“There’s so much life in the soil, there can be 10 ‘biomass horse’ underground for every horse grazing on an acre of pasture” (Toby Hemenway 2000; Gaia’s Garden)
We attended a course on soil health in Underberg recently and a comment by one of the speakers, who is a beef farmer and grazing specialist from the USA, made me to think a bit differently about soil life. As a farmer, he said, he sees the soil life on his farm as another ‘herd’ which he has to provide for, especially with regards to food. If he looks after his soil life ‘herd’, then they will look after the soil and ensure that it is healthy. He said he now has two herds to looks after, his beef cow herd and his soil life herd.
This is an interesting way of looking at it, because I don’t think many farmers consider the fact that there are so many organisms living in the soil on their farms. These organisms provide valuable services to the soil, for example, the breakdown and cycling of nutrients, and are integral to soil health. If they are not provided for, both through ensuring that the soil is a habitat which is conducive to life, and ensuring that there is sufficient food for them to thrive, there will not be enough diverse soil life to provide these services.