Soil pH and Bacterial and Fungal Dominance
This is from an exchange between myself and Dr. Ingham that took place on an organic lawn care list and some info from her web site.
"In the real world, pH is controlled by the organisms in the soil. Aerobic bacteria push soil pH higher, while aerobic filamentous fungi push pH lower. Anaerobic organisms - both bacteria and fungi - push pH lower and lower the more they grow. The only way to lose your fungi by bacteria chewing them up is to be in low oxygen concentrations.
The balance of fungi to bacteria is important in the soil. The form of N is critical to plants, and since the balance of F:B control the types and amounts of N, and they control pH, let the organisms do the work.
Phosphate availability? Who really controls it?
Is any human being out adjusting pH in that old growth forest to a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 for "best plant uptake"?
Of course not. If you tried, you'd destroy the forest ultimately.
Anyone out in the most productive pastures in the US adjusting pH to 6.5 to 6.8? The pH isn't even at those levels in those soil in those meadows.
Why do we listen to people who have one purpose in mind, which is to sell you a product which adjusts pH so you buy their other product?
Check the pH in the natural system where your plant grows. Who controls the pH, and who controls the nutrient cycling rate there?
Those are the controls you need in your soil. Why do people keep giving themselves more work to do?
We have to get out of the pH game, you cannot win that one and have good biology. Add a concentrated acid to your soil and watch your biology die. Add concentrated anything to your soil, and you will kiss disease suppression good-bye.
Who changes plant-unavailable forms of nutrients into plant-available ones?
Bacteria and fungi immobilize nutrients in their biomass and in the organic matter. Protozoa, nematodes and microarthropods mineralize those nutrients in the bacterial and fungal biomass, making them plant available. Where does most that happen? IN THE ROOT ZONE.
Without all parts of the system, you will fail. Please remember that you have to get protozoa, nematodes and microarthropods correct, along with the bacterial - fungal balance.
Aerobic bacteria make alkaline glues, slimes and waste products. They push soil alkaline, to the point that nitrifying bacteria will do the job of converting ammonium to nitrate. But remember, when nitrifying bacteria make nitrate, they merely remove the hydrogens from the N, and replace them with oxygen. The bacteria do not take up that inorganic form of N. They only do an oxidation - reduction reaction. They take a mineral form of N and convert it to another mineral form of N. This is not a mineralization step.
Thus, soils where the plants require high amounts of nitrate need bacterial dominated soil. Let the biology do the job it is supposed to do.
But if the plant require mostly ammonium, then you need fungal dominance, so organic acids will be produced, and balance the bacterial glues an slimes.
It is a balance. Row crops need an equal amount of nitrate as ammonium. How you going to get that balance right?
Let the plant do it. All we have to do is supply the MAXIMUM diversity of fungi and bacteria.
We are really concerned with the growth of these organisms in SOIL. What you do in the tea needs to be to support what your SOIL needs.
We have add the adequate FOODWEB diversity, the right FOODs for the good guys, and make sure the habitat in the soil (which thus means in the tea) is right for the organisms your plant needs.
Do we have to get fungi so thick in our brews that they clog the nozzles?
We need to get the biology growing in the SOIL.
Check your soil to see if you have that balance right. Then get the things your soil needs into your tea.
Maybe having a tea with high DIVERSITY of fungi and bacteria, with balanced fungal to bacterial biomass, with foods to feed the fungi, is the best tea.
Once added to the SOIL, the fungi can then win in competition with the bacteria.
Sometimes, tea high in bacterial foods may be what your soil needs.
Please, check out what is going on in the soil.
As Arden Anderson says, no number is right until all numbers are right.
Look at the WHOLE system."
Dr. Elaine Ingham
More info can be found here: