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THE IMPORTANCE OF SOIL ECOLOGY IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Clive A. Edwards & Norman Q. Arancon The Soil Ecology Laboratory The Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

INTEGRATED SYSTEMS OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION WHICH ARE LESS DEPENDENT ON HIGH INPUTS OF ENERGY AND SYNTHETIC CHEMICALS, AND MORE MANAGEMENT INTENSIVE THAN CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURE. THESE MAINTAIN CROP PRODUCTIVITY, QUALITY AND YIELDS, ARE ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE, AND PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES.
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SOIL ECOLOGY
THE STUDY OF RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN LIVING ORGANISMS AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS IN THE SOIL IN WHICH THEY LIVE.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOIL ECOLOGY IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

THE CONCEPTS OF SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE INPUTS INTO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE THE ROLE OF SOIL ECOLOGY AND ITS POTENTIAL INPUTS INTO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS A CASE STUDY: THE ROLE OF AGRICULTURAL VERMICOMPOSTING IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

MAIN INPUTS INTO CONVENTIONAL AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS


INPUTS FERTILITY CULTIVATIONS CROPPING PRACTICES INORGANIC FERTILIZERS DEEP PLOWING OR NO TILL MONOCULTURE OR BICULTURE

PEST DISEASE & WEED CONTROL

ROTATIONS INSECTICIDES FUNGICIDES HERBICIDES NEMATICIDES

MAIN INPUTS INTO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE SYSTEMS


INPUT
FERTILITY

PRACTICES
ORGANIC MINIMAL INORGANIC FERTILIZERSINTEGRATED FERTILIZER MANAGEMENT CONSERVATION TILLAGE OR NO TILL

CULTIVATIONS

CROPPING

ROTATIONS AND/OR CROPPING PATTERNS ORGANIC MINIMAL PESTICIDESINTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT

PEST DISEASE & WEED CONTROL

INTERACTIONS BETWEEN MAJOR INPUTS INTO AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS


FERTILIZERS

CROPPING PATTERNS

CULTIVATIONS

PESTS

DISEASES

WEEDS

THE INTEGRATION OF ECOLOGICAL INPUTS INTO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS


MAXIMUM PROVISION OF NUTRIENTS FROM ORGANIC SOURCES MAINTENANCE OF ECOLOGICAL INTEGRITY IN SOILS THROUGH MINIMUM CULTIVATIONS MAXIMIZATION OF BIODIVERSITY THROUGH:

MAXIMIZATION OF BIOLOGICAL SUPPRESSION OF PESTS AND PATHOGENS THROUGH:


ROTATIONS UNDERSOWING STRIP CROPPING CATCH CROPS

ORGANIC MATTER ALLELOPATHY ENCOURAGEMENT OF PREDATORS AND PARASITES RELEASE OF NATURAL ENEMIES

THE ROLE OF SOIL ECOLOGY


ORGANIC MATTER BREAKDOWN SOIL-INHABITING INVERTEBRATES SOIL MICROORGANISMS INTERACTIONS BETWEEN INVERTEBRATES AND MICROORGANISMS FOOD WEBS IN SOIL SOIL ECOLOGICAL OUTPUTS FACILITATION OF NUTRIENT RECYCLING 10

NUMBERS AND BIOMASS OF SOILINHABITING INVERTEBRATES


TYPE OF ORGANISM PROTOZOA NEMATODA (EELWORMS) ACARINA (MITES) COLLEMBOLA (SPRINGTAILS) EARTHWORMS OTHERS NO. M-2 109-1010 106-107 103-105 103-105 10-103 102-104 KG. HA-1 20-200 10-150 5-150 5-150 100-5,000 10-100
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NUMBERS AND BIOMASS OF SOIL MICROORGANISMS IN SOIL


TYPE OF ORGANISM
BACTERIA ACTINOMYCETES FUNGI ALGAE

NO. M-2
1013-1014 1012-1013 1010-1011 109-1010

KG. HA-1
400-5,000 400-5,000 1,000-15,000 10-500
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SOIL INVERTEBRATES IMPORTANT IN ORGANIC MATTER BREAKDOWN


