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Yamily Zavala, Ph.

Sick Soils
• Water and wind erosion
• Compaction,
• Soil crusting,
• Poor growth of plants,
• lots of weeds
• High disease pressure
• Increased needs for inputs
• Declining yields
Unhealthy Soils….
Fort Kent, Ab
Vulcan, Ab
Look at the Soil Processes


Root uptake
water & ions OM
Soil minerals
Clay OM

Leaching to
Aggregates H2O
Soils, Plants and Microorganism Interactions…….
If the plant can feed the fungus ………..
the fungus can feed the plant…..

Nitrogen fixing leguminous plants

•Nitrogen fixing bacteria (Rhizobium)
• Plant provide nutrients to the bacteria
• Bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen
Bacteria (Rhizobium) Fungus (Mycorrhiza)

• Mycorrhiza symbiosis
• Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF)
• Fungus teams up with plant roots
• Increasing absorbing root area up to 1000 times
• Exchange of sugar for P, N, water and other nutrients
5 species: 1 Legume & 1 grass
2 bacteria &

Root intertwine but

1 fungus (Mycorrhizae)

not connection

Dr. Kristine Nichols - Soil Biology Builds Resilience in Organic Systems

Fungus connect Legume and
Grass root-bridge for carbon

Bacteria fix N in the legume root

but needs lots of P
Soil P is not readily available The legume is not
Fungus has an advantage, it is associated with the good at getting P
phosphate solubilizing bacteria that are on the The bacteria asks the legume for P
fungus hyphae (soil). But this P is not enough for in exchange of N
the fungus to supply the whole P demanded for
the bacteria, the legume and the grass. Legume asks the fungus for P
in exchange of C
Grass has the ability to obtain P more
easily than legume. so the fungus asks the
- Fungus brings P to the legume
cereal for the secret code to get more P
- the legume gives it to the bacteria
Grass asks the fungus for N - The bacteria fixes more N
in exchange of the secret code or more P - EVERYONE IS HAPPY…….
2017 Dave Brandt Field Day - Gabe Brown
How do we build a Healthy Soil?
1st Create a microclimate
for the biology to express itself

What biology wants?

-Food, water, air & stable place to live Nutrient Efficiency
Yield increase
Profit increase
Residue /Crop diversity/
Cocktail CC /compost Improved Water
/Compost tea Availability
Biological Amendments
Improved Soil Structure
Aggregation Stability
Improved Nutrient Cycling

Organic Matter Turnover

Biological Activity
Compost and Compost Tea
What is Compost?
The end product of a biological
decomposition of organic material
with all the beneficial organisms and
What is Compost Tea?
Extract of the compost soluble
nutrients and organisms out of
compost into water……
What is in the Compost Tea?

Active and Dormant

Bacteria, fungi, protozoa and
They are fed and aired to
increase their population.
Purpose of their use!!

Adding compost will bring life back into the soil:

Improve soil nutrient exchange capacity, water holding
capacity, increase beneficial organism population.

As biological activity increases, it will improves:

Soil structure, nutrient availability, water storage

Compost tea supplies greater quantities of beneficial

microorganisms than large volumes of compost
What kind of compost or Compost tea… Dr
Elaine Inghan approach

