How to su­per size your soil

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

The National En­vi­ron­ment Report from 2015 es­ti­mates over half the soils mea­sured un­der dry stock (an­i­mals farmed for dairy, meat, wool, and vel­vet) and nearly 80 per­cent of soils un­der dairy farm­ing in NZ are af­fected by com­paction.

That’s bad news for the fungi that make soil great.

The ac­cepted in­tel­li­gence has al­ways said that the only way top­soil is cre­ated is by the de­com­po­si­tion of car­bon from the top down, taking hun­dreds of years to cre­ate a thin cov­er­ing.

Now we know that it can hap­pen a lot faster than that, from the bot­tom up if given the right cir­cum­stances, and the key is to make your my­c­or­rhizal fungi happy. These fungi grow on the roots of grasses (and ev­ery­thing else). Plants and fungi swap nu­tri­ents in a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship which en­sures that pas­ture grow­ing on liv­ing soil is stuffed with ev­ery avail­able nu­tri­ent.

But these fungi must have air, food and wa­ter. It can’t get enough of these if the soil is com­pacted by too many heavy an­i­mals for long pe­ri­ods of time, es­pe­cially when the ground is wet.

My­c­or­rhizal fun­gus is sub­ject to other fatal in­ter­ven­tions un­der in­dus­trial farm­ing meth­ods too. Blan­ket spray­ing of ‘weeds’ (usu­ally known in bi­o­log­i­cal farm­ing cir­cles as ‘herbs’ or sim­ply ‘di­ver­sity’) also kills it, as does continual blan­ket use of an­thelminthic drenches when defe­cated out by stock.

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