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What we need to know about Soil

 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Gail, I use sea-90 in pastures, as free choice salt for all the animals, in the gardens and orchard, on the dinner table and for cooking. I use a whirly spreader, mostly because it speeds up the process of covering a lot of ground.
I use a half cup sprinkled by hand around every fruit tree. I first spread it two years ago and will do another treatment next year, mostly because I am adding more land to pastures from the forest and that area will benefit from the minerals.

BTW, the planet has 5,000 minerals now (earth started out with @250 from the original rocks that came together to create this planet), it is my opinion that the more variety of mineral content we can put into our soils, the better the nutrition will be for the consumers of what grows.
Himalayan sea salt (we use this for a finishing salt) is a good product but it is also lacking some 69 minerals contained in sea-90. It is far better than some feed store "salt block" for certain.
It is my feeling that anything we can use that will bring more and a variety of minerals to every aspect of living is a good thing.

Minerals have recently been shown to be integral to the formation of life on earth, life and minerals are intertwined so closely, you can't have life without minerals.

Redhawk
 
Ryan Hobbs
pollinator
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Location: Scioto county, Ohio, USA - Zone 6b
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Hi, In regards to installment 4, I have added this company's mychorizae mix to my vegetable seed balls, and despite the lack of mention of radishes in the list linked below, the radishes in the control group were fingerling size, while radishes treated were very very large (like footballs). I was growing the heirloom Minowase Daikon. soil and watering conditions were otherwise the same, and the same ground grew all corn the previous year. Their ordinary size is elongated fingerling. My seedball mix always includes clay, dust from carving soapstone pipes, compost tea, and small amounts of fine sawdust (to prevent cracking). The addition of mychorizae being the only difference, the crop seed balls treated with it produced exceptionally well other than corn for which there was no noticeable difference. Tomatoes were noticeably larger, with the plants reaching to my hips and fruits having gained an inch of circumference. Further testing is needed before I submit a paper, but I have designed a battery of tests to determine the full effects including gross weight, water weight, dry weight, calories, and so on... My 900x microscope is broken (my oldest big brother likes to take things apart grrr), so I have to rely on scales, ph, etc... I'm considering cloning the test plants from cuttings to remove genetics as a factor, though radishes are not great for that.

http://www.fungi.com/plant-list/articles/plant-list.html

The Bacteria may have a relationship with the mychorizae fungi that we don't know about that results in greater nutrient uptake in plants that do not necessarily have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi. I intend to explore this hypothesis in the future as a possible explanation as to why the radishes were larger despite no known mychorizal relationship with the Brassicaceae family. should I gain access to a microscope, I may discover that there is a relationship that was overlooked or not.

I am rather enjoying this series and look forward to reading the rest.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Bacteria do indeed have symbiotic relationships with fungi, both micorrhizal and non micorrhizal fungi. There are exomycorrhizal and endomycorrhizal fungi, the exo species grow tight to and surrounding the feeding hair roots, while the endo species actually invade the root cells. Both varieties eat the bacteria, thus releasing those stored nutrients the bacteria was busy eating and breaking into component parts. One of the coolest things about these relationships is that the plant talks with the bacteria and fungi both through electronic and chemical communication paths, and the bacteria and fungi communicate as well. It is a finely tuned nutrient community that goes on in the soil and we are just now starting to see just how intertwined it all is. None of this communication goes on at peak speeds unless all the right minerals are in place and in the right quantities, this is under research as we speak. Time passed is also one of the things to look at in all considerations of this great mystery of the soil organisms and plants.

Redhawk
 
Harry Soloman
pollinator
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I will add this, on top of learning about soils and soil biology, learn about plant physiology and then specifically for the plants you are growing.

For me, it was about the soil first and terms of its biology and ecosystem.  The plant simply is a part of that cycle but we need to understand plant physiology as well.  Together this will unlock many aspects that will enable success and with experience and time greater success.

I am big fan of fungi Perfecti, Mycorrhizae.  It helps create a bigger root uptake area which when all things correct is very impressive.

Keep on keepin, on Bryan Redhawk!
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Harry, As you have noticed, Life is a circle and our earth mother is a circle (since a sphere can be described as a series of circles laid out in an ascending and descending order which creates a sphere).

minerals, water and electricity (lightening) created life on this planet, with out all the parts, we would not be here.
There is no part of the great hoop of life that is independent.
Each portion is dependent on every other portion.
Soil can not exist without plants, plants can not exist without soil. (soil can be thought of as the mineral rich medium that supports bacteria, fungi and all the other microbes that interact with roots)
Since all life is intertwined our job is to know as much as we can to help keep everything in proper balance.

