microBIOMETER® featured in award-winning science fair project.

soil microbe testing
Ariel White; Post-Wildfire Forest Reboot Kit

Ariel White, a ninth grader at Pretty River Academy in Ontario, Canada, utilized microBIOMETER® in their science fair project titled Post Wildfire Forest Reboot Kit.

The project was awarded first place at their high school and chosen to compete at the Simcoe County Regional Science Fair. At the regional fair, Ariel was awarded a gold medal, Best of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Best of Fair, The Dufferin Simcoe Land Stewardship Network Award, and was one of seven students selected to represent their county in the Canada Wide Science Fair where they won a silver medal!

About the project: Forest fires have increased due to climate change, causing forests to burn down at an unbelievable rate. Now we need forests more than ever, yet they have been taking years if at all to regrow. This project explores the question “how can we boost the speed of forest regrowth after forest fires?”. For phase one of this experiment, each plant was graded for performance using tests such as success-rate, growth-rate, compost-value, and self-propagation. For the second phase, it was seen what effect this plant had on the soil microbiome; which is key to healthy, speedy plant growth and isn’t evident after fires. It was concluded that the morning glory substantially increased the microbiome health from inevident to healthy, and had an almost perfect performance score. These results are very important to our world’s future as they could help to deter climate change and repair our forests and their diverse ecosystems.

Agronomist in the U.K. assisting clients with soil health.

Source: Ben Taylor-Davies Twitter

Ben Taylor-Davies, also known as Regen Ben, is a farmer and bioagri-ecologist working from Herefordshire in the UK. His farm is based in Ross-on-Wye and has been focused on environmental improvements for the past 22 years. His work includes creating 12km of new hedges with 6m of pollen and nectar or ground bird nesting margins around every field as well as working on river meadow restoration.

Following a Nuffield scholarship in 2016 and the opportunity to travel the world (USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, South Africa, France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Mongolia, China, Singapore and Australia), Ben was intrigued by the regenerative agriculture movement which very much complimented the environmental work he was doing back on his own farm. When discussing these soil health focused farming methods with clients as an agronomist, it struck a chord with many of them too; the future of agriculture and real farm sustainability.

Ben came across microBIOMETER® in 2019 and found it an incredibly useful tool in benchmarking clients farms in order to start monitoring change in what they were doing. The real time results offered by microBIOMETER® provides Ben with full control over how, where and when he takes readings. Ben uses his microBIOMETER® readings in conjunction with the What3words app which allows him to accurately repeat measurements in subsequent years in order to build a picture of successes and failures.

Simple ways to increase the microbial biomass in your soil

Healthy soil is brimming with beneficial microbes, and those microbes are one of the important keys to ensuring the health of your plants. Along with breaking down key nutrients for your plants, they’ll aerate the soil so nutrients are evenly distributed, and fend off parasitic microbes so your garden can grow in peace.

Considering the wealth of benefits, it’s no surprise that it is recommended that you do everything you can to maximize the microbial biomass in your soil. While there’s complicated science behind it, nourishing and increasing the amount of microbes in your soil is simple, and can be accomplished with a few tried and true methods. And  thanks to the microBIOMETER®  soil test, even amateur gardeners can track their microbial biomass levels. 

First, let’s detail how you can take care of those important microbes and enhance their numbers. It’ll involve shedding some old gardening habits, along with taking on some new ones, but we promise the end results will be worth it. 

What To Avoid

Before you start taking extra steps to care for and increase your microbial biomass, you should ensure you’re avoiding certain tactics that are known to hinder their growth.

  • Pesticides

While you might think avoiding pesticides wouldn’t enhance plant health, a close look at the ingredients of most pesticides will show you they do far more harm than good. Amongst a variety of issues, one of the most harmful is the fact they decimate microbial populations in the soil. If you want to ensure pests will stay away in the absence of pesticides, try utilizing companion plants instead.

