MAINE–(ENEWSPF)–September 9, 2011. Just back from a soil biology training session with one of the country’s leading experts, Paul Wagner, at the Soil Food Web on Long Island, I remain in awe of the world’s smallest creatures. These are the bacteria, protozoa, nematodes etc. that make our life on the planet possible.
Healthy soil, ironically, can probably best be described as a war zone. Everything down there is eating everything else. And when the consumption, digestion and excretion cycles complete themselves, nutrients are released that can then be used by plants for optimum growth.
For generations here in the U.S. and many places around the world, that life underground and even disdained by the agriculture and horticulture communities. It was assumed, incorrectly, that all nematodes and bacteria were bad and that the best way to grow stuff was to fumigate the top layer of the soil to kill everything — then douse the soil with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides etc. to make plants grow.
The tide is changing of course. As the dangers of this chemical culture have revealed themselves in the form of human and soil disease, folks are turning back to a more natural way of gardening with compost, compost tea and natural soil amendments.
Look no further than this video of a This Old House episode featuring “America’s landscaper” Roger Cook: http://purplecoworganics.com/compostteacentral.html. Roger is widely respected by the old guard landscape community; when he starts talking about the benefits of compost tea at Harvard University’s campus lawns, you know middle America will listen. That same page, parked on the site of Purple Cow Organics, one of the premiere compost companies in nation, features a video showing soil biology in action.
And for a primer about how all this works underground, check out the Soil Food Web photo gallery: http://www.soilfoodweb.com/microscope_pics.html. The underlying message is that every organism has a purpose in the orchestration that makes safe, natural growth possible.