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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The World Beneath Our Feet

A Couple of weeks back, I was invited to attend the +Alltech International Symposium in Lexington, Kentucky.  This is the 2nd year I have attended and I can honestly say that I came home with so many ideas and thoughts that it is hard to get through them all.  Have you ever thought of what goes on beneath you feet?  The following will make you think twice about calling that black stuff dirt.

Photo Credit to Lara of My Other Exciting Self

Sitting at the 30th Annual Alltech International Symposium, I felt as if some farmers are looking at the big picture and not the whole picture.  While, yes it is easy and enjoyable to drive by and show your neighbors your 7 feet tall corn plants, it is what we can’t see beneath the soil’s surface that is what we should be most proud of and should be looking to see how we can make it a better environment.
Alltech’s Becky Timmons, global director of applications research and quality assurance,said in the closing session that without microbes there would be no plants or animals.  The microbes found in the soil help to make plants hundreds of times more efficient.  The diversity of microorganisms in the soil beneath our feet is hard to comprehend.  Even harder to fathom is the fact that only 1-2% of all microbes in the soil have been identified.

1 teaspoon of soil contains 100 million to 1 billion organisms including,
100,000+ fungi,
100,000+ actinomycetes,
10,000+ algae,
worms, mesofauna and microfauna.

While not all of these organisms are good, many help the plants by producing antibiotics, hormones, enzymes, enzyme inhibitors, vitamins, and immune modulators.   
The soil bound to the roots and closest to the plant is call the Rhizosphere.  This area is very high in microbial activity and is important for the plants efficiency.  Rhizobacteria can absorb toxic metals before they reach the plant.  Rhizobacteria also help break down nutrients so they are more available to the plant and are essential in the biogeochemical cycles. 
The microbial populations of soils are directly related to the farming practices that are used.  No till soils have a more diverse and more abundant microbial population, because these ecosystem is more stable.  Tilling the soil causes huge fluctuations in moisture, temperature, residue, and soil organic matter.  All of these are essential for microbes to live and grow.  Soils also have a long memory, so changing farming practices will not bring back the microbes over night or even in a year or two.

What if we need to be feeding the soil instead of feeding the crop?  What if feeding the rhizosphere  would benefit the plants more than just feeding the plants?

We are not standing on dirt. 
We are standing on the roof of another world.”
-Keith Davidson

-A Kansas Farm Mom