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The Biological Cycle

The biological dimension of our soil?

Scientific opinion...

“The microbial approach represents the last frontier in efforts to improve crop yield and is largely still unexplored. One day the agricultural microbial business will be huge. It must be so because the potential benefits are significant and all the other avenues to improve crop yields – nutrients, plant genetics, weedicides and insecticides, water management, crop rotation – have already been explored thoroughly.”

Dr Phil Heraud, School of biological Sciences, Monash University.

“Very large carbon-dioxide savings would undoubtedly result from building up organic matter in soil humus by accumulating a richly diverse soil biota. Soil loss – especially the physical loss or biological impoverishment, hence carbon depletion, of humus – is currently far outpacing soil and humus formation and enrichment worldwide.”

Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and L Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: The next industrial revolution, 1999.

“It would be not only foolish, but possibly disastrous, to entirely turn away from chemical knowledge that has been the basis of agricultural theory. What is needed is its integration with biological knowledge of the soil. In any case the major cause of soil destruction in the world today is not the application but the mis-application of scientific knowledge under the ruthless pressure of modern industrial life.

The value of farm produce and products of the soil generally has been made subservient to the demands of industry, until the soil itself has become a raw product of industrial processing.”

Sir C. Stanton Hicks, Professor of Human Physiology and Pharmacology, Adelaide University.

“Due to increased cultivation, soil organic matter burned up, symbiotic fungi and nitrogen fixing bacteria have been lost. Biological boron, silicon and calcium have been lost or became deficient. The most obvious result is nitrogen deficiency”

Hugh Lovel: Agricultural Educator, author

Biological Nutrient Cycling

Soil nutrients are contained in the organic matter or humus which is attacked and broken down by the soil biology or foodweb. It has been scientifically well established that all nutrients to become plant available must first pass through this foodweb. Much is passed directly to the plants as they feed the biology with the products of photosynthesis – sugars (carbon), carbohydrates, amino acids etc . Also The soil foodweb like all nature is a hostile environment in a healthy soil environment there are thousands of biology per gram of soil. Each is preyed upon by others which results in the cycling of the nutrients they contain.

Carbon : Nitrogen Ratios...

  • Bacteria 5:1
  • Fungi 20:1
  • People 30:1
  • Green Leaves 30:1
  • Protozoa 30:1
  • Nematodes 100:1
  • Brown plant material 150 – 200:1
  • Deciduous trees 300:1

eg: Protozoa need 30 C 1 N -> they eat 1 bacterium (5 C 1 N) -> still need 25 C but N is ok
       therefore more bacteria needed!!

When the protozoa have eaten 6 bacteria to satisfy their carbon needs they have 5 extra nitrogen which they happily give up to the plant. Nematodes supply even greater amounts. Phosphate, calcium, zinc, boron etc are all cycled in the same fashion.

Natures recycling as fungi devour nematode

Nutrient Retention

Most leachable Nitrogen...

  • NO3
  • NO2        \   The inorganic
  • NH4+      /    forms of Nitrogen

Least leachable Nitrogen...

  • Bacteria
  • Fungi.....................WHY?
  • Natures Ability to Stick
  • Bacterial glue
  • A complex foodweb moves pH towards 7
  • Fungal threads
  • Organic acids