alkaline soil.

Plants create exudates that are protein, carbohydrate and mostly sugar in a balance that shows what the plant needs, e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, zinc, chloride, in fact plants need all of the periodic table elements. Compost creates an environment that allows beneficial bacteria to eat these exudates and via their enzymes release nutrients in a soluble form for the plant to eat.

Plants need structure so need bacteria to build aerated soil to deepen the root system. Inorganic fertilisers lack life & therefore block the food-chain’s ability to put nutrients back into the soil. Inorganic fertilisers can overload the soil and we get sick plants which go in to the food chain which are harmful to us and they create imbalance allowing disease causing acidic loving organisms to multiply. Having aerobic organisms build soil structure which protects root systems and prevent bad organisms taking over.

There is no need for pesticides. If you kill bad bacteria you kill good ones too. Manure comes from anaerobic environments so we have to convert it via oxygen to an aerobic environment before applying to soil. Mix manure with something else (straw) to get oxygen in to help the conversion.

Water use can be reduced by 70% via good soil structure which increases water holding capacity and retains nutrients. You’re not losing nutrients into lakes and waters and streams. They remain healthy and uncontaminated. The predator life-cycle is vital to create a balance around the root system and have the nutrients available to the plants.

Phosphate is in soil already. If you have a pH 4.5? ask why and look at the soil. Adding lime on pH4.5 in an anaerobic environment neutralises the acid but you still lack structure and an aerobic environment so in 2 weeks the soil will push out more acid because of the imbalance.

How did the soil organisms get destroyed? 50% get obliterated when over-digging/ over-tilling. Don’t turn the compost. Need a good flow of oxygen and water. Don’t let it get waterlogged or dried out. Grow your organisms at ambient temperatures, where the compost needs to work. In a cattle pasture experiment, an application of compost tea at 150 litres per hectare every 4 weeks and no fertiliser – was way less expensive. 1 tonne more harvested per acre. Significant increase in clover. No vet visits were needed.

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