Redhawk
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Hi Briant I read all your threads, albeit a little bit later. But they are timeless!
About the Himalayan salt: our local coop stopped selling it, because the mining of the salt is rather unsustainable. I have no further information, that's what they told at the counter.
I have some questions about the dirt part (for you it's maybe bygone area but I just begin to try to understand that part): I read Solomon's book and got that soil test and he says he recommends rather high levels of amendments. Now you are telling that the critters get fat and lazy doing so. Do you think Steve's target levels are too high? And if yes with what would you replace them?
Second: you don't explain much about the dirt part - I know it is not in your focus anymore, but I still would like to know a bit more at least some basics. CAn you recommend a good dirt read? Something for people who forgot about all their chemistry stuff from school?
When will you finnish your book? I will definitively buy it!
And I need some more maybe video explanation how to work the soil. (I hate videos) But my parents used to dig over winter (I don't do that) then to hoe thoroughly and rake to make a nice seed bed. I do roughly the same, but I do mulching. For the manual part videos are good.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 6686
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
1338
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:
The Bacteria may have a relationship with the mychorizae fungi that we don't know about that results in greater nutrient uptake in plants that do not necessarily have a symbiotic relationship with the fungi.
I intend to explore this hypothesis in the future as a possible explanation as to why the radishes were larger despite no known mychorizal relationship with the Brassicaceae family. should I gain access to a microscope, I may discover that there is a relationship that was overlooked or not.

I am rather enjoying this series and look forward to reading the rest.



There are many relationships between fungi and bacteria, one being that fungi hyphae serve as a highway for bacteria to travel along, fungi will entangle and devour nematodes (which eat fungi) and other relationships.
arbuscular mycorrhizae wrap around roots and protect them from root eating nematodes and other "bad guys" while also becoming the first responders to exudates from the plants, as the exudates coat the fungi, the bacteria travel to the cake and cookies the plant sent out and they begin to produce enzymes to dissolve the plant needed minerals which the bacteria then feed on. At the same time, the many different types of fungi begin to feed on the same minerals and also on the bacteria, along with the other "higher" micro organisms that come to feed on both the bacteria and fungi. These organisms expel the extra nutrients they can't use and those are picked up by the endo mycorrhizae, drawn into the root cells and up the plant to the leaves and other places they are needed.  

Even in plants that are bacteria users the presence of fungi hyphae will enhance the workings of the bacteria and the fungal "wrapping" of the plants roots offer great protection from predators, so this allows the plants to grow faster, better and end up more nutrient rich.
All the brassica's share this trait, even though these are classified as bacterial plants, that just means that bacteria are their primary food supplier, it doesn't mean they don't want fungi, it just means they can do pretty well without fungi.
Currently there are at least 30 studies going on about fungi relationships with plant groups. (If you can join at least one of the scientific publishing communities on the web, you can read the most current research papers, which come out on a weekly basis right now).

Good luck on your research, I hope you get to do it soon.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I am going to add to this thread now since I've been asked to get a little deeper into what dirt is, it is the foundation of soil so we do need to know exactly what dirt is and how it came to be.
With that said, here we go.

In the beginning there was a big bang, (stay with me here) that started the universe, I don't think we need to know more about this giant explosion except that it was the result of all the matter that makes up the universe condensed so tightly that it had to explode.
from this stars were born and eventually planets were formed by the collision of solid matter (we call this stuff rock) and that created heat which glued the "rock" together and this happened over and over and the glued rocks got larger and larger as well as hotter and hotter.
Skip forward to the time where our rock arrived at the size of the Earth, the molten mass has cooled enough for a crust of cooled rock to be the outer layer.
This ancient outer layer contained minerals, 7 of them and that was it.
The first bacteria sprang to life in a soup of noxious chemicals and gasses, they cemented little bits of the rock they had dissolved with enzymes to themselves and created new formations that we can still find today that look a lot like birthday cakes made of stone.
These bacteria gave off a new molecule called oxygen as they broke apart the rocks to use those 7 minerals the earth started out with. In this process they formed new minerals that were pooped out as waste materials and the Oxygen atoms found hydrogen atoms and formed bonds with them to make molecules of water.
This sort of thing kept going and the bacteria created more and more minerals, gave off more oxygen which formed more water molecules until, there was enough water to form puddles and eventually the seas.
By this time there were lots more minerals available which allowed new bacteria forms to feed on those without competition, until we finally had enough resources to form higher life forms than just bacteria, these were the first fungi.
chug along a few more million years and we have large scale erosion of the rock surface crust to have pockets of dirt, which was comprised of all the pooped out minerals that the bacteria, fungi and other newer single celled life forms expelled as waste from their activity of eating, making new materials so they could live and eventually a few hundred million years later we had life as high as the dinosaurs roaming around, leaving all sorts of minerals, as they died and decomposed, laying on the surface so the circle of life could continue along.

