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  • Matthew & Kata

The Soil Food Web

Last week we discussed the central role of the plant in soil health. The Soil Food Web clearly demonstrates that the plant, microorganisms in the soil (the soil microbiome), other living creatures in the soil, as well as organic matter and the mineral elements in the soil together with water and air all work as an interrelated whole to maintain soil and plant health.

Here is the classic illustrations which describes the soil food web:

We can see from the diagram that all kinds of organisms are interconnected, in a constant cycle of life and death, consumption and being consumed - a mutual interplay of regeneration. The trophic levels show the nested hierarchy (structured grouping) of groups of organisms which depend on the energy collecting (trophic) groups before them. The photosynthesisers (trophic level 1) - which are dependent on energy from the sun, feed bacteria, fungi and nematodes (trophic level 2), who subsequently feed the other sets of organisms leading up to the higher organisms (e.g. birds and vertebrate animals) - who are the higher predators. The benefit is not just one way, however - there is a constant feedback loop so that the lower trophic groups are dependent on the higher predators to keep the system in balance.

Put very simply: the plant feeds the living soil, which feeds the plant, which keeps us healthy, when the system is in balance.

Balancing the system, keeping the soil alive all depends on keeping a healthy plant cover over the soil for as much of the year as possible, disturbing the soil as little as possible (minimal tillage) and keeping the system topped up with a wide diversity of beneficial soil microbes by regular applications of high quality, aerobic compost, compost teas, etc. This is what we do at Zsámboki Biokert - fair to call us soil cultivators!

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