Soil Biology - Microbes: Part II: BALANCE

The Keystone of Microbial Usage

Like most things in life, balance is everything. Any one microbe taking over either the solution it’s held in, or the soil itself, can cause problems. Every microbe has its own metabolic needs and plays a unique role in the system - some are there solely for their excretions to feed others! In this manner, the individuals selected are just as important as their concentration. Microbes whose purpose is to clean and consume bio slime must be in proportion to the bio slime producers. “Producers” outnumbering “consumers” can lead to a problematic build up in the soil.

Understanding how to properly balance soil microbiology in “living soil”, “supersoil”, or “no till” systems is equally important!! One needs to know the quantity of individual microbes to understand when they will become available to the plant. Say, for example, there is fish bone meal in your soil/system. The phosphorus in the product can take up to six weeks to become plant available; but, it can take as little as a week or two depending on your soil’s biology. If you have, say, Pseudomonas (a phosphorus-reducing bacteria) in your soil, you can expect that phosphorus to be more available more quickly than in a system that does not contain this beneficial bacteria. 

Keeping your microbes aerobically dominant is also extremely important. A tea or soil that goes “anaerobic” can result in serious problems. Anaerobic digestion is extremely efficient, and once your system is deprived of oxygen, their population skyrockets - making it very difficult to revert them back to aerobic dominance. You can treat this by injecting straight atmospheric oxygen into your system, but that can be damaging as well. The best way to treat an anaerobic condition is with constant injections of a highly oxygenated tea solution ripe with aerobic microbes. 

Most compost teas have a shelf life of only a few days (2-4) due to their imbalanced levels of anaerobic vs aerobic bacteria. A properly balanced microbially based tea (that is continuously agitated and aerated) can last up to 14 days and still maintain it’s aerobic capacity. Once your tea solution becomes rank and smells of the sewer (aka becomes anaerobic) then you need to discard it immediately and keep it well away from your media. Again, this happens MUCH quicker when impurities are present like clay carriers and fecal (guano) material is present.

Microbe Tea > Compost Tea!

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