Bacteria dominated compost

sugar, carbohydrates protein, green material
Fungus dominated compost
Woody kind materials, C:N (wide ratio), stalk grass,
humic and fulvic acids
Equal biomass
Need to balance the proportions
Ecological succession
B:F 10:1 1:1
Get to know your
compost and soil to
decide your needs &
CARA’s Soil Health
Lab Initiative
CARA Soil Health Laboratory
• CARA’s new adventure:
–To understand what is affecting the health
of the soils in Alberta.
• The main goal:
To allow producers to have access to
biological and physical assessments to build
the bridge for improving their soil health base
on localized and side specific constraints.
What soil indicators should be measured ?
Soil Food Web:
- Total/Active Bacteria & Fungi - Respiration (CO2)
- Protozoa - N mineralization
- Flagellates - C to N ratio
- Amoeba - Active Carbon
- Ciliates
- Nematodes
- Mycorrhizae
E.Coli - Macro & micro
- Soil Aggregation - pH,
Stabilization Physical Chemical - EC (salinity)
- Compaction
- Bulk Density - CEC,
-Infiltration - Organic Matter
-Texture ………
Why do we need to know about the life in the soil?
Protozoa or nematode eats fungus or bacteria:
N in available form---
Nematode > protozoa > bacteria
C:Nratio: 200:1(40B) 30:1(6B) 5:1
N release: 39 5
A healthy soil food web means a healthy Soil:
Improve soil structure (aggregation formation & stabilization)
- Bacteria & fungi binds particles into large aggregates
- Nematodes, worms, insects create tunnels (big, small)
improving soil porosity

Soil habitat, water storage & infiltration, drainage, aeration……

bacteria are the most abundant and predominant organisms
Decomposers, nutrient recyclers, control organic matter,
balance CO2 level, producer, Symbiotic plant relationship,

Changes and biochemical transformations in the soil:

decomposition of cellulose and other carbohydrates,
ammonification (proteins ammonia), nitrification (ammonia-
nitrites-nitrates), denitrification (release of free elemental
nitrogen), biological fixation of atmospheric nitrogen
(symbiotic and non-symbiotic) oxidation and reduction of
sulphur and iron compounds.
Decomposers/Degrade organic materials: cellulose,
polysaccharides, protein fats, organic acids, recyclers,
Decompose the more resistant and indecomposable organic
matter: dark color of soil humus

Earthy / musty odor / smell of freshly ploughed soils.

Produce/synthesize number of antibiotics like Streptomycin,

Terramycin, Aureomycin etc.

One of the species of actinomycetes Streptomyces scabies

causes disease "Potato scab" in potato.
Degradation/decomposers, predaceous, recyclers, producer,
symbiotic plant relationship, transformers, food for bacteria,

Decompose very complex organic material in the soil: Cellulose

Hemicellulose, lignin, starch …. Important role in soil

Some soil fungi are parasitic and causes number of plant

diseases such as wilts, root rots, damping-off and seedling
blights eg. Pythium, Phyiophlhora, Fusarium, Verticillium etc.
Organic matter/A.Actinomycetes

Active Actinomiyces
Fungi and Active Bacteria
Organic Matter decomposition process

Active Bacteria

Active Actinomiyces & Fungus

Predator of Bacteria, Fungi, other protozoa, soluble organic
matter. Release excess nitrogen used by plants and other
members of the food web.
Heliozoa Actinophrys
Flagellate: Flagelate Tetramitus

Naked Amoeba:
Testacean: Testacea Euglypha

Ciliate: Ciliate Oxytricha,

Ciliate Colpada
Each microorganism has a function
• Protozoa are not replaceable by higher
animals (meso- and macrofauna) as indicator
organisms because they have unique
physiological properties: they consume more
food and have a higher respiration rate per
mass unit, have shorter generation and life
times, and reproduce much faster. W.Foissner,
Flagellate and Ciliate
Large Ciliate
Amoeba 0022
Nematode Functional Groups

Ugarte and Zaborski (2014), University of Illinois

Bacteria feeder nematode
Soil food web Lab Reports
Understanding your Soil Report….
Soil Food Web Example
Soil food Web explanation of Nitrogen release as waste

Protozoa or nematode eats fungus or bacteria:

-----release N in available form---

Nematode > protozoa > bacteria

C:Nratio: 200:1(40B) 30:1(6B) 5:1
N release: 39 5
1 Protozoa need 6 Bacterias to reach C needs = 5 N waste

1 Protozoa will eat 10,000 bacteria/day = 8,000 N/day/Protozoa

Healthy soil = 50,000 protozoa/g soil

5 millions Bacteria eaten /day = 40 millions mol of N/day

~300 lb/a