Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch; that’s the sound of happy soil biology.

The Natural Farmer

Great episode from Jagannath.

Comments: straw tends to be high in lignin which needs white rot fungi to break it down, which requires moisture and gives rotted wood it’s soft spongy characteristic. Straw is probably better as a winter rather than summer mulch which is why I have a rule of thumb to use soft mulch in summer and hard mulch in winter. Grow your mulch in spring for summer! Prune for winter!
Interestingly leaf litter can also almost contain as much lignin as straw. Sugar cane mulch on the other hand has about 1/3 the lignin of straw and corn stalks are half that again, sugar cane mulch has an ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio of 50:1 though. Corn can actually be quite good for building soil carbon so long as the mulch is left in place and a green added to it, like Jagannath’s planned legume companion.
Also, the allelopathic leaves mentioned can be used after a quick 3-day hot compost. Putting them in a black bag in the sun with some urine may work too.
I find legumes like beans are a great indicator of soil bulk density. They tend to thrive in loose soil where air gets the root zone. The other thing Jagannath may be missing for his soil and environment with such dry lifeless soil is the rhizobia inoculant that form the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis in the form of root nodules. Here in Australia there’s a trial going on to match the microbe with the legume so that farmers can inoculate at sowing time, apparently we don’t get the same level of root nodulation and yield compared to other countries because of our microbial species, so efforts are being made to breed and select for them.
Today I also learned that leaf litter suppresses herbivorous nematodes likely by increasing the fungi population that trap them, while on the other hand just leaving roots in the soil increases nematodes and bacteria over time.
Lastly, I like to measure my mulch depth in buried finger knuckle joints. One knuckle joint is good, two is better, three is best! And so is using three different mulches: green, brown and white. Green for bacteria (nitrifying), brown for brown rot fungi (cellulose), and white for white rot fungi (lignin).
As you can probably tell, I consider mulch the most underrated of topics! 😛

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Breaking the Oxygen Barrier in Microbial Cultivation

Oxygen comprises one fifth of our atmosphere, and we take for granted that this a good thing. After all, aerobic creatures like ourselves could not exist without free O2. Not all life shares this feeling. Oxygen and its derivatives (known as “reactive oxygen species” or ROS) can wreak havoc on the biochemistry of many microbes. For some obligate anaerobes such as methane-producing archaea, even a small trace of oxygen poisons them irreversibly (see, for example Kiener and Leisinger 1983). Others fall somewhere in the middle. Microaerophiles (e.g. Helicobacter pylori, the cause of gastric ulcers) require small amounts of oxygen but are unable to tolerate full atmospheric concentrations (Bury-Moné et al., 2006).

Why are these organisms sensitive to oxygen?

Find out why at:
Small Things Considered: Breaking the Oxygen Barrier in Microbial Cultivation

Biodynamic Horn Burial Explained & Biochar

Not very permaculture aye? Lots of mystic hand waving? Well… read on.

Ever wanted to know how “Preparation 500” is prepared? Or what’s in the end product?

The material was found to harbor a bacterial community of 2.38 × 10-8CFU/g dw dominated by Gram-positives with minor instances of Actinobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria. ARISA showed a coherence of bacterial assemblages in different preparation lots of the same year in spite of geographic origin. Enzymatic
activities showed elevated values of β-glucosidase, alkaline phosphatase, chitinase, and esterase. The preparation had no quorum sensing-detectable signal, and no rhizobial nod gene-inducing properties, but displayed a strong auxin-like effect on plants. Enzymatic analyses indicated a bioactive potential in the fertility and nutrient cycling contexts. The IAA activity and microbial degradation products qualify for a possible activity as soil biostimulants.

Of the bacterial species, two dominated 90% of the culture. Half was Bacillus megaterium a plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) known to produce Cytokinin. While the other half was Bacillus safensis another PGPR known to produce Auxins.

Cytokinins promote cell division and act in concert with auxins that promote cellular expansion. And, for example, the ratio of auxin to cytokinin in certain plant tissues determines initiation of root versus shoot buds.

Sounds like it should be called PGPR 500.

Plant Species Diversity Improves Soil Ecosystems. [Rant]

Plant species diversity doesn’t improve soil

The above quote was left as a reply to a comment I’d left on a big ag research and education industry video talking about cover crops ages ago. It still irks me that these people are so ignorant.

Today I read the following study on plant species diversity’s impact on soil ecosystems, albeit in a conservation and restoration context that ends up restoring degraded agricultural lands these people create:

Restoring and managing for more diverse plant communities can improve recovery of belowground biology and functioning in predictable ways. Specifically, we found greater accumulation of roots, more predictable recovery of soil microorganisms (bacteria and fungal biomass), more rapid improvement in soil structure (less compaction), and less nitrogen available for loss from the system  in prairie restored and managed for high plant diversity (>30 species) relative to the low diversity (<10 species) grassland plantings.  Thus, the hypothesis that biodiversity promotes ecosystem functioning is relevant to large-scale conservation and restoration practices on the landscape.

Restoration and management for plant diversity enhances the rate of belowground ecosystem recovery