[permaculture] What is healthy soil. (FWD thread from other list)

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at bellsouth.net
Sat Jul 6 05:34:49 EDT 2013

<FWD from other list>


Breeding for disease resistance and increased nutritional values (which 
is being done

_*What is a healthy soil? *_

A healthy soil is one where there is life! — earth worms, insects, 
bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. It is not just the balance of 
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. One teaspoon of a healthy soil may 
contain in 1 teaspoon millions of beneficial soil microorganisms 
including 25,000 species of bacteria, 10,000 species of fungi which with 
other soil microbes decompose organic matter, promote deep root 
development, improve soil permeability and provide plants with 
nutrition, moisture and resistance to pests. Plants thrive or suffer 
depending on the life in the soil. Beneficial soil organisms make 
nutrients available to plants, reduce disease, reduce nutrient losses 
and help degrade toxic chemicals. You can't see much but you can smell 
and feel the texture. Biological inputs must be chosen carefully to feed 
the myriad of soil life. Bacteria feed on plant residue and root 
exudates converting these compounds into body mass, this becomes food 
for the next level of the food web. Protozoa that feed on these bacteria 
excrete nitrogen as a waste product that then provides nutrients 
essential to plants. 85% of all plant nutrients must be first cycled 
through micro-organisms. Farming disrupts this process. We are gradually 
mining the soil of organic matter that is the protoplasmic basis for 
life on earth.. So that nutrients are cycled, disease is suppressed and 
nitrogen is retained so there is no leaching. If you re-establish 
healthy micro-organisms in the soil farm productivity goes up and costs 
are cut by eliminating pesticides and chemical fertilisers.

/*"Every chemical-based pesticide, fumigant, herbicide and fertiliser 
tested, harms or outright kills some part of the beneficial life that 
exists in the soil, (or on the leaf surfaces) even when applied at rates 
recommended by their manufacturers. ..( L)ess than half of the existing 
active ingredients used as pesticides have been tested for their effects 
on soil organisms."* /

Dr. E. Ingham. Australian Organic Gardener. '02


Nuffield International website : 

It should take you to the 2011 Scholars page - I heard summaries from 
these four reports and was impressed:

27/09/2012     Are mob grazed cattle the perfect arable break? 
     Tom Chapman     2011     UK     3535.6kb

10/07/2012     Soil Fertility and Fertiliser Use Efficiency 
     Thomas Bradshaw     2011     UK     1742.9kb
07/07/2012     The benefits to agriculture and the environment of 
rebuilding soil carbon 
     Rob Richmond     2011     UK     1154.5kb
02/07/2012     Agroforestry - a new approach to increasing farm 
     Stephen Briggs     2011     UK     4369.1kb

And I didn't hear this one from an Australian Scholar but it looks 

05/02/2013     Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture: Farming in a 
world of finite resources 
     Michael Inwood     2011     AU     1048.293kb

There are others looking at pertinent issues like peak Phosphorus and 
Nitrogen usage.

The reports are not very searchable at the moment - the new Nuffield UK 
Director is interested in any feedback on improving this that users can 
offer.  The downloads are free to access, a fee is payable for hard copies.

Hope you find them worthwhile!

Susi Batstone

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