Nature is a balance.
When you look at the forest, it is self sustaining.
It has a balance that produces the most amazing things. On our farm, we try to keep that balance.
Beneath our feet is a very dynamic interface of bacteria, arthropoda, protozoa, fungi and nematodes all supporting the perfect balance (to name a few). Each tablespoon of soil is filled with over 1 billion microorganisms. This predatory-prey interaction plays a huge part in the health of our plants above the ground.
Energy is needed for the entire plant to thrive. One-third of the energy required for growing goes toward the roots, one-third toward the stalk, stem, leaf and fruit, and one-third to produce food for the beneficial microbes.
Our plants need this interaction to absorb nutrients created by the microbe-microbe and microbe-plant interactions.
“IF YOU PROTECT AND FEED THE SOIL,THE PLANT TAKES CARE OF ITSELF”.
If our soil is just right, our plants can feed themselves. No need to supplement with phosphorous, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, etc.
Plants choose who they feed. Did you know that the relationship of bacteria vs. fungi determines the PH of the soil? The higher the bacteria, the more alkaline the soil. The higher the fungi, the more acidic.
We look closely at the CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) to see the soil’s ability to absorb and release nutrients.
Carbon is basically soil fertility and so much more. It releases nutrients for plant growth, promotes biological health of the soil, and buffers against harmful substances. Yet it only accounts for 5% of the upper soil layers and quickly diminishes as you go down.
So, how do all of these living things contribute to the soil health? Let’s take a brief look:
The plant supplies simple carbon compounds to the bacteria and the bacteria convert nitrogen from the air into a form the plant host can use. Decomposing plants in the soil increases nitrogen. 1 teaspoon of soil houses 100 million to 1 billion bacteria. There are a large group of bacteria that grow as hyphae like fungi. This bacteria gives you the beautiful “earth” smell. They are critical in decomposition.
What are they? Insects, beetles, ants, mites, etc. Most soil dwelling arthropods eat fungi, worms or other arthropods. There are basically four groups: shredders, predators, herbivores and fungal feeders. Shredders eat bacteria and fungi. Herbivores eat plants, and predators eat other bugs.
We have two types: anaerobic which lives in a removed oxygen system (parasites) and aerobic which feed on bacteria and release nitrogen that can be used by the plant.
They are decomposers that convert hard to digest material into a more palatable form for other organisms. A very important role is to bind soil particles to help hold water.
Worms! (But microscopic) Yes, they play a vital role in converting organic material to inorganic. This is called mineralization. This is so important and plants take up nutrients in this inorganic state. There are several groups based on feeding habits. We use nematodes to attack the larva of pests found in the soil in the larva stage, and we use them against the Japanese Beetle, which eats the grape leaves.
As you can see, the life below the soil has many components. We have just touched on a few to show you not just how, but why we try to protect the soil. It’s where our plants eat and live.
Being Organic means making a commitment to the life under your feet. It’s a commitment to the environment and to the plants you are growing. Pesticides, synthetic chemicals, and heavy tillage all harm the life beneath the soil. If any of these process stop, like the food chain above ground, all are impacted. We believe chemicals have their place in life, but not in our food source.