Understand that it’s the soil life: bacteria, fungi and the rest of the soil food web which convert minerals and gases into available plant food for plant roots to uptake.
It is the soil life, that is, the soil’s digestive system – that provides extremely complex nutrients to the plant. Even the effect of foliar feeding is dramatically reduced if soil life is struggling.
As a farmer you therefore need to continually strive to create active soil life by using products that support any active, lively soil. Make a list of all the natural, nutrient products that are available or accessible to you. Products such as natural minerals, proper compost and liquid nutrients. All of these come in many forms.
Use your consultant, expert or fellow farmers to help you choose products for you.
Work with and follow consultants, experts, fellow farmers who have already and consistently achieved growing nutrient dense, relatively problem free crops that do not need commercial remedy products.
Work in with soil laboratories that understand soil life and have the ability to understand and measure soil life and can direct you as to the actions to take to promote the balance needed between bacteria and fungi domination to grow your particular crops. Follow you soil lab’s or your expert’s recommendations.
If you are using live microbial products like compost tea or compost, do have them analysed until you are confident in the products. They must be specific to their intended task for your crops’ need either to promote bacteria growth, fungi growth or both.
When you do have an active soil system established, you will join the ranks of other farmers who have been able to reduce fertiliser inputs up to 80% of conventional farming inputs and have been able reduce fertiliser costs dramatically to that of conventional farmers.
Be wary of people of authority who one, discredit the above, and two, who promote that the only viable method of farming is to use weedicides, fungicides, drenches and other “bandaid” products to achieve increased yields and maintain healthy growth.
Avoid all products that diminish or do not support or direct soil life in the desired way. Use products in moderation, not necessarily at the recommended rates by the supplier.
As an added measure, periodically dig the soil to smell it; it should smell good and hang together and cling to the roots. Look for signs of larger forms of soil life, such as worms. Measure plant sap with a brix meter (refractometer) to find out whether the plant is taking up nutrients (we will talk about the use of a brix meter later) and test the soil for compaction using a simple wire probe. These few signs are simple ways to broadly indicate a healthy, active soil.