A Good Sense of Humus

Recently, we attended a soil workshop at The Rodale Institute near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. This Institute is a 333-acre working farm with research trials to promote sustainable farming techniques. The workshop agenda covered some of our favorite subjects including soil health, soil life and cover crops.  The highlight of the event was the presentation by The Rodale Institute’s chief scientist, Dr. Elaine Ingham.  At the core of her discussion was understanding of the soil food web and the soil microbes (beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes).  The soil food web is the community of organisms that lives in the soil. Organic matter is the primary food source for the soil microbes. She covered the benefits of compost tea including its production and application. By applying compost tea, we can boost the number and diversity of the soil microbes in our soil’s food web to the benefit of the growing crops. To summarize, the workshop lesson was that a healthy soil is teeming with life and this soil food web creates good crop health and growth.

As a result of participating in the workshop, we are beginning a compost tea program on our farm . We have decided to learn how to brew an “aerated” tea compost for use as part of our soil nutrient plan.

A good farmer is nothing more nor less than a handy man with a sense of humus.~ Elwyn Brooks White


About wooleylot

Garlic Farmer
This entry was posted in Farm News, Soil Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A Good Sense of Humus

  1. Hi Wooleylot,

    I had seen some of this information by Dr. Ingham from the Rodale update they send out but I hadn’t come across that article. That is excellent information, I guess I’ll be getting myself some aeration equipment and brew myself some compost tea.

    How’s your garlic growing, we are close to harvesting some of ours, much, much earlier than normal. We are having an odd season this year, everything is much earlier. Who knows what next season will be.

    Cheers guys.

    • wooleylot says:

      Hello KandDFamilyFarm, Thanks for comment. We like Rodale and will have some more posts about the soil workshop.
      We found “Plans for a home made 25-gallon compost tea brewer” (see link below). Some farmers use a 55-gallon drum instead of a 5-gallon bucket to get more compost tea production.
      The garlic is now emerging with little shoots before its winter dormancy. Last year, we had a very early harvest date, because of drought that caused the bulbs to mature early.
      We look forward to your future posts.We enjoy your weblog and find it to be great information.
      Wooleylot Farm, Alvie and Monica

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  3. Jane says:

    Over here on Crandall Hill, Arthur is still processing all that he learned at the Rodale workshop. Your excellent blog post offers another perspective to ponder. I am so sorry I missed the workshop!

  4. Jane says:

    You put together a nice summary of the highlights of Elaine Ingham’s loaded presentation. We will be brewing here too. I had discovered her work before she was hired as the chief scientist at Rodale. When we were in Oregon last summer I was trying to track her down at Oregon State University where she did much of her groundbreaking (no pun intended) work. So I was filled with “shock and awe” when a letter from her showed up in our mailbox last summer, saying she was sending a crew to our farm for soil testing. Yippee! There’s a grand little book with a pun for a title which matches the quality of Alvie’s “Good Sense of Humus”. It’s called “Teaming With Microbes, A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. I bought it while we were in Oregon. It spells out in laymen’s terms the conceptual framework for Elaine Ingham’s work. I highly recommend that book for anyone exploring the whole new world of the party atmosphere in healthy soil discovered by Elaine Ingham thanks to electron microscopy.

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