21 episodes

Exploring the mysteries of soil in search of answers that you can use in your garden or on your farm. Each week features scientists and experts sharing insights into topics like soil science, composting, cover cropping, biochar, no-till, and fungi, among other things! In Search of Soil is hosted and produced by Diego Footer.

In Search of Soil Diego Footer

    • Science
    • 4.8 • 8 Ratings

Exploring the mysteries of soil in search of answers that you can use in your garden or on your farm. Each week features scientists and experts sharing insights into topics like soil science, composting, cover cropping, biochar, no-till, and fungi, among other things! In Search of Soil is hosted and produced by Diego Footer.

    Dr. Adriano Sofo - Soil Macrofauna| In Search of Soil #20

    Dr. Adriano Sofo - Soil Macrofauna| In Search of Soil #20

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we’re talking to Italian soil Scientist Dr. Adriano Sofo to shed some light on the importance of soil macrofauna, earthworms, beetles, ants, and the like, and their roles in building healthier soil for more sustainable agriculture.
    Dr. Adriano Sofo is an associate professor in the University of Basilicata in Matera, Italy. Cited more than four thousand times, his research interests include plant-soil interactions, biogeochemistry, and environmental botany. With a passion for educating, he believes that information dissemination is the key to creating a more sustainable and regenerative agricultural landscape.
    List of Dr. Adriano Sofo’s Works
     
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil Traditional agricultural practices that deplete soil organic matter and biodiversity (01:45) How Dr. Sofo defines minimum till (05:23) The band of soil that plays the greatest role in agronomy and the band of soil you don’t want to disturb (07:04) Incorporating organic matter into the soil vs. leaving organic matter on the soil surface (10:07) Completely wet soil vs. wet soil surface: is there a difference in plant health? (14:05) It all depends on the root morphology and root architecture (18:15) How different irrigation systems can affect plant growth (19:33) Will tillage dry out soil faster? (24:50) Why isn’t sustainable agriculture viewed as a better option? Why do farmers still subscribe to conventional farming practices? (27:33) The soil has as much carbon as the biosphere and the atmosphere (32:38) The importance of soil microfauna, mesofauna, macrofauna, and megafauna (33:28) The roles that earthworms play in soil health (39:00) What roles do ants play in soil health? (42:15) Who aerates the soil more, earthworms or ants? (44:31) How to increase the earthworm population in your soils (47:42) Why does the soil collapse with tillage but maintains its structure with the macrofauna? (49:52) Speeding up the reversal of compaction (57:01) Aerating the soil with a broadfork (59:59) Is it possible to get to a point where you can let nature take care of the soil? (01:01:17) Choosing the gentle approach over the harsh approach (01:05:10) Organic matter in soil: layering vs. mixing (01:06:18) Defining sustainable agriculture today (01:09:57) What Dr. Adriano Sofo wants farmers to know (01:11:18)

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Dr. Matthew Wood - The Science of EM (Essential Microorganisms) | In Search of Soil #19

    Dr. Matthew Wood - The Science of EM (Essential Microorganisms) | In Search of Soil #19

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we’re talking to one of the pioneers in developing probiotic technology, Dr. Matthew Wood, to shed some light on what efficient microbes (EM) are, what they do to the soil, and how our soils can benefit from adding them.
    Dr. Matthew Wood earned his Bachelor’s degree in Soil and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his Master’s degree working under Dr. Teruo Higa from the University of Ryukus in Okinawa, Japan. His work in probiotics resulted in global engagements in many fields including microbiology, agriculture, and human health. In 2004, he founded SCD Probiotics where they develop and commercialize consortia fermentation technologies for multiple industries.
    More on microbes at SCD Probiotics: https://www.scdprobiotics.com/
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil Dr. Matthew Wood’s interest in the soil sciences (01:40) Studying in Japan and working with Dr. Teruo Higa (03:24) Notable findings working with Dr. Teruo Higa (04:43) An increase in the diversity index (05:05) Plant-microbe communication (06:53) What is EM? (08:35) The concept of consortia in the context of microbes (11:25) The whole is greater than the sum of individual parts (12:28) The question of the purity of cultures (15:11) What happens in the transition microbes go through (16:22) Cultured microbes adapting to the soil pH (19:25) Stimulating the biology in the soil (22:17) Observing a single microorganism would yield different findings versus observed together with other microorganisms (25:45) What EM will do to the microfauna in your local soil (28:35) A potential reason why EM hasn’t been adopted widely (30:30) An article about classifying soils based on which microbes were dominant in the system (31:22) How long before seeing the long-term changes made by EM (32:57) SCD Probiotics approach: biochemical products that act like chemicals Breaking the business: industrial, agricultural, consumer (35:57) Culturing out mother cultures and lowering the cost per application (38:29) Dr. Matthew Woods’ SCD product recommendations to start with (39:51) Using beneficial microorganisms as foliar feed (43:00) Ways that beneficial microbes push out pathogenic microbes (44:11) The worry of whether the beneficial microbes will live or die after applying them to a system (46:42) What EM’s major groups of microbes do for the soil (48:44) Adding a mother culture to a compost pile (51:29) Beneficial microbes neutralizing foul odors (54:48) Sharing the built-up localized bacteria base (55:33) Dr. Teruo Higa: It’s not the presence of the pathogen that causes the problem, it’s the high population of the pathogen that does. (57:17) Can you go overboard with adding mother culture to your soil? (59:06) Using a mother culture to re-energize depleted soils (01:00:35)

