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tilling soil

  • Subject: [cg] tilling soil
  • From: "Ken Hargesheimer" minifarms@gmail.com
  • Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 15:34:07 -0500

Be on the lookout for good technical resources, too.

Good gardening, all,

Don Boekelheide

I submit the following.  Ken Hargesheimer

When Soil is dug or tilled

*Dr. Elaine Ingham, describes an undisturbed grasslandwhere a wide
diversity of plants grow, their roots mingling with a wide diversity of soil
organismsand how it changes when it is tilled.*

A typical teaspoon of native grassland soil contains between 600 million and
800 million individual bacteria that are members of perhaps 10,000 species.
Several miles of fungi are in that teaspoon of soil, as well as 10,000
individual protozoa.  There are 20 to 30 beneficial nematodes from as many
as 100 species. Root-feeding nematodes are quite scarce in truly healthy
soils.  They are present, but in numbers so low that it is rare to find

After only one tilling, a few species of bacteria and fungi disappear
because the food they need is no longer put back in the system.  But for the
most part, all the suppressive organisms, all the nutrient cyclers, all the
decomposers, all the soil organisms that rebuild good soil structure are
still present and trying to do their jobs.

*But tillage continues to deplete soil organic matter and kill fungi*. The
larger predators are crushed, their homes destroyed.  The bacteria go
through a bloom and blow off huge amounts of that savings-account organic
matter.  With continued tillage, the "policemen" (organisms) that compete
with and inhibit disease are lost.  The "architects" that build soil
aggregates are lost.  So are the "engineers"the larger organisms that
design and form the larger pores in soil.  The predators that keep bacteria,
fungi, and root-feeding organisms in check are lost.  Disease suppression
declines, soil structure erodes, and water infiltration decreases because
mineral crusts form.  Dr. Elaine Ingham, BioCycle, December 1998.  (From
ATTRA News, July 06)

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