So dirt is minerals, some created by the earliest life forms, some already here or falling from the sky as space dust that gets pulled to the atmosphere and eventually settles to the surface.
Most of our minerals that make up the periodic table were created by the earliest of life forms and some were created by chemical reactions caused by the wastes materials those life forms expelled.

Water and wind worked (and still do work) to grind the hard rock surface into smaller and smaller particles and wash them towards the seas or they get trapped in pockets where plant seeds can sprout and hold it in place with their root systems.
When the ground up rocks make it to the sea they settle out and become the ocean floor.
When the tectonic plates (there are cracks all the way through the surface layer not unlike the plates that make up our skulls) decide to shift there arises the opportunity for that ocean floor to rise above the water and become land, with the sediment already in place.
That sediment usually is primed to become soil because it already has lots of bacteria and fungi in it, but as long as it remains underwater, only the anaerobic bacteria and other organisms are active and soil needs aerobic bacteria and other organisms that breathe oxygen or it isn't soil it is "muck".

(When I started University there were 98 atoms (elements) on the periodic table now we know of 118 so we are still in the age of discovery and it is most likely that at least some of the newly discovered elements are created by bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.)

Redhawk



 
Dave Burton
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I think these are good videos and graphics to compliment Bryant's excellent discussions about soil life.



This video is meant for everyone, which is why it starts off with dirt, but then, the presenter goes on to explain that it has a name called soil.



And there is a wonderful talk by Dr. Elaine Ingham on soils, with the powerpoint slides:



And a brief overview of soil functions:

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Angelika Maier wrote:Hi Briant I read all your threads, albeit a little bit later. But they are timeless!
I have some questions about the dirt part (for you it's maybe bygone area but I just begin to try to understand that part): I read Solomon's book and got that soil test and he says he recommends rather high levels of amendments. Now you are telling that the critters get fat and lazy doing so. Do you think Steve's target levels are too high? And if yes with what would you replace them?
Second: you don't explain much about the dirt part - I know it is not in your focus anymore, but I still would like to know a bit more at least some basics. CAn you recommend a good dirt read? Something for people who forgot about all their chemistry stuff from school?
When will you finnish your book? I will definitively buy it!
And I need some more maybe video explanation how to work the soil. (I hate videos) But my parents used to dig over winter (I don't do that) then to hoe thoroughly and rake to make a nice seed bed. I do roughly the same, but I do mulching. For the manual part videos are good.



hau Angelika, sorry it has taken me so long to answer you.

From what I gather about Solomon, he is trying to emulate commercial farming timing, "make amendments, sew seeds and harvest when ready".
It has been my findings that many plants don't need so much to grow healthy but they do need a very healthy microbiome living around them.
I much prefer to limit the amendments so the microbiome organisms work and remain healthy, feeding plants means the plants don't send their exudates to signal the microorganisms to get to work, that means the microbiome organisms don't process as much of the minerals that make up dirt into plant ready forms.
When the microorganisms don't have need to do more than produce their own needed nutrients, I call that fat and lazy organisms, then the only nutrients the plants will get are those the farmer installed by amendments.

what more do you want to know about dirt? dirt is minerals, ground up rocks, what ever the rocks consisted of will be the minerals available and that increases once there is an active, thriving microbiome of all the different bacteria, fungi and so on.
Let me know what specifics you desire to know and I'll be happy to either add them in this thread or I'll start a new thread to cover the answers.