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Dr. Kurt Spokas - The Science of Biochar | In Search of Soil #18

    Dr. Kurt Spokas - The Science of Biochar | In Search of Soil #18

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we’re talking to soil scientist Dr. Kurt Spokas of the United States Department of Agriculture to walk us through what biochar is, what it can potentially do, and what its limitations are when it comes to applying it to agricultural production.
    Dr. Kurt Spokas is a soil scientist at the United States Department of Agriculture who has dedicated years of research on the impact of farming practices on the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and other greenhouse gases, including transport and surface exchange of greenhouse gases. His areas of interest include biogeochemistry, contaminant hydrology and water quality, and soil physics.
    Dr. Spokas' Publications: https://www.ars.usda.gov/midwest-area/stpaul/swmr/people/kurt-spokas/publications/
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil Any changes in what we know about biochar in the last 10 years? (01:42) Questions that still remain around biochar (02:20) Why we can’t yet answer how biochar works (02:51) Biochar: a positive, a negative, or neither? (04:48) Potential negatives of biochar that can possibly hinder plant growth (05:56) Dr. Kurt Spokas’ research on biochar on the nitrogen cycle (08:05) Biochar to potentially mitigate nitrous oxide emissions (09:24) The variability between biochars (10:27) The differences and nuances of variability between biochars (12:36) Variably defined biochars in different studies (13:18) Aged biochars (14:50) What changes are happening in a biochar undergoing oxidation? (16:26) Biochar for agriculture before completely understanding what it is and what it does (18:08) No two biochars are the same (19:57) Is there a sweet spot for feedstock materials to use as biochar? (20:55) Silica deficiency in soils (22:53) Silica entering the soil (23:32) Scientific knowns when it comes to biochar (24:06) Biochar’s potential as construction material (26:30) Can you use biochar as a substitute in a potting mix? (27:20) Can a small amount of biochar make a difference? (28:16) Is more biochar better than less biochar? (30:07) Adding the bio to the char to become biochar (30:44) Why nutrients attach to biochars (32:32) Surface area of organic matter vs. surface area of biochar (34:15) How long can the carbon in biochar sit in the soil? (35:40) What makes the carbon in biochar unique (37:05) Gradual breaking down of carbon over time (39:06) Adding carbon now via biochar is adding carbon later (40:33) Biochar and beneficial agricultural microbial groups (41:42) Amazonian soils, Terra Preta, and biochar (42:48) Was adding charcoal to the soil actually intentional? (46:40) Can we say the char actually made the soils better? (48:03) Higher microbial populations, slower carbon turnover (49:49) The microbe population that appears high in Terra Preta soils (52:47) To add or not to add biochar to your farmland? (53:33) Potential negative to adding biochar (54:52) A key piece of information to quantifying biochar and its effects (56:22) Reproducibility of activated carbon products (57:46) Pushing the science of biochar forward (01:00:07) Homemade biochars (01:01:36) Biochars and potential toxins such a heavy metals and toxic organic compounds (01:04:01) For farmers: some takeaways about biochar (01:07:06) Where to find more information on biochar, its application, etc. (01:08:32) Where to find Dr. Kurt Spokas and his work (01:10:18)

    • 1 hr 12 min
    Dr. David Laird - The Role of Clay in Soils | In Search of Soil #17

