The soil is not just a mass of eroded soil particles in which plants are anchored. If it was, nothing would grow on it. Good natural soil is a complex balance known as the soil food web, a vast interrelationship between plant roots, soil particles, the atmosphere, and the mass of living organisms present in the soil.
These microbes are so important that scientists have now come up with a name for organic soil which is rich in biodiversity - that is, many different types of these living organisms. They call it ‘functional soil’ due to the role it plays in plant and animal life.
An article by University of Ohio soil specialists puts it thus, ‘There are more microbes in a teaspoonful of soil than there are people of earth.’
With such large numbers, it is apparent that these living organisms make up a significant part of the soil’s biomass, amounting to tons for every acre. Organic soil is, indeed, living in every sense of the word.
It is also not a stretch of imagination to say that such a large number of organisms must also play a big part in the soil’s characteristics. Ancient farmers had ideas about what a ‘good’ natural soil should be, and even took measures such as crop rotation and application of manure to improve its health.
These tiny organisms interact with plants in complex ways that even modern science is just beginning to decipher. While some are harmful, most are beneficial and even essential to a healthy balance of life in the soil.
Ancient Path Naturals are long time experts in soil and its fertility, who can bring you organic soil to transform your garden.
If you just want to improve what you already have, there are various methods supported by science to help improve soil microbe content and biodiversity.
- Use of organic fertilisers
Using organic fertilizers such as manure and compost is more sustainable than using artificial ones. They help promote microbial activity and introduce more organic matter.
- Monitor and control soil pH
Prolonged cultivation and application of fertilizer tends to lower soil pH and make it acidic. Microbes require an environment that is more neutral, so balancing pH can help improve the microbe living conditions.
- Crop rotation
Practiced since ancient times, crop rotation is more about controlling harmful microbes and preventing spread of plant diseases. It also helps improve plant nutrition, especially why you rotate monocultures (like wheat) with legumes.
- Minimal tilling to protect the topsoil
Most of the microbe population is in the topsoil and humus. Tilling turns over the soil and breaks up the networks of microbial life, besides exposing them to the hot sun. Instead, you can drill only the spot where planting is going to be done and retain plant stubble.
- Maintain plant cover
During off seasons, plant cover crops to maintain moisture, add organic matter, and protect the soil.
- Introduction of organic matter into the soil
Organic matter has a lot of biodiversity which it can help add into the soil. Adding mulch, plant-based compost, and other rich organic matter helps boost the microbe numbers in the natural soil.
- Introduce the microorganisms directly
If your soil is particularly degraded, you can add some microbes directly. Mycorrhiza filaments help add fungi, probiotics add bacteria, and even some worm castings.