Working the soil is best done with the garden fork, not hoes or shovels or spades, the fork is easy on the microorganisms since you aren't turning the soil over, just lifting it to fracture the structure enough for air and water to enter.
With a fork you step on it to sink it as deep as you can then you simply pull back on the handle, remove the fork and move backward a few inches and repeat the procedure.
Creating a smooth seed bed is the problem farmers have with soil erosion by wind, exposes all the microorganisms to UV light rays which kill them and won't allow for rapid influx of mulch materials as rain washes through the mulch to leach out nutrients for the soil and it's organisms.

Looking forward to helping you with your dirt questions

Redhawk
 
Andy Lopez
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Hi
I am new here but not new to the soil. I have read everything here from the start of the thread and love it all. I have been saying same for millions of years it seems like. I would love to be available to help others and to expand this talk on the soil. It is very important now more then ever to understand the important role the soil has in keeping us all healthy. I do a radio show (actaully several), called Dont Panic Its Organic. I actaully own the trade mark for this, since 1970. I would love to have you on my show as a guest. Also my latest book is called  (you guessed it) Dont Panic Its Organic and would love to send you a printed copy. I give away the pdf version and will try to attach.
Thanks
andy Lopez
aka Invisible Gardener
Filename: Don-t-Panic-It-s-Organic-2018-v125-color-web.pdf
Description: pdf version of my printed book
File size: 8 megabytes
 
Jon Stika
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Permies staff member Dave Burton asked me to chime in on this thread as a precursor to a review and promotion of my book "A Soil Owners Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health" that I self-published in 2016.  I have been speaking and teaching folks about soil health (formerly referred to as soil quality) since 1992.  There were many good  points covered in this thread so far, including the emphasis on soil biology.  Soil is indeed a biological system with its energy supplied by the Sun via photosynthesis performed by green plants.  Soil without biology is geology.  I have taken part in soil biology training from Dr. Elaine Ingham, Dr. Kris Nichols, Dr. Jill Clapperton and many other researchers and farmers and learned a great deal from each of them.  Living plants are the greatest agent for restoring degraded soil as they feed the organisms of the soil food web.  Amendments to the soil may jump start a dead and dysfunctional soil, but they won't keep it running or restore it to its full capacity to function again.  As far as restoring soil biology is concerned, if you build it they will come.  The principles of restoring soil health are: less soil disturbance, more plant diversity, maintain living roots in the soil as much of the time as possible, and keep the soil covered at all times.  These principles all focus on creating the best habitat possible for the soil food web and keeping the flow of energy (through plants) from the Sun into the soil.  I look forward to sharing more about soil health on the permies site in the future.

Jon Stika
 
James Freyr
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Dr. Redhawk, I have some questions about decay on the soil surface. Grass clippings and dead plant matter on the soil surface is something that I've never given much thought to, at least nothing more than it acting as a mulch, decomposing & feeding the soil food web. I've been reading the book Quality Pasture by Allan Nation, and I have read something that has intrigued me and it is something I didn't know about, and have yet to read elsewhere. In the book, the author writes that the decomposition process on the soil surface has an acidifying affect on thin layer at the soil surface, creating a highly acid zone which can influence seed germination and earthworm activity at the surface. I am unsure of what the author means by "highly" acidic, and so far in my reading (I haven't finished the book yet) there is no soil analysis data provided to give the reader an idea of what highly acidic means. Here is a quote of one particular sentence, and it's the first sentence in the last paragraph on page 20 if you or anyone else reading this post owns this book:

This acid surface also keeps earthworms from feeding and allows the buildup of a dead grass thatch and a sod-bound root zone.



The author cites a symptom which I have on my farm: thatch, and lots of it. I think it's important to note that the thatch on my pastures isn't exactly blades of grass like lawnmower clippings, but mature, fibrous, high lignin, stemmy grass that has formed a seed head along with other mature forbs. This is what makes up my thatch since my farm is being mowed once or twice a year, until I get grazing animals to do the mowing for me. The thatch on my farm sticks around also, and perhaps this is merely because of the volume of material being mowed and left in place, but I'm unsure. After twelve months, the thatch is still there. The thatch in contact with the soil is decaying, but the stuff exposed to the air and sun appears largely unchanged. I think that the slow decay is an another visible sign that my soil microbial activity needs improvement. And maybe, I should have no concern, and the thatch on my pastures are indeed decaying at natures pace, but the amount of it makes it appear to be slow.