EARTHWORMS MILLIPEDES WOODLICE MITES INSECTS SPRINGTAILS TERMITES ANTS BEETLES FLY LARVAE CATERPILLARS

-OLIGOCHAETES -DIPLOPODA -ISOPODA -ACARINA -INSECTA -COLLEMBOLA -ISOPTERA -HYMENOPTERA -COLEOPTERA -DIPTERA -COLEOPTERA
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SOIL INVERTEBRATES THAT CAN BE CROP PESTS


NEMATODES POT WORMS GARDEN CENTIPEDES MILLIPEDES MOLLUSCS SLUGS SNAILS MITES SPRINGTAILS INSECTS ANTS TERMITES BEETLES FLY LARVAE CATERPILLARS THRIPS

-NEMATODA -ENCHYTRAEIDAE -SYMPHYLA -DIPLOPODA -GASTROPODA -ACARINA -COLLEMBOLA -INSECTA -HYMENOPTERA -ISOPODA -COLEOPTERA -DIPTERA -LEPIDOPTERA -THYSANOPTERA

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SOIL INVERTEBRATES THAT CAN BE PREDATORS OR PARASITES OF PESTS


NEMATODES CENTIPEDES MITES SPIDERS SCORPIONS PSEUDOSCORPIONS INSECTS BEETLES TERMITES (SOLDIERS) FLIES WASPS

-NEMATODA -CHILOPODA -ACARINA (GAMASIDAE) -ARANEAE -SCORPIONIDA -PSEUDOSCORPIONES -INSECTA -COLEOPTERA -ISOPTERA -DIPTERA -HYMENOPTERA
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FUNCTIONS OF SOILINHABITING INVERTEBRATES


ORGANIC MATTER DECOMPOSERS
PROTOZOA NEMATODES ENCHYTRAEIDAE SYMPHYLA WOODLICE MILLIPEDES ------------MOLLUSCS EARTHWORMS MITES COLLEMBOLA INSECTS

PESTS
--------NEMATODES ENCHYTRAEIDAE SYMPHYLA --------MILLIPEDES --------MOLLUSCS EARTHWORMS MITES COLLEMBOLA INSECTS

PREDATORS OF PESTS
-------NEMATODES -------SYMPHYLA -----------------CENTIPEDES ----------------MITES --------INSECTS 16

EFFECTS OF SOIL ORGANISMS ON CROP PRODUCTIVITY


BREAKDOWN OF ORGANIC MATTER RELEASE OF NUTRIENTS IN AVAILABLE FORM PHYSICAL SOIL TURNOVER: ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT UNDER NO TILL IMPROVED SOIL AERATION BETTER DRAINAGE INCREASED WATER-HOLDING CAPACITY PEST AND DISEASE SUPPRESSION
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A CASE STUDY: THE ROLE OF VERMICOMPOSTING IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE


EARTHWORMS PRINCIPLES OF VERMICOMPOSTING METHODS OF VERMICOMPOSTING EFFECTS ON CROP GROWTH GERMINATION AND YIELDS EFFECTS ON PLANT PATHOGENS EFFECTS ON PLANT PARASITIC NEMATODES EFFECTS ON ARTHROPOD PESTS ECONOMICS
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EARTHWORMS
Earthworms are segmented invertebrates that inhabit soils and organic waste. They are hermaphrodite and usually reproduce by mating, each partner fertilizing the other. After mating they retract their bodies through the saddle or clitellum and pass it over their heads. Each cocoon contains one or more eggs and can survive adverse conditions, hatching when environmental conditions are favorable. They take one to eight months to become sexually mature and continue to reproduce at regular intervals. They require moisture and aerobic conditions for survival and reproduction.
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BREAKDOWN OF POTATO WASTES