  • Fungicides

While pesticides are bad, fungicides are even more of a threat. Some of the most vital microbes in your soil, being fungi, would be directly targeted by these treatments. The harshness of these chemicals would also wreak havoc on the non-fungi microbes, all but eliminating any trace of a microbial biomass. Even if you can’t do everything on this list, ensure you at least abide by this particular rule. 

  • Tilling

Lastly, while many gardeners and farmers consider tilling a standard gardening process, you’ll want to abstain from it if you’re focusing on your soil’s microbes. That, of course, is due to the level of soil disturbance that occurs during the process. The process leads to lost microbes (especially fungi), and any benefits gained from additions made to the soil end up being cancelled out. By avoiding tilling, you’ll allow the delicate environment in your soil to function undisturbed and, in turn, at full capacity. 

What To Do

Now that you’ve cut those bad habits out of your gardening routine, you have room for a few that’ll greatly benefit your soil in the long run.

  • Composting

Nothing gets microbes into the soil like a nice big pile of compost! All that food breaking down in one big pile is basically a feast for all the helpful microbes you want around your plants. Once you add it onto your soil, then turn it to make sure air hits every part of it, you’ll be ensuring the microbes have plenty of energy to break down nutrients. To ensure the best compost possible, make sure you add in natural components like grass clippings, fruits, vegetables, wood chips, and straw. There’s no need to exclude other foods, even processed ones, but a healthy blend of green and brown material is a must. 

  • Compost Teas

Following the same logic, compost teas can do wonders for the microbes in your soil. All you have to do is take some compost and put it in a water permeable pouch,  add some microbe feeding nutrients (perhaps like molasses), and let it brew (bubbling air into it) until the microbes in the compost have multiplied and the tea is full of microbes. Once done, pour it all around the base of your plants. One round will do your plants good, but repeating this process a few times during your growing process will really make a difference.

  • Optimize soil moisture, pH, and temperature

This last step is actually three steps and if these conditions aren’t met, virtually nothing else on this list will have a noticeable effect. To start, making sure you have adequate moisture is as simple as regularly watering your plants. You may also want to consider purchasing a moisture meter to assure your levels are ideal. Next, the ideal pH range for soil is between 6.0 and 7.0, so you’ll have to test your soil to see where you’re at. If your soil pH is too low try adding limestone and if your pH is too high you can add aluminum sulfate and sulfur to get things balanced. Lastly, mulching is a great way to help your soil maintain an even temperature. 

Incorporating these simple tactics into your crop management is an important first step to building the microbial biomass in your soil. Another critical step is testing and quantifying the results of these inputs since decision making without data is like driving blindfolded. microBIOMETER® is a rapid, on-site soil test for microbial biomass. Microbes respond very quickly to any changes in the soil, therefore, you can set a baseline then retest within a week to see if you are heading in the right direction.

 

microBIOMETER® shows the positive results of holistic cattle grazing on soil health

Leeston Pastoral is a 5th generation, family owned farm in New South Wales, Australia. Historically, they have had a fine wool Merino & Hereford cattle breeding operation. Over the last 20 years they have moved to focus on cattle.

The 2019 drought forced them to reevaluate what operation they wanted to continue in. They decided to adopt a more regenerative approach and move from a cattle breeding operation to a cattle trading operation. They now have one large mob grazing holistically using short grazes and long pasture rest periods.

microBIOMETER® has allowed them to quickly, easily and inexpensively record existing benchmark measurements of their soil microbiology and now reassess the effects of stock movements and plant/soil amendments. They are excited to see the new F:B ratio measurement, as they want to make sure the soils stay fungally dominated so they can more effectively create stored soil organic matter.

They were happy to see their microBIOMETER® results showed an almost 30% increase in microbial biomass and fungal to bacterial ratio one month after holistic grazing. Studies have shown that a 1.5x increase in your soil’s F:B ratio can lead to a 3x increase in carbon sequestration. Thank you Adam for sharing your experience with us!