Total Soil Biology

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,082

    We have been so deeply involved in microbiology that the worms have virtually been ignored. I have done some research, but does any one have an idea how to keep an active population maximized in the lawn?

    According to Ohio State University the grass clippings alone recycle roughly 25% of the plant needs. I had read long ago some numbers about nutrients provided by the worms. Has anyone seen those types of estimates recently?

    Thanks, in advance.
     
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    Worm POOP, I love this thread

    I just don't know a lot about it:dancing:

    What are we looking for here, the percentage of worm poop per acre within a certain population in an acre.

    You could get a very creative algorythm going here. percent of worm food in soil, percent of worms per 1000 square feet, worms excrete: percentage of poop that is beneficial, protozoa count per 1K, Nematode count per 1K, effect of migrating robin's on worm population, overall effect on tidal pull on moisture in the soil:laugh:
     
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,082

    Algorithms are for the researchers who compute those things - like the way OSU computed the actual plant needs and the amount of recycled nutrients.

    The calculation for N put into the soil by your average density of worms with proper amounts of food was attempted and published in the early 70's, but no idea if they did it accurately or if they have refined it further. And don't remember what the stats were.

    Just thought I would check and see if anyone who does the large volume of reading has come across this information.

    You are not expected to know about worms and possibly your New England Research group doesn't know anything about the impact of a worm population either. I don't know.

    Concentrating so much on microbes and ignoring the other life in the soil does not give you an opportunity to make wise management decisions. These management decisions are what this forum is all about. If it is simply an infomercial for CT then I guess it has outlived its usefulness.
     
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    150% agree with this statement. :clapping:
     
  5. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,603

    We have been so deeply involved in microbiology that the worms have virtually been ignored. I have done some research, but does any one have an idea how to keep an active population maximized in the lawn?

    Do not use salt based fertilizers or pesticides. They need organic matter to feed on, mow leaves & let them break down, top dress with good compost.

    According to Ohio State University the grass clippings alone recycle roughly 25% of the plant needs. I had read long ago some numbers about nutrients provided by the worms. Has anyone seen those types of estimates recently?

    OSU has probably done more research (directed by Dr. Clive Edwards) on earthworms than any other U in the states. I have some figures on the increased nutrients in castings, I'll have to dig them up. Also important are the increase in microbial activity, the soil mixing and aeration done by earthworms.
     
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    To show my complete ignorance here
    I have heard that most of the worms we have in the soil were imported and not native and in fact in some scenarios they do more harm than good

    The story goes that they eat all of the leaf litter that used to be food for the trees and that forests can literally starve to death

    Just wondering, not a rant
     
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    No need to wonder, your right ..... http://www.nrri.umn.edu/worms/forest/soil.html
     
  8. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,603

    While it's true that earthworms are not native to N America, they have been here for hundreds of years. I'm familiar with northeastern forests & I can't say that earthworms have done any harm to them. In fact I think it's important to realize that forests (and other ecosystems) are dynamic, therefore in a constant state of change. Nature adapts, constantly. The only "disasters" in a purely natural state are to the beings that suffer. Those that survive will become more dominant & the event was not disastrous to them.

    Some cases;

    The chestnut tree was the dominant species in eastern forests until a hundred years ago when the chestnut blight wiped them out. Disaterous for the chestnuts, but the forest adapted and became dominated by maples and oaks.

    There have been some out breaks of gypsy moth defoliation lately in NJ. Some advocate aerial spraying of pesticides stronger than Bt & claim if this isn't done there will be ecological disaster. I remember the same being said 30 years ago. I do remember vast areas of forest were defoliated. Guess what? The forests have either recovered or have disappeared due to human activity.

    Currently, the deer population in the northeast forests are eating tree saplings and it is said this will put an end to new growth forests. Personally I see this as a greater threat to the sustainability of forests. Especially since it is not politically correct to advocate increased deer hunting.
    With no new growth the only thing that will replace the forests are parking lots. But that may happen anyway.

    I guess my point is that it's all a matter of perspective. From my viewpoint, earthworms are OK in the grand scheme of things. :clapping:
     
  9. Organic a go go

    Organic a go go LawnSite Member
    Posts: 211

    Thats correct. Lumbricus terrestris is an invasive that hitched a ride with the European colonizers. I often wonder how the history of agriculture in America might have been different, if at all, had those worms not displaced the native population. We're so inclined to think of invasives as a negative but this suggests that isn't always the case.
     
  10. Elden

    Elden LawnSite Member
    Posts: 137

    I have a monkey to throw in.... What about Termites in the soil? Down here in the SE they are every where. Termites carry protazoa and bacteria in their gut. They consume cellulose ( wood ) and excrete feces, which is very dark and rich looking. It also holds moisture very well to keep the termites from drying out. If you have ever seen Subterranean or Formosan Termites you know what I mean. Is there any reasearch out there on what kind of benifits they provide to the soil?

    And what about ants? Yes fire ants are bad, but when they build their mounds they bring up minerals and nutrients that may be out of the plants reach. Not only fire ants but all the hundreds of thousands of types of ants. Yes we don't want them in the house or biting us or our kids. So what kind of benifit do they provide?

    Just thinking out side of the box a little bit. I've been reading the organic post for a while and haven't seen either of these two types of insects mentioned. Soil Food Web they are in there too some where.
     

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