Questions & Answers

1. I am doing vermicomposting. I have designed a worm bed to make vermicompost. I collect the liquid and use it on my plants as well as the composted product. Is there someone else that is using this technique to determine the usefulness of microBiometer? If I can prove the benefits of my compost bed by determining that it can produce healthy compost for plants, it can be of a benefit to me to use your system. 

One of the best uses of microBIOMETER® is to indicate the nutrition level of compost including vermicompost.  The higher microbial count the better the nutrient values of the compost.  This is because Kirby has shown that soil bacteria contain all the nutrients plants need in the ratios the plant requires.  microBIOMETER® is so sensitive that we have shown that in nitrogen deficient compost we increase bacteria by adding the tiniest amount of N but in a nitrogen balanced compost this does not occur. 

2. If the soil sample is anaerobic you could potentially read a large biomass of critters but that could be the sort of critters you do not want in your soil. I can look at a soil sample under a scope and in 10 minutes I can see the biomass and identify if it is the proper creatures present in the biomass. 

Regarding microscopic count: It has been abandoned by the academic community because of the unreliability of the results. In fact, microBIOMETER® was developed with James Sottilo because he found the results from a respected lab performing microscopic counts on the same sample to vary up to several hundred %. 

Why is microscopy unreliable?
· Microbes are tightly bound to soil particles -- methods of extracting them for microscopic analysis are poorly reproducible depending on how tightly bound they are.
· Estimates are made from counting microbes in less than 1ul of water-  solubilized  soil or about 1/10,000 of a gram of soil. Sampling such a small fraction gives unreliable statistics.

Why use microBIOMETER®?
· Our process extracts >50% of the microbes compared to 0.01% of what is observed by microscopy.
· The variability of our test is less than 10%
· Identifying microbial species is less important than knowing that the basis of the soil food web is intact. Lots of scientific studies have shown that a healthy microbial population balances itself, with large enough numbers.

As for identifying anaerobic soil: anaerobic material smells and our extensive experience with the floods along the Mississippi that cause anaerobic condition demonstrated that under these circumstances microbial biomass decreases. In fact, over 4 years of testing we have consistently observed that under conditions that are harmful to plants, microbial biomass is low.