• About 1000 trees were uprooted last month and will be replaced in the spring with new trees. This week each pre-planting hole was filled with about 50 lbs of thermophilic compost and 15 lbs of vermicompost. In addition, the holes were drip irrigated after the composts were added with compost tea  (fungal dominance): the tea was added to speed up the carbon flow in the food web. All in all,  25 tons of thermophilic compost was used up followed by 7,5 tons of vermicompost This trial is a follow up to the trial we did last winter. Last winter about 100 replant holes were filled with thermophilic compost and about 250 worms were added into  each hole. In the spring, plum trees were planted  in these holes. The trees have grown over the summer and look healthy. They appear to be taller and more ample  than trees that did not receive this treatment. The original species of worms (E. fetida) are still present in some of the planting holes. The soil will be analyzed next spring to see if the ecosystem is healthy and  balanced   and this will be followed by a chemical analysis.
  • This trial was done because of the process termed “ replanting disorder” that occurs after replanting on a site that previously supported the same or closely related species of fruit trees. Symptoms of of replant disease include stunting and reduced productivity. Thermophilic and vermicompost are rich in humic acids, contain phytohormones; vermicomposts have been shown  to act as soil amendments for the production of field crops, to suppress plant pathogens. For all these reasons, this trial was started last spring and is being continued this winter.
  • In the above trials we are relying on mixtures of vermicompost and thermophilic compost because it has been shown that vermicomposts produce significant amounts of humic substances. By definition, humic substances are part what is called humus. Humus is available commercially under many labels and is very popular among gardeners and farmers. As plant decomposition proceeds, microbes (in vermicompost or in thermophilic compost) link together simple new compounds to form very big molecules that are resistant to further change. These molecules bind various nutrients  and in many ways resemble the clay loam that we have at Frog Hollow.  Several studies in greenhouse experiments have shown that humic acids derived from vermicompost have potent effects on fruit production and root length. For example peppers treated with vermicompost produced more flowers and fruit than peppers treated with commercial humic acids. Humic acids from vermicompost may have  similar effects to that of plant hormone regulators. We will pursue this discussion in next week’s blog and in the meantime we will make more vermicompost and thermophilic compost.

Author: Christophe Kreis  MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada.  Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.

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