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Living soil and the soil food web
Living soil and the soil food web

Dan here.  I though I would try this blog thing.

It seems like the two phrases “living soil” and “the soil food web” are finally starting to catch on.  Every time I hear these words, I get excited.  My wife knows this and if she is close by, I usually get a little wink from her that makes me smile.  For me as a gardener, soil is everything.  I don’t worry much about my plants because they are just indicators of what is happening in my soil.  Soil is truly living and the soil food web is the best way to describe it.  Of course it is easy to see the organic matter, arthropods, and red wigglers in great soil, but that is just the beginning.  A microscope is needed to tell the rest of the story.  One teaspoon of soil contains so much life, that it is impossible to physically count.  It takes me about an hour to analyze one drop of a diluted soil mixture in water.  In this time, I can get a good count of the fungal hyphae, protozoa, and nematodes, but only estimate the types and quantities of bacteria.

We all know about food webs and how everything is connected.  The food web in the soil works the same way, just on a much larger and complex scale.  The soil food web has perfected itself over millions of years and is perfect in every way.  It doesn’t do it justice, but here is my very simple depiction of the soil food web.  I’ve drawn the fungal mycelium at the center of the soil food web which I believe connects everything together.  Plants harness energy from the sun and pump exudates into the soil to feed the web.  In turn, the complex soil food web symbiotically delivers everything the plants need to thrive, completing the chain.

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