Soil Health is on every one’s mind these days and most people are looking towards more sustainable agriculture with a reduction in the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Soil Health is a combination of biological, chemical and physical properties that combined determine the Soil Quality but more importantly of recent termed Soil Health. These two terms will continue to overlap as we look at soil, not just as a lifeless inert growing medium but more as a living, dynamic and continually changing ecological environment. Healthy soils are all about the interaction between plants and soil microorganisms that complete this cycle of life and the activities going on in the top 15 cm of soil that supports most of the life on this plant. This is less understood than the vast universe that we are a part of.
Researchers today are looking at the human biome and what is happening with the microbial population in the human gut and how we function. Our research on soil health is finding that the plant rhizosphere is much like the human gut or I relate it to the gut of the plant and the interaction of the microbes in the rhizosphere is much like the relationship in the human gut. Research at A&L on soil health is taking on an ecological approach where we are studying the relationship between plant and the soil biome and the signaling that takes place here.
The plant returns 40-60% of the photosynthates that it produces to the ryzosphere. This is a tremendous amount of energy that goes to feeding the organisms in the rhizosphere and culturing the soil biome. Plants use these many compounds that are produced to signal organisms and in the proper system encourage a relationship with a very select group of bacteria (endophytes) that help the plant grow, produce the nutracueticals that are the plant, fight disease and insects, and produce the crops grow.
A&L Biologicals, since its beginning in 2010, has focused on identifying and understanding the soil microbiological, plant relationship and how it influences crop production. The research was directed to “what is the identity of the microbes that populate the rhizosphere and host, how does the host select or signal for them, what is the unique characteristics of each of the microbes, and how do we create a healthy environment to assist the host in maintaining the ideal equilibrium amongst these populations.
Soil Health and Soil Chemistry
The primary component in this assessment is the Soil Health chemical analysis that measures the general fertility of the soil which A&L’s research shows has direct correlation to the plants ability to provide the necessary nutrients (carbon) that attracts and supports the organisms that benefit and support plant growth. Included in this test is the Solvita 1-day test that measures soil respiration which measures the carbon dioxide being released by the soil microbes over a 24 hour period. Also, it provides a new analysis which is “Reactive Carbon” that research has also shown to be a more responsive test that signals the deterioration of physical, chemical, and biological properties. The soil factors that may cause a decline in “Reactive Carbon” include reduced aggregate stability, increased bulk density, reduced water infiltration and water holding capacity, microbial activity, and nutrient availability.