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How do I test for the microorganisms in my Soil?

As farmers and gardeners, we all know that the key to a thriving crop is healthy soil. Soil is the foundation for everything we grow, and its health is essential for the success of any agricultural venture. At SoilScopes, we believe that the best way to ensure soil health is to focus on microbial activity in the soil. This is why we offer a soil microbial test that provides valuable information about the health and fertility of your soil by looking at the activity of your soil-borne microorganisms. If you want to know more about the different microorganisms found in Living Soil click here.

But what exactly is a soil microbial test?

A soil microbial test is a way to measure the activity of the important microbial groups within your soil or compost. This is tested using a Compound Light Microscope, microbes are identified, measured and counted then their biomass is calculated. After the biomass has been calculated the results are compared to a recommended range for the desired crop. These are the methods created by Dr Elaine Ingham who runs the Soil Food Web which is where I am certified to offer these assessments. By analyzing the microbial biomass, we can determine the overall health of your soil, as well as identify any potential issues that may be affecting your crops.

So how do we take a soil microbial test?

It involves collecting a small sample of soil from your field, compost pile or garden. To take a sample use a soil sampling tool, apple corer or metal pipe to remove a section of soil roughly 7 cm deep. This is placed in a Ziploc bag labelled with a permanent marker on the outside with the name of the sample and the date it was taken. Careful not to fill the Ziploc bag more than halfway to ensure that there is ample oxygen left in the bag, piercing some holes in the bag will help oxygen exchange. Keep the bag out of the sunlight and in a cool location until the sample can be delivered. Time is an important factor here, getting the sample to the lab as quickly as possible is best. We then analyze the sample and measure the microbial activity. Within a few days, you'll receive a detailed report that provides information about the microbial biomass of your soil.

Have a look at the clip to see what the process looks like!

So what information can you expect to get from a soil microbial test?

This test will give you a comprehensive picture of the health of your soil by assessing the activity and types of microbes present. We are looking at Bacteria, Fungi, Protozoa, and Nematodes along with scouting for any potential detrimental organisms which could cause plant health issues. By looking at the microbial biomass of each organism group we can determine the ability of the soil to support your desired crop. Different balances of microorganisms suit certain crops over others which allows us to determine whether or not your crops are fully sustained by the soil. Microbes are a key indicator of soil health and soil health is a key indicator of plant health, there is a strong relationship between the three. The test will also be able to identify any potential issues, such as pathogenic organisms, root-feeding organisms or disease-causing organisms, that may be affecting your crops. Click here to see a sample report.

Once you have this information, you can use it to make informed decisions about how to improve your soil health. If you would like to know about the range of benefits these microbes can provide follow this link. For example, if the report indicates that your soil is lacking in certain organisms, you can adjust your soil inoculation practices to address the issue. Alternatively, if the report shows you that your soil has the presence of disease-causing organisms, you can take steps to change the conditions causing the issue or inoculate with other organisms to combat the disease. Once you can identify the problem steps can be taken to remedy it.

In the report, the recommendations provided are tailored to your specific soil conditions and crop needs. This ensures that you're making the most effective use of your resources by working with the most accurate data on your soil's health. By focusing on soil health and fertility provided by microbial value, you can build soil health without relying on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. This not only benefits the environment, but it can also save you money in the long run as your soil provides more for your crops.

In conclusion, a soil microbial test with SoilScopes provides you with valuable information about the health and fertility of your soil. The activity of microorganisms in your soil is the key to unlocking the range of benefits that it can provide to your crops. By testing and understanding your soil’s microbial activity you are one step closer to creating an environment that fully supports your crop's needs. By building soil health through microbial value, you can reduce your reliance on synthetic inputs and create a more sustainable, productive agricultural system.

If you are interested in having your soil or compost tested please click this link.

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