    Dr. David Laird - The Role of Clay in Soils | In Search of Soil #17

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we’re talking to Dr. David Laird of Iowa State University to shed some light on what it means to have clay soil, what its benefits and drawbacks are on agricultural production, as well as de-mystifying some common misconceptions on clay soils.
    Dr. David Laird is a professor at Iowa State University Department of Agronomy. As a soil scientist, he has authored and co-authored more than 120 journal articles and book chapters on many subjects, most notably on clay mineralogy. Dr. Laird’s research interests include carbon sequestration, chemical, mineralogical, and surface properties of soil clays, nutrient leaching, and the impact of biochar on soil quality, among many others.
    Dr. David Laird’s Publications
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil Common misconceptions around clay from an agricultural producer standpoint (02:07) Clays evolve over time (04:05) How clays affect agricultural productivity (05:42) Why cation exchange capacities of clay are important in agriculture (08:51) Minerals: sand vs. clay (10:38) Quartz particle size and clay particle size (14:55) The time it takes for a clay to dissolve like a quartz would (20:55) Factors affecting the evolution of clay in the Great Plains and the variation of clay and mineral contents across geographies (23:02) Will a plant be able to tell the difference between clays and will there be a difference in performance? (33:33) Are minerals in clay biologically available for microbial use? (34:34) Incredibly weathered soil in the tropics and yet it supports the greatest biome on the planet (36:42) An ecosystem with stable and accessible nutrients (38:44) The process of smectites being broken down (39:33) What in biology breaks the smectite bonds? (41:19) How can a positively charged ion knock off a negatively charged ion if they’re equal strength? (44:24) Plant absorbing the nutrients knocked off the smectites (46:53) Soil evolution and why row crop soils tend to acidify (50:28) What happens to the clay when plants are introduced into the soil? (51:20) Can you turn a sandy soil into a more productive loam by adding in clay? (01:01:09) Clay is good, but there’s such a thing as too much clay (01:05:58) Would it make sense to add sand to a clay-heavy soil?(01:09:06) Can roots make a difference in breaking up a clay-heavy soil? (01:10:17) Interactions between clay in the soil and organic matter (01:12:42) The dynamic changes occurring between clay and organic matter (01:16:19) Does clay always protect organic matter? (01:21:52) Comparing the cation exchange capacity between clays and organic matter (01:23:47) Roots proceed down the path of least resistance (01:27:54) Comparing the surface area of clay vs. the surface area of organic matter (01:29:26)

    • 1 hr 34 min
    Dr. Jane Fife - Applying Better Soil Microbes | In Search of Soil #16

    Dr. Jane Fife - Applying Better Soil Microbes | In Search of Soil #16

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we’re talking to 3Bar Biologic’s Dr. Jane Fife to shed some light on microbial biologics, realistic expectations of what they can do to our soils and our crops, and a little bit about the biological products industry.
    Dr. Jane Fife is the Chief Science Officer at 3Bar Biologics as well as an Adjunct Faculty at The Ohio State University. With more than twenty years of applied research experience, she is a proven leader in research in agricultural application technologies, biologics, and precision agriculture. Her main points of interest include more targeted delivery of agricultural inputs for safer, more sustainably produced food.
    More on 3Bar Biologics: https://www.3barbiologics.com/
     
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil The limitations of applying biologicals to the seed coat and as a soil surface spray (02:00) Opening the spectrum of microbial biologicals by adjusting the time of application (05:10) Ohio State University and how 3Bar Biologics came to be (07:36) How difficult is it to culture beneficial microbes? (09:22) Dry formulations of microbials (11:08) Efficacy between wet and dry-formulated products (12:28) Regionality and efficacy of microbes (13:40) Realistic expectations in applying microbial biologicals (15:36) A sweet spot where microbes can really help (18:03) How much agricultural practices affect the microbes already present in the soil (22:31) Will there be significant improvements on the crop if there were no application constraints on microbial biologicals? (26:22) How much microbes are taken in by the plant through foliar feeding? (28:48) Effectivity of foliar feeding vs. root feeding (31:08) How much of the biologicals is actually wasted in the soil? (33:07) Why can’t soil microbes stay and proliferate in the soil if they’re already soil-borne? (35:30) Healthiest when there’s a large diversity of microbes (39:12) Soil organisms that proved to be interesting hence 3Bar was born (40:52) What live microbe technology would look like on the farm (43:50) Grow the microbes as close to the point of use as possible (46:25) 3Bar’s Biostimulant (47:00) Are microbial biologicals targeted for specific crops? (48:53) Optimum application for microbial biologicals (50:24) For transplanted crops, would it make sense to apply microbials in a nursery setting? (52:06) What information should growers look for when seeking out microbial biologicals? (53:19) Snake oil, regulations, and the agricultural microbials industry (57:10) Having appropriate and realistic expectations with 3Bar’s microbial technology (59:52) Farmers willing to try and experiment in their own farms and see for themselves (01:01:37) Where would the agricultural microbials industry be in 10 years’ time? (01:04:40) The rough cost per acre of application of 3Bar’s microbial technologies (01:06:58) Where to go to learn more about 3Bar, what they’re doing, and what they’re offering (01:07:53)

