The Living Matter in Soil ... and How it Matters
Natural Soil is often referred to as living because it contains billions of organisms that plants need for their health and longevity. Indeed, soil is the living basis for your potted plants and garden. When the biology in soil is balanced, soil can produce healthy plants season after season. These naturally occurring organisms convert mineral and organic material into nutrients that plants require--creating a symbiotic relationship between plant and soil.
However, the majority of commercial soil products found at your local garden center contain no life--having been produced using high temperature processes and chemicals. These sterile soil mixtures are useful for a small handful of specific planting applications, but for most backyard gardens, sterile soil is not healthy soil and definitely not good for plants.
What are these Beneficial Organisms?
Living organisms in a natural soil environment include bacteria, fungi, protozoa (single-cell animals), nematodes (miniscule non-segmented worms), arthropods and earthworms. All have their role to play in recycling nutrients and maintaining good soil structure.
It has been estimated that a healthy 1-acre garden maintained without use of sterilizing chemical fertilizers contains a soil biomass exceeding 15 tons, with the weight of the bacteria alone--invisible to the eye--totaling 13 tons. A single teaspoon of this healthy living soil may contain 600-800 million individual bacteria from a possible 10,000 species; several miles of fungal hyphae; 10,000 individual protozoa; and 20-30 beneficial nematodes from a possible 100 species. Agromin preserves and cultivates these beneficial microbes when creating all its soil products.
The great diversity of biological life that exists in natural soil--from single-celled bacteria to small vertebrates and everything in between--is referred to as the “Soil Food Web.” Each organism in this web has its own important function, and all are food for each other. Actinomycetes help to decompose organic matter. Fungi and bacteria create compounds that help bind soil particles. Nematodes are involved in nutrient cycling. Soil arthropods help shred dead plant materials, greatly enhancing decomposition. Earthworms mix and aggregate soil particles and stimulate microbial activity.
The biggest living component of healthy soil, and arguably the most important, is fungi. Healthy soil contains tiny organisms working together to produce an entire ecosystem. Fungi forms the basis for this system. Billions of fungal hyphae create a mat within which non-living and living components of soil are interwoven. It’s amazing to think that all this is happening on a massive scale in just a handful of healthy soil.
True Living Soil is a natural resource that we cannot live without--and one that we must learn to understand, appreciate and conserve. By doing our part, such as reducing chemical usage, aerating soil, reducing soil compaction, improving soil drainage and adding a living growth medium (such as Agromin Compost or Potting Soil) to our yards, we all can contribute to the health and longevity of our plants, garden and ultimately, our planet.