Can you please offer some insight on this acidic zone at the soil surface and how much of an affect it can have acting on microbial activity, earthworm activity and seed germination? Thanks!
 
Jon Stika
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Unless you are adding ammonium based nitrogen fertilizer to your soil, or your soil originally formed under a forested situation, it is doubtful you will have issues with acidity from decomposing grass residue.  Thatch build up on the soil surface has more to do with a high carbon:nitrogen ratio in the residues being left on the soil surface and a lack of microbial biodiversity in the soil itself.  Proper rotational grazing (uniformly grazing of the top 1/3 of the plants followed by a period of recovery) should help get the carbon cycle moving again.  
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Kola, what you have brought up is quite interesting on several aspects, the "highly acidic" zone is generally about 1-3 mm in depth and it won't form well without there being the right bacteria being present in the soil.
Tests have shown a rather wide variation is soil surface acidity from the "duff" found there, water leaching through (rain or irrigation water) will carry some of the nutrients along with it as it seeps into the soil.
Soil surface acidity can be between 4.0 down to 2.5 pH, this is from the enzymatic break down of the various organic materials that are usually referred to as thatch. The norm is to find both nitric acid and sulfuric acid, these seem to then break bonds and form other, organic acids which end up as humic acid.
In soils that have a good mycelial network established, there is less of this phenomenon found because there is more and faster breakdown of the organic matter into component parts.

Thatch is mulch that has matted to the point of being able to stop the infiltration of oxygen, making that area anaerobic. Animals walking around on thatch will break the matting which helps the decay process proceed.

To get the thatch decomposing at a faster rate you can make and spray a compost tea that includes fungi or simply make a mushroom slurry to pour onto the thatch, doing both will naturally speed up the breakdown more than using only one method.

Redhawk
 
James Freyr
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Hi Jon!

I’m not adding any ammonium based nitrogen, or any manufactured water-soluble fertilizers of any kind. I’ve read your book by the way and really enjoyed it, and as a new soil steward I’m playing the long game with my soil rebuilding efforts, only using rock dusts, and sea minerals as mineral inputs. Otherwise I’m just growing what’s already here and mowing, doing root growth and die off and leaving what is mowed in place. I hope to bring a few cows onto the farm next year and start managed intensive grazing to further improve my soil and forages with time. Hopefully, in ten years I’ll have some kick-ass pastures.
 
James Freyr
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Hi Redhawk, thanks for chiming in! I'm kinda fascinated that the first couple millimeters of duff decay could have a pH under 4.0. I don't feel like this is something I need to manage or do something about. The older I get and more I learn, I realize mother nature knows (and does) what's best. If anything I'll spray compost tea, and I had plans to do that anyway for other soil building reasons. Since I only had the farm mowed once this year, the biomass was thick, and kinda rolling up into clumpy rows coming out the back of the bush hog mower, almost as if it were raked in preparation for a baler. I plan to have my farm mowed twice next year, like I did two years ago. Hopefully this will result in less voluminous matter left on the surface per mowing compared to one annual mowing.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Kola, yes the pH differential is almost unbelievable until you start looking at what it is in grasses that breaks up first, it seems to be the Nitrogen compounds then the carbon compounds, that leaves lots of ions looking for something to attach to.

I haven't done any additions to the mineral content of Buzzard's Roost, only additions of fungi and bacteria through watering. (My whole farm is experiments it seems to Wolf).
Wolf has declared that next year I'm to rebuild every garden bed we have created, she wants them raised another 8 inches above ground level (the natural level of our land).
She isn't worried about missing the first harvest, but she does want my piles of compost used up in those beds. That means I'm going to be moving around 3 Cu. Yards of composted manure and around 4 Cu. yards of "regular" compost into those garden beds.
She has even decided (for me) that I'm to do a one time tilling of those beds to get all the new materials incorporated quickly, so I will also need to make some fungi and bacterial soups to water the beds with to bring back the microbiome.

I'm going to use the bed rebuild to measure time to recovery of the microbiome, it should be fairly fast since I will most likely be doing the tillage at night (no UVA,B or C in massive quantities at that time period).

Keep on doing what your doing, it will work. (if you want to shorten the time span, make slurries and spread them around, the fungal network will spread faster if you leave gaps between where you place the slurries)
I'd treat those "mounds" of cuttings as if they were a compost heap, might as well get every bit of goodness out of that stuff you can.

Redhawk
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