Research at Laverstoke – Working with Nature
Soil biology is often neglected but is critical to a healthy farming environment and quality food production. We have established the only licensed Soil Foodweb Laboratory in all of Europe and our lab studies the activity of different groups of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. This means we are able to offer proprietary soil health testing, developed by Dr. Elaine Ingham in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Implementing a biological approach has helped growers reduce their dependency on synthetic fertiliser and chemical inputs as the soil biological activity increases.
Why Soil Life is Important
Micro-organisms perform a multitude of roles in the soil including decomposing organic matter and in doing so release nutrients to the plant. The activity of soil micro-organisms also improves the water holding capacity and the structure of the soil. This makes the soil more porous, allowing better root penetration, which in turn means that plants have greater access to oxygen, nutrients and water.
Maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial micro-organisms can also actively keep out plant pathogens, which helps to achieve a more sustainable farm.
We provide a comprehensive soil test to analyse the soil biology. Using a specialised microscope we perform direct counts of the different groups of soil microbes. The Soil Foodweb labs have an evolving database currently consisting of several thousand results observed in soils from all over the world. By comparing your soil test result to soils where your plant or related plant species are growing in native ecosystems, we can tailor a biological program in order to correct the microbial imbalance in your soil.
The Soil Foodweb Test
We offer the following biological tests for soil, compost, compost tea, and plant leaf samples.
Total Bacteria and Total Fungi
The optimal bacterial and fungal biomass in the soil varies according to crop, climate and season. If it is not within the optimal range, bacteria or fungi may need to be boosted within the compost or compost tea that is applied to the soil.
Active Bacteria and Active Fungi
Only that percentage of the bacteria and fungi which are currently metabolising organic compounds are directly nourishing the plants; if this portion is too low, specific microbial foods may be required to stimulate the dormant population.
These single-celled micro-organisms feed primarily upon bacteria and in doing so, excrete nitrogen in plant-available form. A diverse protozoa population consisting of flagellates, amoeba and ciliates are therefore essential to healthy plant growth to cycle and release nutrients to the plant.
An exceptionally diverse group of very small worms which are ubiquitous in the environment. With the exception of plant parasitic nematodes, these soil dwellers predominantly help recycle nutrients by feeding on bacteria and fungi or even other nematodes. Hence, we group soil nematodes accordingly, depending on their feeding habits.
Over 90% of all plants on earth form symbiotic relationships with mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi increase nutrient uptake (particularly Phosphorus) and protect the plant against pathogens. We determine the percentage of root colonisation.
This test determines the microbial colonisation on the leaf surface. This is particularly useful for comparing before and after compost tea applications. Adequate coverage of leaf surfaces by beneficial micro-organisms can help reduce pests and diseases.