This episode of the Farmer to Farmer podcast with Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard is pretty cool. It touches on some of the cutting-edge Soil Food Web thinking of our generation of agriculturalists. Basically, what I got from it (echoed by USDA, Dr. Ingham, Rodale, others) was some stuff I had already heard elsewhere, but some new concepts and nuance that seem really important:
Minimize bare soil
Always try to have something growing so you’re not starving/roasting soil biology. Cool that freaky biodynamic/organic folks agree with the USDA on this point. The USDA has been telling farmers to practice this for years.
Grow a diversity of plants…
…to support a diversity of soil biology that will be better equipped to fend off any undesirables (i.e. bad soil micro-hombres). USDA also been stressing this.
Minimize soil disturbance
Try not to Freddy Kruger that fungi with your tiller tines as much as possible. USDA also telling farmers this for years.
Inoculate transplants and direct seeded areas
If you do need to till — or in other scenarios where mycorrhizae might have died off (grown only cole crops, starting on new plot of land) — inoculate your transplant potting mix and direct seeded areas. (http://mycorrhizae.com/
The fungi in a compost pile is NOT the same fungi that associates with plant roots
I didn’t think too much about the different classes of fungi. The decomposer fungi (saprophytic) in that awesome fungal-rich compost are not the same as the fungi that can whisper to your plants (endo- and ecto-mycorrhizae). But it sounds like mycorrhizae thrive when saprophytic fungi are present and doing their thing (breaking down organic matter).
Consider “wholistic” sprays for probiotic approach to foliar issues
Gotta read up more on what preparations are needed for specific problems, but I think soil inoculation helps to get things off to a good start. I am curious how to inoculate transplants or direct seeded areas so plant leaf surfaces have a diverse ecosystem on them from day one. It does also sound like mycorrhizae help plants communicate better and take up appropriate nutrients to defend themselves from pests and disease too. In theory, applying liquid biology to the plant leaf surface makes sense if you can paratrooper in some biology that will predate upon and/or outcompete pathogenic bacteria or fungi that is causing you problems. Basically the parallel of predatory insects or eating kimchi (note: go buy our kimchi so you can eat that E. coli spinach).
Of course, if you really want to blow your hair back on fungi from a Planet Earth-type perspective then http://www.radiolab.org/
Thanks to Noe from Loko‘ea Farms for telling me about this podcast episode!