BEFORE AFTER 7 DAYS

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VERMICOMPOSTS
Vermicomposts are organic materials, broken down by interactions between earthworms and microorganisms, in a mesophilic process (up to 25 oC), to produce fully-stabilized organic soil amendments with low C:N ratios. They have a high and diverse microbial and enzymatic activity, fine particulate structure, good moisture-holding capacity, and contain nutrients such as N,K, P, Ca and Mg in forms readily taken up by plants. They contain plant growth hormones and humic acids which act as plant growth regulators.
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POTENTIAL INTERACTIONS BETWEEN EARTHWORMS & MICROORGANISMS IN VERMICOMPOSTS


Mineralization

Earthworms

Plant-Available Mineral Nutrients N, P, K, Ca, Mg and Micronutrients

Phytohormone-like Plant Growth Regulators


Auxins, Cytokinins, Gibberellins

Organic Matter

Other Plant-Growth Influencing Substances


Humic materials Free Enzymes Allelopathic agents

Plant Disease and Nematode Suppression

Microorganisms

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PRINCIPLES OF VERMICOMPOSTING

Species of organic waste-consuming earthworms such as Eisenia fetida and Eudrilus eugeniae are used Temperature should be maintained at 20-25 0C Moisture content should be 75% - 90% Organic materials are added to systems in thin layers (2.5-5.0 cm) Earthworms require aerobic conditions and remain in the top 10-15 cm of a system moving up as new organic matter is added to the surface
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LIFE CYCLE OF EISENIA FETIDA

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METHODS OF VERMICOMPOSTING

METHOD WINDROWS WEDGE SYSTEMS BATCH SYSTEMS DOMESTIC SYSTEMS CONTINUOUS FLOW REACTORS

LOCATION OUTDOOR, INDOOR OUTDOOR, INDOOR INDOOR INDOOR INDOOR

MANUAL AUTOMATED CONTINUOUS FLOW


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FULL-SCALE REACTOR

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EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS ON PLANT GROWTH


We have demonstrated very considerable increases in rates of germination, growth, flowering and fruiting and yields in crops grown with small substitutions or amendments with vermicomposts. These increases were usually independent of nutrient availability.
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EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS ON TOMATO SEEDLING GROWTH

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MARKETABLE YIELDS OF TOMATOES IN THE FIELD


Marketable yield of tomato
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15

tons/ha

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Inorganic Fertilizer

Paper Waste 5.0 t/ha

Paper Waste 10 t/ha

Cow Manure 5.0 t/ha

Cow Manure 10 t/ha

Food Waste 5.0 t/ha

Food Waste 10 t/ha


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MARKETABLE YIELDS OF STRAWBERRIES


Marketable yields of strawberry
3000

Grams/plant

2500

2000

1500

1000 Inorganic Fertilizer Food Waste 5.0 t/ha Food Waste 10 t/ha Paper Waste Paper Waste 5.0 t/ha 10 t/ha
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MICROBIAL BIOMASS-N IN TOMATO FIELD EXPERIMENT


25 20 15

Microbial biomass N in tomato plots

mg/kg

10 5 0 Inorganic Fertilizer Paper Waste 5.0 t/ha Paper Waste 10 t/ha Cow Manure 5.0 t/ha Cow Manure 10 t/ha Food Waste 5.0 t/ha Food Waste 10 t/ha
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EVIDENCE FOR PLANT GROWTH REGULATORS IN VERMICOMPOSTS

SMALL SUBSTITUTIONS OF VERMICOMPOSTS INTO GROWTH MEDIA INCREASE PLANT GROWTH INDEPENDENT OF NUTRIENT SUPPLY VERMICOMPOSTS ARE EXTREMELY MICROBIALLY ACTIVE AND MICROORGANISMS PRODUCE PLANT GROWTH HORMONES AQUEOUS EXTRACTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS CAN INCREASE GROWTH INDEPENDENT OF NUTRIENTS BASE EXTRACTS OF HUMATES FROM VERMICOMPOSTS CAN INCREASE PLANT GROWTH INDEPENDENT OF NUTRIENTS GROWTH REGULATORS ADSORBED ONTO HUMATES IN VERMICOMPOSTS PLANT GROWTH PATTERNS E.G. STEM ELONGATION, ROOT GROWTH, FLOWERING PATTERNS ARE OFTEN CHANGED BY VERMICOMPOSTS
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EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS AND VERMICOMPOST TEAS ON PLANT DISEASES


