Tails from the Underground!

Tails from the Underground!

Can't see the forest for the trees

We were talking about soil, the need for diversity in soil microbes to support and sustain healthy plants, and want to focus on practices that are least likely to adversely affect our planet.

We have come to understand and appreciate that plants and microbes have long evolved and adapted wonderfully.  We spoke about the need to reduce greenhouse gases and how important it is to get the nutrients back into the soil with the least amount of effort and pollution.

It is often said that we know more about the surface of the moon, about the conditions on Mars and the solar system then we know about the oceans.  You can think of the land upon which we live and depend upon for our survival as yet another ocean so little understood.

I am going to provide you with references to two books that I would strongly recommend to readers who want to venture “underground”.  The journey is well worth the effort.   The first (David Wolfe’s wonderful in depth analysis of life beneath the surface) provides a wealth of information relating to how nutrients are passed about beneath the surface feeding microbes and plants.

Tales from the Underground: A Natural History of Subterranean Life (Paperback)

by David Wolfe

The second book if a wonderful reference with many studies comparing method of treating the soil and plants revealing how the use of effective microbes and bokashi fermentation can be used to improve the soil and growth conditions for plants and crops.  Here you will see many examples of side by side comparisons and instructions on how to get more from the land.

Nature Farming and Microbial Applications (Paperback)

by Hiu-lian Xu (Author), Hiroshi Umemura (Author), James F. Parr Jr

Plants and crops are essential for our well being and for our survival.  Fundamentally, plants and crops receive their nutrients including water for the most part through their interaction with microbes.

Carbon dioxide and water are taken up by plants in the presence of sun light and by the photosynthetic path, they are converted to sugars. Most living things on the planet derive their energy either by the photosynthetic pathway, or by consuming products of photosynthesis.


Composite image showing the global distribution of photosynthesis, including both oceanic phytoplankton and terrestrial vegetation.

If you take the trip underground, you will become familiar with extraordinary filamentous structures so tiny they are barely perceived by the naked eye forming networks transporting nutrients, water, and chemicals needed by both the plants and microbes.  These filamentous tubular structures are living structures that are also extracting their share of nutrients and growing as are the microbes and plants.  They form a network (mycelium), the mycorrhiza delivering and sustaining a symbiotic relationship between plant roots, microbes, and numerous other life forms.

There are many variations in tubular structures involved in extending the draw of materials that can be used to feed plants and crops.  Fungi and other organisms producing hypae may also transport and mobilize soil nutrients delivering them directly to roots by interpenetrations.  They in return absorb complex organics produced by the plants.

Here it is important to appreciate that the diversity of microbes including the fungi mycorrhiza, and soil bacteria require organic material they can also use to return nutrients to plants.  If the soil is devoid of either microbes or organic material needed to generate plant nutrients, the plants will of course fail. The microbes use enzymes to break down the organic substrates found in the soil.  Some of the by-products are directly transported to the plants whilst others are processed by the microbes before they are secreted and transported to the plant’s root.

Trace minerals, ions, and inorganic compounds are needed and they are in the natural state bound in the soil and immobilized.  Microbes are capable of converting nitrogen organic compounds into nitrates, complex insoluble phosphates into soluble phosphates that plants can then use in photosynthetic paths, and provide on demand virtually all of the nutrients required for healthy plants.

Plants and microbes have over many years evolved and adapted one to the other and disturbances in the soil may very adversely affect that special kind of interaction.  When inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are added to the soil, the impact can be truly harmful.

With bokashi fermentation, microbe diversity and nutrients from our waste (garbage) returns to the soil.  The organic nutrients are readily metabolized by soil microbes and delivered to plants minimizing the need to use supplemental fertilizers.  Plants are healthier and because of the microbial diversity and nutrient abundance better able to resist disease.  Growth is vigorous.

Reliance on fertilizers and pesticides to support crops and plants is a non-sustainable policy.  We believe strongly that understanding the symbiotic well adapted relationship between plants and microbes is a first step in getting away from practices that are harmful to our planet.  We can convert waste organic material by bokashi fermentation with soil microbes into the kind of product that will better serve our plants and planet.  This is accomplished without adding to our GHG problem.

In our next blog we will look more closely at the global nitrogen cycle which has been so dramatically changed with the use of fertilizers and pesticides.  A lot has been said about global warming and carbon dioxide.  With our over use of nitrogen fertilizers we are also adversely impacting the earth.