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Advisory Help Needed!

In the wonderful world of agriculture (more gamblers than Las Vegas ever sees), there is a desperate need for professional soil advisory services. No, I don't mean more soil chemistry advisors - there's already an overabundance of them. We're all familiar with conventional soil test routines - dig a sample, check the pH plus a few macroelements, then issue a prescription for "fixing" problems or deficiencies. Very simple and easy to understand - match the soil to the plants. Well, maybe TOO simple. We seem to have created an entire generation of ag advisors who believe that soil chemistry is...

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In Disease Suppression, Timing Is Everything

The ability of mycorrhizal fungi to ward off a wide variety of plant pathogens (such as nematodes) and diseases (Phytophthora, etc.) has been well documented. Any search will turn up dozens of studies on this topic. However, it is not widely recognized that the beneficial fungi must have a chance to colonize the roots and surrounding soil before this important protective role can be realized. This argues for inoculating crop plants as early as possible - either at transplanting time or preferably while still in the nursery. I am not aware of any research that indicates that mycorrhizal fungi can...

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Choose Your Bio Potting Medium with Care

Along with reduced fertilizer, an important part of biological growing methodology is for nurseries to select a potting mix that will not inhibit soil bio life. Common bark-based potting products may have some fungicidal qualities, which is desirable when one is using a disease-prone chemistry-based approach, but not such a good idea when trying to encourage beneficial fungi on root systems. In general, peat and sand mixtures work much better than wood-based products. Even pure sand can be used if weight is not an important factor. The sticky hyphae of AM fungi will quickly bind sand particles together into a...

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Might Biology Bring World Peace?

Throughout history, hunger has led to many wars, revolts, and other conflicts. That pattern continues today. When people do not have food for themselves and see their children starving, they are inclined to listen to radical elements who promise change. Tens of millions of people around the world live in countries that either lack agricultural skills to feed their populations, and/or have had their food production disrupted by war, and/or do not have good soils. If those countries then cannot afford to import food, their hunger is guaranteed to cause problems. I fear that “conventional” agriculture, which relies on annual...

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Compaction - the Physical Side of Soil

I recently read a release from the USDA/ARS that warned of soil compaction problems that are being caused by the use of heavier and heavier farm equipment. As with most articles concerning soil, it completely ignored the important biological components that are involved with the topic. In simple terms, soil that has good populations of microbial bio-life, especially AM fungi with their sticky hyphae, is kept “fluffed up” and aerated. Clay platelets are separated, oxygen penetrates easily down to root zones, and underground ecosystems remain healthy. Even when compacted by equipment, such soil rebounds in a fairly short period of...

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