In this Article...
Looking after our soil is one of the key focuses when considering growing plants, John Metcalf takes a look into soil health and regeneration.
Dirt or soil? Quite often they are referred to as the same substance, but they are very different: soil is a living organism. Soil, comes in many shapes, sizes and variations. The particle size determines if it is sand, clay or silt and this determines nutrient availability, interactions with the living organisms and how the natural elements and cycles affect it.
Since the industrial agricultural model has promoted tilling the soil, spraying plants with synthetic chemicals, and using mono-cropping systems, the soil-biome, which supports all life on land, has been poisoned and degraded and put out of natural balance; losing its ability to regenerate itself. This has also led to an explosion in chronic diseases in humans, depleted the availability of mineral uptake in plants and poisoned rivers and acidified oceans. In order to restore health to ourselves, we need to regenerate our soil!
SOG (Soil Organic Matter), also known as humus, is the life blood and fuel for the chemical and biological reactions that kick-start the ‘Soil Food Web’ and cause the interactions of soil life with plants and their interactions with natural elements. This is a process that has been taking place for aeons.
This humus, in nature, is formed by leaf litter, decaying branches, animal manure, fungi and decomposing plants. As this decaying matter is absorbed into the ground, a myriad of organisms strip down the matter, promoting bacteria and fungi to interact with the decaying and living matter within the soil. Plant roots form symbiotic relationships with bacteria and fungi that promote the overall health of the soil biome. The relationships that exist within this top few inches of soil determine the health and wealth of our planet.
Microbes, our invisible friends, help obtain all the nutrients plants need from the soil and fight against our invisible enemies (such as pathogens and disease). Microbes carry out many functions including fixing nitrogen, producing antibiotics like Actinomycetes, producing hormones that control growth, stress response and immunity levels in animals and plants. The microbes act as traders with the plants roots and exchange sugary exudates for specific nutrients the plants need. The Soil Food Web includes fungi, bacteria, archaea, protozoa, nematodes and larger organisms such as arthropods (ants, spiders, etc.) and worms. All have a vital function to the health and balance of the entire system.
There are more microbes in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the Earth! Regenerating our soil offers the solutions to the food, energy and climate crises and the opportunity to improve our health, well-being and become an industry in itself.
By John Metcalf, www.sowgrowregen.co.uk