Natural systems are healthy and do not need external inputs for their nutritional or pest control requirements.
(As illustrated by this banana plant in a forest setting.)
By understanding how this process functions, strategies and practices that mimic nature can be adopted and implemented on the farm with ease and at low cost which will ensure continued profitability and resilience.
One can view the other plants as weeds and would expect them to inhibit the growth of the banana plant, but the opposite seems to happen. What’s more, the leaves of this plant are much shinier and healthier than its commercial counterpart.
At closer inspection, the forest floor is completely covered by decomposing plant litter and living plants. A crumbly, loose, well aerated, dark fertile soil is the result.
Microorganisms can be divided in two groups – aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen). The organisms in fertile forest soil is mostly aerobes. It is also true that most beneficial organisms are aerobes and most pathogenic (disease causing) organisms are anaerobes.
In healthy, highly diverse ecosystems the soil is well aerated, with beneficial organisms in the majority and pathogenic organisms in the minority. It is this balance that makes life possible. When this balance is disturbed, life becomes difficult and a continuous battle against disease is follows.
Most agricultural soils are compacted and thus anaerobic, meaning it contains very little pore space and, as a consequence, has low oxygen levels. Most pathogens are anaerobic and thrive in these environments. Most beneficials are aerobic (needing oxygen) and are not present in anaerobic soils, therefore compacted soils lack natural predators that keep pests and diseases in check.
Anaerobic micro-organisms produce fermentative materials such as alcohols as by-products of their metabolic pathways which are toxic to plants. Aerobic bacteria can decompose these toxic materials and improve plant growth.
Many farmers make the mistake of treating compacted soil with organic acids in an effort to stimulate soil organisms and make the soil healthier. This will only exacerbate the problem as it will stimulate the organisms that are present – anaerobic organisms and pathogens – to multiply.
To control pest and diseases naturally, diverse aerobic microbial populations and thus, well aerated soils are a prerequisite. An inexpensive and efficient solution is to inoculate the soil regularly with diverse aerobic organisms as found in Ecosoil’s Compost Tea.
Being aerobic, they need oxygen for their survival and will immediately upon application start working, decomposing organic matter, producing glues and gums to bind soil particles into aggregates and thus create the pore space necessary for air to enter the soil.
These conditions, as well as competition, inhibition and predation will ensure that the numbers of pathogens will drastically decrease over time. This process usually takes 3 years to complete, but can take as little as a year, provided an appropriate soil building program is followed in conjunction with Ecosoil’s Compost Tea applications.