Laboratory Pythium Field Verticillium

Rhizoctonia
Plectosporium Phytophthora Fusarium

Phomopsis
Sphaerotheca

Uncinula necator

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SUPPRESSION OF VERTICILLIUM ON STRAWBERRY BY VERMICOMPOSTS


85 80 75

ab b b b

Percent Damage

70 65 60 55 50 45 40 Inorganic Fe rtilize rs

Food Waste 5t/ha

Food Waste 10t/ha

Pape r Waste 5t/ha

Pape r Waste 10t/ha

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SUPPRESSION OF POWDERY MILDEW ON FIELD GRAPES BY VERMICOMPOSTS


0.5 0.5 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.0 Inorganic Fert Paper 5t Paper 2.5t Food 5t Food 2.5t
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Rating

PLANT PARASITIC NEMATODE POPULATIONS


Tomato
16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
Inorganic Ferilizer Paper 20t/ha Paper 10t/ha Food 20t/ha Food 10t/ha Cattle 20t/ha Cattle 10t/ha Com post 20t/ha

Strawberry
35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0
Inorganic Fertilizer Paper 5.0t/ha Paper 10t/ha Food 5.0t/ha Food 10t/ha

Numbers/ 20 g sample

Pepper
16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
Inorganic Ferilizer Paper 20t/ha Paper 10t/ha Food 20t/ha Food 10t/ha Cattle 20t/ha Cattle 10t/ha Com post 20t/ha

Grape
40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0
Inorganic Fertilizer Paper 10t/ha Paper 5.0t/ha Food 10t/ha Food 5.0t/ha No fertilizer

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SUPPRESSION OF MELOIDOGYNE BY FOOD WASTE ON TOMATOES BY VERMICOMPOST


Population Density
Number of nematodes per 250 cc soil

9000 8000 7000 6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000 0 Control 5 t/ha Treatment 10 t/ha
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Pre-planting Post-planting

EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS ON ARTHROPOD PESTS

SUCKING INSECTS APHIDS MEALY BUGS TWO-SPOTTED SPIDER MITES CHEWING INSECTS CABBAGE WHITE CATERPILLARS CUCUMBER BEETLES TOMATO HORNWORMS
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EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS ON DEVELOPMENT OF APHID INFESTATIONS ON CABBAGE


90 80 70 Day 3 Day 6 Day 8 Day 10 Day 13 Day 15 50 40 30 20 10 0 0 20 Percentage Vermicompost 40 Day 17

Number of Aphids

60

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EFFECTS OF VERMICOMPOSTS ON DAMAGE RATINGS OF TWO-SPOTTED SPIDER MITES INFESTATIONS ON EGGPLANTS


5 4.5 4 3.5

Damage Ratings

Day 3
2.5 2 1.5 1 0.5 0 0 20 Percentage Verm icom post 40

Day 6 Day 8 Day 10 Day 13 Day 15 Day 17

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CONCLUSIONS ON ROLE OF VERMICOMPOSTS IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

Vermicomposts have great potential in horticulture and agriculture crop production due to production of plant growth regulators by the greatly increased microbial populations. These accelerate the germination, growth, flowering and yields of plants independent of nutrient supply. Vermicomposts also have potential, as solids or aqueous vermicompost extracts, in integrated pest management programs, since one application suppresses soil-borne plant pathogens, plant parasitic nematodes as well as numbers and reproduction of arthropod pests such as aphids, beetles and caterpillars.
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CONCLUSIONS ON THE ROLE OF SOIL ECOLOGY IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE DEPENDS ON INPUTS FROM BIOLOGICAL ORGANISMS INSTEAD OF CHEMICALS. THIS MAKES THE SOIL ECOLOGY PRINCIPLES AND INPUTS TO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS A CRITICAL COMPONENT.

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