Category: Soil Biology

Soil Science Basics for Beginners

by Aaron Jerad It’s dark. You are surrounded by giant flesh eating amoebas. You can’t move very fast…. Welcome to the world of the bacteria, the smallest but most abundant member of the soil food web. Often feared but essential, whether directly or indirectly, for the survival of almost all other living organisms on earth. Cover cropping, mulching and composting are three great ways to build soil. In this photo […]

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Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming

There is a powerful means of addressing the challenges of carbon capture and climate change — promoting photosynthesis! This means good old fashion farming and gardening — covering the earth with a vast range of trees, flora and crops. Amongst other benefits, a rich diversity of plant species and agricultural practice that is poly-cultural and perennial in orientation, enriches the soil, promotes healthy microbiology, sequesters carbon, fosters more effective hydration […]

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Soil Carbon Cowboys – Case Studies in Holistic Management (video)

Meet Allen Williams, Gabe Brown and Neil Dennis — heroes and innovators! These ranchers now know how to regenerate their soils while making their animals healthier and their operations more profitable. They are turning on their soils, enabling rainwater to sink into the earth, rather than run off. And these turned on soils retain that water, so the ranches are much more resilient in drought. It’s an amazing story that […]

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Dung Beetles – The Underground Army Enriching the Soil

This video gives an overview of the benefits of establishing and managing dung beetles. Dung beetles are fascinating insects, working tirelessly to bury dung around the country. One cow per day produces approximately 18kg of dung. These beetles process the dung by burying it deep into the soil and helping the plant roots to access them directly. In a way they are also providing food for the earth worms. When […]

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Grow Food and Soil With A Food Forest

Soil before and after After ten years of learning from and collaborating with a mega-diverse, globally inspired, edible forest garden, new wonders are under foot. Paradise Lot, here in Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA, has a soil story to tell, and we are finally getting around to deciphering its wonders. Since 2004, each year we installed a portion of our design of perennial polycultures of multi-purpose plants into sheet mulched garden beds. […]

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Seeding Into Frost Heaves: Leveraging a Natural Soil Disturbance Event

A close up of frost heaves A common winter sight in most cold temperate regions are frost-heaves; areas of water-saturated soil that have been uplifted due to freezing. Frost-heaving is generally regarded as an undesirable dynamic, because it evidences a lack of organic material or mulch capable of sheltering the soil (and it’s microinhabitants) from freezing. However, on degraded and compacted sites, frost heaves are really a great opportunity for […]

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Propagation Using Willow Water

There are many ways to propagate plants, which can be broadly divided into sexual and asexual. Taking cuttings is an asexual method, as your new plants will be clones of the mother. The method is simply to cut a new shoot from an existing plant and encourage it to take root itself. Information abounds about which plants are best to take cuttings from, and how to go about the process, […]

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Differences in Tilled and No Till Soils – A Demonstration

In this video agronomist Mark Scarpitti of USDA-NRCS Ohio state demonstrates the differences between tilled and no-till soils by doing two simple tests. Slide test: In this test, a piece of soil is put in water to check how soil structure is held together. When water starts to rush into the porous spaces in the soil, tilled soil starts falling apart as there are nothing to hold the soil particles […]

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Building Up Soil for a Nutrient-Rich Raised Bed

All photos by David Ashwanden A lot of permaculture involves utilising waste streams and turning problems into solutions, and I often bring these into practice by looking at what’s available around me and how I can use it effectively. With this in mind, having come across some old bath tubs, I decided to create some raised beds, building up the soil using a layer mulch recipe rich in a mix […]

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Soil: The Hidden Frontier

Permaculturists everywhere are crazy about patterns. We are taught to “zen-out” so we can observe patterns in nature and society. But if patterns are the glue in permaculture, how do we begin to pick apart the patterns that we can’t even see with the naked eye? Enter world renowned soil biologist Dr. Elaine Ingham and her rowdy band of critters known as the soil food web. Dr. Ingham has spent […]

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Fungal Soil: What Is It and Why Do We Want It?

Look at all those Fun Guys! Do not eat! Little brown mushrooms can be poisonous… and extremely whimsical. Wood chips make a good mulch for woody plants. To go a step further, you want to use ramial wood chips, which are wood chips made from the outer reaches of a deciduous tree. That means the smaller branches, including the leaves if possible, and not so much the trunk and thicker […]

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Omaha Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health – Presentation Resources

Recently, I had the honor of attending a national conference on cover crops and soil health. The conference was held in Omaha, Nebraska on February 17th to the 19th, sponsored primarily by the Howard G Buffett foundation and SARE (Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education). The attendees represented university specialists, seed vendors, farmers, non-profit groups, and government organizations focused on how to improve the health of our nation’s soils.

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