This second article on our series on humus aims to deepen our understanding of why we currently need to take steps to create, manage and protect humus in our soils. If we are to succeed in this, we need to know what it is that depletes humus in the first place, and then change our ways.
There are four main reasons why humus is depleted in our soils:
The Use of Chemical Fertilisers
Chemical fertilisers are harsh salts, and when they are added to the soil they oxidise the living matter, that is the inseparable carbon-based humus and micro-life. If you cannot see your way to stopping using chemical fertilisers, then you need to do the next best thing, which is to also vigorously add good carbon sources to your soil, such as humic acids, fulvic acids and properly made compost.
Tillage as a Farming Practice
Tillage has long been a common conventional farming practice, which intensified as agriculture became more and more mechanised. The practice of roughly turning the soil decimates the fragile soil structure and brings oxygen into the soil. Oxygen burns (oxidises) the living carbon-based matter. This why Avondale has a principle of minimum, highly specific tillage to protect the soil structure.
Failure to Protect Microbes
There is now a long history of conventional farmers who ignore or don’t understand the micro-life in the soil. The micro-life plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of stable humus, and it makes essential nutrients available to crops. The farmer needs to play a key role in nurturing micro-life by using cover crops and feeding the microbes by adding microbial foods like molasses, allow extracts, fish emulsions, humic and fulvic acids and kelp to the soil. Healthy communities of micro-life in the soil make a broad spectrum of minerals available to crops, thus reducing and alleviating the need to use fertilisers to provide for plants’ mineral needs.
Failure to Build Organic Matter
With the emphasis on adding chemical fertilisers to the soil, many of our conventional farmers have simply failed to place enough importance on building organic matter. Practices such as cover cropping, green manuring, composting and worm composting are all ways of building organic matter to the soil. An abundance of organic matter in the soil system provides shelter and food for a sustainable abundance micro-life. The Biodynamic system includes a number of preparations such as BD502, BD503, BD504, BD505, BD506 and BD507 that enhance compost production. Cover cropping using a variety of plants creates a living plant system of multiple species that strengthen the soil with a vigorous, diverse root structure. It is this stable environment that fosters the stable humus all farmers would like to achieve in their soils.
In the next few articles, we’ll tackle each of these issues in more depth, so be sure to check in with us soon!