"When we pick up a handful of soil, it is hard to imagine all the activity that is happening at a microscopic scale within it and the powerful impacts this has. The web of life in a healthy soil is a weird and wonderful world of interactions that scientists are only just beginning to understand. They know less about the ground under our feet than they do about the universe, and yet the soil is what humanity depends upon. While we wait for the science to catch up, it is essential that farming recognises and understands the crucial importance of soil biology, instead of solely focusing on its chemical and physical aspects. RegenAg UK takes soil health very seriously, running courses that give farmers a chance to get to know their soil better. Joel Williams recently inspired a group of farmers to explore the intricacies of soil life during the course he taught on soil health".
Read the full article about Joel’s talk on the importance of soil fungi.
LandBase co-founder and organic farmer manager, Dan Powell, recently spent the day with Joel Williams been learning about soils...
Dan writes about the day...
We set off early on Monday 6th November for Glasshouse College in Stourbridge to hear Joel Williams talk on the living side of soils and how understanding this aspect can help us in managing our soils. This excellent event was arranged by RegenAgUK another agroecological initiative close to LandBase’s heart.
Joel is a passionate advocate of the Soil Food Web school of thought as advocated by Dr Elaine Ingham and others. The message of the day was that we have neglected the biological aspect of soils in the past in favour of the chemical and physical. Mainly because we simply have not had the tools to observe and understand the complex living world beneath our feet. This is a story that is only truly unfolding in the last few years.
Joel described how most of our agricultural soils are deficient in fungi and tend to be bacterially dominated. This is mainly because our soils are not receiving sufficient levels of complex carbon sources. This is the food fungi prefer and by neglecting this aspect of soil nutrition, soils (and plants) are not benefiting from the role that fungi play in building stable carbon into our soils. While bacteria are important, balanced and diverse populations of soil microbes are essential to maintain optimum soil health. Fungi and in particular mycorhizzial fungi, play a very important role in bridging the plant world with the soil food web. Fungi feed on the complex sugars that plants release into the root zone as products of the photosynthetic process. Fungi, make available in return, essential nutrients that the most plants find difficult to access simply via their root system alone. This symbiotic relationship can be hindered by the use of pesticides, especially fungicides for obvious reasons.
Also mineral fertilisers can adversely effect this important dynamic process that underpins the development and maintenance of a healthy soil food web. Joel described how we can rectify this imbalance by the application of well finished composts, prepared compost teas and also the additions of soil amendments such as lignite or brown coal which has high levels of humic acids that help feed the fungi where populations need a boost.
The day underlined the importance and wisdom of the old adage that has been used since the beginning of the organic movement of “healthy soils, healthy plants”!
Thanks to Joel for tons of info and inspiration to get building carbon! Thanks also to RegenAg UK for an excellent day and Glasshouse college for hosting.