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Soil Microbial Analysis Changes with Nutrition Farming for Hawaii Project

Not all microbes are bad.  Human bodies contain about as many microbial cells as actual human cells.  This is called the human microbiome.  We live symbiotically with the microbes.  We actually could not live without them!

Our microbiome shifts as we change our diet and environment.  We receive healthy microbes from good, aerobic (oxygenated) soil.  This is another great reason to get out in your garden!

Beneficial microbiology in the soil is important to hold nutrients in the soil and make them available to the plants.  Measuring the microbial life in the soil is an important part of soil management.  You can’t manage what you don’t measure!

With the Nutrition Farming for Hawaii project, I measured the soil microbiology using my microscope when we were getting started with the garden in the spring.  Bacterial counts were only about 100 per slide field.

We amended the soil with the needed minerals and fertilizers.  These are very important to feed the microbes, as well as the plants.  Some minerals, like cobalt (which is rarely tested, but is on a Nutrition Grown™ soil analysis), are critical for microbes.  The microbes will not be there without the nutrients they need!   We also added a microbial inoculant to help get things going.

Retesting of soil is done every 6 months, including microbiology.  Our latest analysis showed 1500 bacteria per slide field.  A 1500% increase!

If you like this post, please leave a comment and share on your favorite social media by clicking an icon below.  Thanks,  Dr. Jana

Vog or other Air Pollution got you Down? Maybe you need Molybdenum

Respiratory distress and irritated eyes can be caused by sulfur compounds called sulfites which are present in smog and vog (a combination of volcano smoke and fog).  These are real concerns for some Hawai’i residents, especially children living in voggy areas.

Molybdenum (Mo) is an ultra-trace element (mineral) which is needed as a cofactor to enable certain enzymes in the body to work.  Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, a biochemist and physician who helped run the Princeton Brain Bio Center, felt that sulfite sensitivity may be due to molybdenum deficiency since he had seen consistently low blood levels of Mo in his patients.  Molybdenum is needed to activate the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which changes toxic sulfite to harmless sulfate.  The oxidation of sulfites is necessary to prevent neurological damage and allergic/asthmatic symptoms.  Other Mo-activated enzymes are responsible for some aspects of amino acid metabolism.

Also, be aware that sulfites are added as preservatives to many foods, such as wine and dried fruits to preserve the colors.  Ever heard of someone having a sulfite allergy?  Probably just a lack of molybdenum.

We should be getting adequate molybdenum in our well-grown foods.  However, molybdenum levels in soils or foods are rarely tested.  Because of its importance, this element is included in the Beyond Organic comprehensive soil analysis.  I often see very low (deficient) levels.

In the crop growing world, molybdenum is an enzyme catalyst for changing nitrate (NO3) to ammonium (NH4+), a plant-useable form of nitrogen.  This trace element also enhances protein formation.  Molybdenum is needed for atmospheric nitrogen fixation by bacteria growing symbiotically with legumes as well as non-symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria.  Molybdenum is used in the conversion of inorganic phosphorus to an organic form and is necessary for ascorbic acid (vitamin C) metabolism.  Gross deficiency symptoms include chlorosis of leaf margins, distortions in leaves and flowering bodies, and decreased fruit set due to less viable pollen.

Ultra-trace elements such as molybdenum and others can be supplied to soil with applications of naturally-occurring rich sources of trace elements such as Azomite, greensand, seaweed (i.e. kelp), and ocean fish.  When soil levels are very low, it is good to supplement the soil with small amounts of a concentrated version of molybdenum, such as sodium molybdate.   Seaweed and fish hydrolysates can also be used as ingredients in fast-acting foliar sprays.

Rejoice!  Help with vog and smog is on the way!  You might just need Mo’ molybdenum!

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Soil and Compost Microbiology Analyses Now Available in Hawaii

With all the talk about microbes in the soil, natural farming and composting, have you ever wondered what little critters you have in your soil?  Now you can find out!  Dr. Bogs is now offering soil and compost microbiology analyses with recommendations for improving the balance of microbes.  You can also have your inoculant materials analyzed.  Sometimes, expensive and highly-touted microbial products actually have very few active microbes.

Knowing the types and amounts of microbes are present in your soil and compost can help resolve some problems you may be experiencing.  Having the right types and amounts of microbes for the type of crop you are growing can boost production while decreasing weed pressure.   How?  Microbes makes nutrients available to plants.  Some microbes can even fix nitrogen from the air!  Weeds like a bacterially-dominated soil, so getting more beneficial fungi working can decrease weeds.  Besides bacteria and fungi, protozoa and nematodes play roles in the soil.  Getting your soil’s mineral balance right, along with getting your soil’s microbial balance right, gives your crops the nutrition they need to supply the finest, most delicious food for you!

How to take Soil Samples for Microbial Analyses

You can use similar tools and methods as described in the section on this website about how to sample for soil nutrient analyses, but you only need to sample to a depth of 3 inches (7.5 cm).  Most of the same guidelines apply.  Use gloves–don’t touch the soil.  Be sure to remove organic material from the soil surface before taking samples.  Because you need only 3-inch deep cores, you can use an apple corer, if that is easier for you.  These corers can be found in kitchen supply sections of department stores.

If sampling under plants, take core samples half-way between the stem/trunk and the drip line of the leaves.  Take enough care samples to make up a volume of about one-half cup of soil.  Be careful to not expose the samples to extreme temperatures.

Microbial analyses can also be performed on compost and compost tea.  For compost, take several small samples throughout your compost pile, about 2 feet in, and combine into a composite sample.  If all of your piles are uniform, you will need to send only one composite sample.  If your piles are different, they will need to be sampled and tested individually as results can vary widely.  Compost tea will need to be sealed well in a bottle and shipped quickly, or hand delivered.

You can order these analyses here on the website (just order a soil analysis and put in a note to specify that you want a microbial analysis) or schedule a farm visit by calling 938-9888.  For those outside of Hawaii, microbiological analyses are available from an alternative laboratory.  Please email info@BeyondOrganicResearch.com for additional information.  Aloha!

Here is where we get to see the invisible world!

Here is where we get to see the invisible world!