Charles Darwin, the father of earthworm science, once said: “Without the work of this humble creature, who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible”
In essence it entails learning from what happens in nature and implementing it in our intensive agricultural systems, so that we can benefit from the services that soil provides in nature.
Protists are a group of microorganisms that did not tick all the boxes to be called bacteria, fungi or nematodes. These microorganisms play a crucial role in the mineralisation process.
A lot more attention has focused on plant parasitic nematodes rather than the beneficial free living nematodes in the soil. Intensive research needs to be conducted so as to better understand the role played by free living nematodes especially in the mineralisation of soil nutrients.
Soil respiration has been extensively promoted as a simple, holistic measure of microbial activity in the soil. Simply capture and measure the amount of carbon dioxide produced by soil and you will have an idea of the metabolic activity of the life in the soil.
Active carbon is the part of soil organic matter that is readily available as an energy source for soil life. It is a very good indicator of soil health, responding much faster to changes in management practices than most other indicators.
“The soil is the only stomach that the plant has”. I had never thought of soil in this manner before, and found it to be an interesting perspective.
Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria use the carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients in organic matter as food in order to obtain energy to survive. Microscopic soil animals like protozoa, amoebae, nematodes, and mites feed on the organic matter, fungi, bacteria, and each other for the same purpose.
One of the challenges for farmers with regards to soil life is knowing whether the practices they are implementing are positively contributing to healthy soils, which are conducive to soil organisms flourishing. To this end we have been measuring various indicators of life in the soil.
Life contains energy, and all life requires energy to function. Energy is found, and needed, in various forms. In soil, the greatest source of energy is in the form of organic matter and carbon therein.
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