To learn more about the Soil Foodweb, and how it can affect your production, see this fantastic presentation done by Dr. Ingham in 2015 at the Oxford Real Farming Conference:
We’ve been told for a very long time, that plants grow thanks to photosynthesis, and by taking up water and nutrients from the inert soil. That knowledge has evolved, and the emerging soil food web science is showing us, how plants get their food in detail.
The current model of gardening and agriculture is as follows: till the soil, plant the seeds, spread the fertiliser, water it in, and wait for the plant to grow. In the meantime, remove competing weeds, kill pests, sterilise the plant and soil from any infection. That’s a lot of work, and the costs add up very quickly.
What the soil food web science has demonstrated, is that plants create beneficial connections with microbes in the soil. The plants use sunlight to create sugar, but then send a lot of it into the soil via their roots. That attracts and feeds bacteria and fungi which stick to the roots providing a protective layer from infection and pests. But that’s not all. Bacteria and fungi have the power to extract minerals from the sand, silt and clay. They store these minerals in their bodies, to feed the plant later, but how that happens is a bit more dramatic. For the plant to access these nutrients, these microbes must be consumed by tiny animals: protozoa, microarthropods, and nematodes. What they excrete is sucked in by the plant root, including water.
How can we use this knowledge to our advantage? The best way is to take a sample of the soil you grow your plants in, and check it under a microscope. This tells you the ratios of bacteria and fungi, and the micro animals in your soil. If there is enough beneficial bacteria and fungi, none or minimal amounts of pathogens, and plenty of micro animals to cycle nutrients to your plants, you have a healthy soil, and should have healthy plants that are the most nutritious for your family.
If on the other hand your soil lacks a healthy soil food web, or it contains the wrong type of microbes, your plants may not grow as healthy as they could, and you may have to keep them on artificial fertilisers, kill pests with any methods you can, and fight diseases. This can be costly, and you won’t be getting the nutrition that you could.
It all starts with testing your soil or compost for the presence of the food web that is the best for your plants. In this campaign you can pre-order a microscopy test that will inform you of the health of your soil, and give you step-by-step recommendations of remediation actions that you could take to ensure the best crop for your work and money.
There is one small catch. To be able to provide this service, I need to first get trained by the renowned Dr. Elaine Ingham - who is the pioneer researcher in the field, who has bridged the gap between academia and agriculture, and has demonstrated over the past 40 + years that to grow healthy, nutritious plants, we don’t need to use dangerous chemicals, and still can get fantastic yields. And altogether with the theory, equipment purchase, one to one training in the practical application of this knowledge it costs over £6000 and takes a year to complete.
Currently in the UK, there is only one such laboratory service, and due to the cost it’s unavailable to small scale growers. By helping me get my training you will open this critical service to yourself and other growers.
I know I ask for a lot of trust, and you may not know anything about me. In short, in 2014 I trained as a permaculture designer. For those of you new to it, permaculture is the system of designing ecologically stable, and agriculturally productive systems to provide all human needs whilst ensuring the health of the earth’s biosphere. I volunteer in a local environmental group, and focus on local food, and we even organised the first ever community garden build in our area this year! Because there is pretty much only me active as a permaculture designer where I live, I have offered my design services to neighbours, and completed about ten designs on a computer for them. That led me to start teaching other designers how to design using software as opposed to pen and paper. In June I noticed that UK Permaculture is lacking a “voice” globally, so with the assistance of the UK permaculture association I created and slowly develop the first UK Permaculture Podcast. I’m committed to raising the permaculture profile in the country, and wish to contribute to raising the standards we present. Hence the computer design, and hence the “alternative soil testing” services.
If you’ve always worked hard to maximise your yields, protect your plants from pests and disease, strived to maximise nutrition and health benefits for your clients, wanted to save money on soil amendments, fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and labour, please help me bring this service to the wider community in the UK. Have a look at the ideas for services, and see which would suit you best.
Thank you for your time, and for your trust. See you on the other side.