A Great Question

Hello everybody!  I was just sent an email with a great question.  I would like to share this with you in hopes it will add to your tool box of knowledge for regenerative agriculture techniques.
This is copied from an email send by a lovely young lady from France:
“As I explained, my father is using compost tea on our fields. My question was, do you think it would be good for the tea if we add a handful of our soil during the extraction process? In order to obtain a tea that is adapted to our microflora in our soils? 
Also, you told me to apply 3 times the tea in the spring at the key stages of the plant, could you please remind me which one it was? 
We talked about the impact of tillage and herbicide on the soil, we did found an article about it, I didn’t verify yet who did write it etc but I found it quite interesting. In case it might interest you: http://csanr.wsu.edu/comparing-effects-on-soil/
I am really glad that we’ve  met and hope to see you again at one of your courses ! Thank you for the presentation you did on the Monday evening, it was really interesting and I think it is an important subject today in agriculture ! “
Here was my response:
Thank you for your feedback!  It was a pleasure to meet you as well.  This is important work indeed.  It’s an interesting article that you sent me. I have made bold a couple parts of the excerpt to expand on.

“Here we can look at a meta-analysis, not just a review. A meta-analysis combines data from multiple studies and re-analyzes the combined data. Nguyen et al. (2016) looked at the results of 36 studies and found “Notably, field application rates [of glyphosate products] had no significant effect on SMR [soil microbial respiration] or SMB [soil microbial biomass].” They did find effects when applied at higher rates, but that is why we have the EPA and pesticide labels. Rose et al., reviewing the specific findings on glyphosate, observed “Numerous studies have found that glyphosate applied at standard application rates has little impact on the microbial biomass in soil, and stimulation rather than inhibition is more commonly observed.” They report that recent research, “the first to use next-generation sequencing”, found no significant effects of glyphosate on the structure of the microbial community. Another recent study, Newman et al. (2016), found “no overall effect of glyphosate on bacterial community diversity.” Rose et al. concludes, “To date, there is little evidence to suggest that long-term, repeat applications of glyphosate to soil causes negative shifts in soil microbial communities or functions.” While not conclusive, this evidence does not raise any red flags about the use of herbicides and their effect on the soil.”

Find link  to article here.
This is a bacteria centric article.  Remember how I talked about bacteria being one part of a huge story?  The SMR tests don’t test species, they just test CO2 respiration and you don’t know WHO it’s coming from.  Additionally, it would be good to know how the soil microbial biomass(SMB) was tested.  General tests such as these involve fumigation and then organic C measurement.  Again, WHO was there? If they are growing out organisms on plates, diversity is reduced drastically.  So only 10% of the story is being told in the results.  Glyphosate will feed some species of soil bacteria, it’s true.  Yet when glyphosate hits the human biome – it slaughters our gut microorganisms, making it hard to digest food.  Glyphosate is one of the culprits of autoimmune disease and the leaky gut.  Our gut biome begins in healthy soils.  Food grown in healthy soils is the transport mechanism for getting a healthy human biome.
To answer your questions above about adding your farm soil into the brew tank – diversity rules the roost.  Adding a handful of HEALTHY soil is a good idea.  You need to know if your soil has a  majority of good critters or if it’s holding significant amounts of disease.  How do you know? Take a peek, with a microscope,  and see who is there.   One untested theory I have in favor of adding your soil to the brew is that the organisms living there have been able to survive the chemicides that have been going out on the land, they might even be consuming some of the toxins.  These types of organisms are needed to survive in the system as you are able to make a transition away from the chemicides.
 Since you don’t yet have the ability to use the microscope,  I suggest that you seek out a thriving organic or biodynamic farm in your area, take a handful of that soil and add that to the brew.  This is not ideal (the not looking at it part) but those types of soils will likely will have more diversity.  You could take from a healthy forest system as well.
Having assessed no-till conventional soil systems, I see little in the way of soil life diversity beyond bacteria.  Usually the fungus that is there is the disease causing type.  Again, all farms are different, so I can only speak to what I have seen on the farms I have been on.  So, again, take a peek and see who is there.
It is imperative to know what is growing in your brew.  Are you growing beneficials or disease?  It is imperative to look at what is in the brew, as the brew can wake up dormant spores and cysts that would otherwise not have woken up.  This is is an aerobe/ anaerobe thing.
Consider the soil like the human body.  If a person has just come off of antibiotics – it’s important that they are “inoculated” with beneficial before going out into the world where beneficial and diseases exists.  If they go out as a blank slate, it can happen where disease will take over because there is 1) no competition or castle wall of protection and 2) remember that disease causing organisms tend to be the most opportunistic.   Disease causing organisms and weeds are quite similar.  They are r-selected species that have a short life span but produce offspring quickly.  The offspring express epigenetics to endure the challenges that previous generations experienced. When one bacteria becomes two in 20 min – think of how quickly life can become resilient to toxins or chemicides that are thrown at them.  Thus we have herbicide resistant weeds and non beneficial insects that are no longer effected by the pesticides that worked just last year.  Soils contain the potential for all possibilities – to respond with our beneficials or to respond with disease.  When we brew, we must know which we have woken up.
When are ideal times to protect the foliage of plants?  For annuals I suggest first true leaf stage, flower bud swell and flower opening.  Additional sprays can be applied  at signs of stress or disease.
Keep me posted on your farm. “
If you want to learn how to use the microscope to assess soils and soil building mediums, try an online course.  Here is one to start with.  Do tell them Molly Haviland sent you.  I recommend a follow up with a Certified Soil Life Consultant that can work one-on-one with you to be sure you are doing the assessments correctly.
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One response to “A Great Question

  1. Molly, thanks for sending this out. I’d like to test my soil (and my pond) for glyphosate. There are many test kits on the market. Can you suggest one? I’ve never applied it to my soil but I have a feeling that it is airborne? A friend was tested for glyphosate, has eaten all organic for years now and found that she tested high. Thoughts? BIG HUG

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