Diversity is Key – Part One
Biodiverse and healthy soils contain an abundance of living things we can see without a microscope, such as large invertebrates including, worms, slugs, bugs, spiders, beetles, ants, snails etc, and just as importantly the organisms we cannot see including viruses, bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae and protozoans, along with other microscopic invertebrates such as nematodes.
As our knowledge and understanding of the soil increases, we discover how much we don’t know. It is estimated that 90% – 95%1 of soil organisms have yet to be identified and are unknown to science, within each group of organisms there are many species and strains. Some reports suggest there could be more than 15 000 different species of organisms in a gram of soil2, this alone indicates how important biology is in soil health and ultimately plant and overall farm health.
Advancements in DNA testing, particularly genome sequencing in the mid-1990’s, have accelerated the identification of different soil microbial organisms, but still the vast majority remain a mystery.
However, we do know diversity is key to agricultural success, and the living organisms found in the soil (whether we can see them or not) are the driving force behind this success. These organisms are critical to the essential processes which take place in the soil, including the decomposition and degradation of plant litter, the cycling of nutrients, converting atmospheric nitrogen to organic forms, suppression of pathogens and removal of toxins, regulation of microclimates and local hydrological processes, along with the production of enzymes, vitamins, hormones, chelators and secondary metabolites. All are extremely important to balancing soil organism populations and processes in the soil, which impacts soil chemical, physical and biological characteristics and structure.
Increasingly soil biodiversity is becoming a priority for many farmers as they continue to develop their understanding of the role biology plays in sustainable and profitable farming systems. There there are a growing number of systems and products that can be used to help increase biodiversity in agriculture.
The use of multispecies cropping is a tool many farmers are using to feed their underground workforce because plant diversity has a significant impact on soil microbial diversity. Multispecies crops can be used in grazing systems, as break crops in cropping systems or in companion cropping, but there are other ways to bolster your soil biology.
Globally, testing and results of the diversity of species in vermiculture are still limited, predominantly because no one sample is the same, it is becoming evident that species diversity is affected by management and food sources. Just as all limes are not the same, not all vermiculture products are the same; management and feed source are fundamental to a quality vermiculture product.
In a DNA sequencing study on vermicompost conducted in the USA released last year, the author stated – “On the other hand, the vermicompost sample was the most diverse sample I had ever seen” compared to other soil amendments3.
NutriSoil has long seen the benefits of using vermiculture products in action, both in their vermiwash and vermicast, across farms from all over Australia. As testing becomes more accessible and affordable, the knowledge of why vermiculture is so effective in improving plant growth, resilience, and over health is becoming clear, with testing indicating a diverse range of microbial species.
We look forward to sharing these results with you in coming blogs, as we continue on our journey to produce a premium vermiwash to farmers, saving them time and money and supporting them on their journey to next generation agriculture.
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