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Dr. Gary Harman - Benefits of Trichoderma | In Search of Soil #15

    Dr. Gary Harman - Benefits of Trichoderma | In Search of Soil #15

    In this episode of In Search of Soil, we have Dr. Gary Harman of Cornell University on the show to talk about what Trichoderma is, what it does to the soil and all the benefits that it brings to plants and crops.
    Dr. Gary Harman is a Professor Emeritus at Cornell University College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, School of Integrative Plant Science. His fields of specialization include biological control systems, plant-microbe interactions, and fungal genetics. With more than forty years’ worth of research under his belt, he has published more than 150 on these topics, most notably on agriculturally beneficial Trichoderma species.
    Purchase Trichoderma (Rootshield)
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    In this episode of In Search of Soil Diego introduces the episode and the guest, Dr. Gary Harman (00:22) What is trichoderma? (01:18) The interest in trichoderma for agricultural purposes (02:26) Wild-type species of trichoderma and strain-specific agricultural benefits (05:15) The role of trichoderma in the soil microbiome (06:15) Beneficial trichoderma species naturally occurring in agricultural soils (08:58) The dominance of trichoderma over disease-causing fungi (10:18) Trichoderma induced plants to control disease (12:40) Trichoderma helps plants suppress diseases (14:05) Having the pathogens stick around vs. killing them off (14:58) Gene priming and upstream regulation of RNA (16:00) Trichoderma feedback from plants (17:17) No evolutionary feedback with the trichoderma (20:45) How effective is trichoderma in increasing plant resistance to known plant diseases? (22:13) The difference between disease resistance as a trait vs. disease resistance through gene priming from trichoderma (23:08) When a farmer doesn’t want to add trichoderma but wants to encourage the microbiome already in their soil (24:42) Externally adding trichoderma to soils (27:07) How vast can trichoderma grow to? (29:51) Increased root growth with trichoderma (30:45) Mineral nutrition and trichoderma (32:13) Our current understanding of plant-microbe interactions (34:38) Trichoderma are not mycorrhiza (35:46) Why trichoderma can be cultured outside a host (37:08) Adding trichoderma at the seed level (38:12) Biologicals: inconsistent at best, snake oil at worst (41:34) Applying trichoderma if you’re a small-acreage grower (43:58) Applying trichoderma on the leaves of a grown plant (48:45) Does trichoderma have any effect on pests? (51:36) Are live roots the only things trichoderma needs? (54:37) Cherry picking results for marketing purposes (55:38) More robust root system and an affected aboveground growth (57:45) How trichoderma in the wild reproduce (59:45) Korean natural farming and wild harvesting molds (01:02:13) Which trichoderma to get (01:04:06) Antibiotic material from trichoderma (01:06:03) A trichoderma will do what a trichoderma will do (in terms of disease resistance) (01:08:35) What’ll happen if there were a sudden 100% increase of trichoderma use (01:10:32) Will mycorrhizae ever be commercialized? (01:11:45) No negative repercussions with trichoderma (01:14:35) Why do plants need trichoderma to become more disease resistant? (01:15:58) The possibility of having a locally-adapted strain of trichoderma (01:19:50) Keep up-to-date with Dr. Gary Harman’s work (01:22:35)

    • 1 hr 24 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
8 Ratings

8 Ratings

jbgaff ,

Soil science

Great content from incredibly knowledgeable people articulating some of the most up to date soil knowledge. Valuable information for any grower looking to improve their soil.

gabrielpaivalago ,

An excellent source of information

I’m very impressed with the amount of good information, interesting and valuable, found in this series of podcasts.

Thank you to you and your guests for putting the effort and explain so much about soil. It has been fascinating to listen to and learn from each interview.

Looking forward to the next series 🙂

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