Earth Haven Farm
Earth Haven Farm BLOG
Soil, Compost, Fungi

Why You Should Compost?

If you are a backyard gardening, flower gardener, market gardener, permaculturalist or a farm and you are not composting - ask yourself why not?  If you are concerned about the nutrient value of your soil - are you composting?

What is Compost?

Compost is decomposed organic materials, such as leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen waste that can be added to the soil as a natural means of putting nutrients back into the soil. Compost provides essential nutrients for plant growth as well as improving the structure of the soil so that it can hold the correct amount of moisture, nutrients and air.

Food scraps and yard waste make up more than 30 percent of what the average family throws away, which could be composted instead making it an extremely valuable fertilizer for food production utilized by farmers and gardeners.

Compost requires four basic ingredients:

Browns - Materials that help add bulk and allow air to better get into the compost. Brown materials are a source of carbon in your compost pile. Materials include leaves, branches, twigs, wood chips, pine shavings, shredded newspaper, tea bags and coffee filters.

Greens - Materials that are rich in nitrogen or protein. They are also the items that tend to heat a compost pile up because they help the microorganisms in the pile grow and multiply quickly. Green material includes grass clippings plus fruit, vegetable waste, food leftovers and coffee grounds.

Water - All life needs water, including the microorganisms and insects that help your compost pile decompose. The right amount of water helps these organisms thrive and turn your compost into usable form quickly. Water also helps regulate a pile's temperature.

Air - Aerobic organisms need to breathe air to survive. Aeration is necessary in high temperature aerobic composting for rapid odor-free decomposition. Aeration is also useful in reducing high initial moisture content in composting materials. Volume will reduce during the compost process.

How to Maintain Compost?

Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns to greens. You should also alternate layers of organic materials of different-sized particles. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.

Whether you have a small backyard compost bin or a large scale pile, your compost will need to be turned on a regular basis.  Turning allows for air and moisture to get to all areas of the compost aiding in decomposition.

If your compost pile is not heating up or decreasing in size, it is a sign that it needs air and moisture, so you need to turn your pile more often to bring it back to life.  A very alive compost pile will have lots of worms and bugs aiding in the digestion of the food.  A well maintained compost will have a pleasant smell.


  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Food items such as pasta, rice, bread, etc.
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags – fibre not plastic
  • Nut shells
  • Paper products (non coated)
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Twigs and branches
  • Wood chips / wood shavings
  • Hair and fur
  • Dryer lint
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Shredded newspaper (vegetable ink)
  • Shredded cardboard (non coated)
  • Shredded

What Not To Compost and Why?

Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
- Releases substances that might be harmful to plants

Coal or charcoal ash
- Might contain substances harmful to plants

Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
- Might kill beneficial composting organisms

* Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs
- Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies

* Diseased or insect-ridden plants
- Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants

* Weeds
- it is the seeds from weeds that are unwanted as the seeds will survive levels of heat and when used back onto the soil, will propagate more weeds.

* Fats, grease, lard, or oils
- Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and predators

* Meat or fish bones and scraps*
- Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and predators

* Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)*
- Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans

* Special Note:  Small scale, household and backyard composts piles will not be large enough or get hot enough to digest these materials and the pathogens that they often bring.  However, large scale farming operations that are adding animal manure to their piles will be able to compost these materials as the heaps will become sufficiently large enough and hot enough to digest all materials, killing off all pathogens.

What are the Benefits of Composting?

  • Enriches soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-based material that enhance the vitality of the soil.


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Mycorrhizal Fungi run the Largest Mining Operation in the World

Up to 85% of plants depend on fungi to survive. Plants and fungi depend on each other for nutrient cycling and water absorption.

Photo: Amanita gemmata by Courtney Celley: US Fish & Wildlife Service

"If you sift the mineral particles from conifer forest soil, wash them, and examine them under a microscope, you will discover a startling detail: tiny tunnels, three to ten micrometers across" 

 "The tunnels curve and branch and sometimes more than one pierces the same particle. What could have created these microscopic boreholes?" - Jennifer Frazer

Image: Landeveert 2001 - Thin-section micrograph of a tunneled feldspar  Scale bar = 100 micrometers

There was a nicely done article which came out on the journal Scientific American by science writer, Jennifer Frazer, who has degrees in biology, plant pathology and Mycology. I thought the beauty of post was that she has taken on the unseen microbial subject down onto a microscopic level to help the average reader understand what is going on in the complex sophisticated microscopic world where mycorrhizal fungi mine the soils not only for the basic food nutrients for plants we are familiar with like nitrogen, phosphorus, etc, but also those hard to come by trace elements [Zinc, Copper, Manganese, etc] which plants need for strong immune system health and survival against a potentially hostile world of pathogens. Oddly enough many soils are rich in important nutrients, but they are often locked up in a physical form which makes them unavailable to most plants. That's where the fungi come in. She references this photo here below to compare chemical weathering etches scar patterns [which she compares to an earthquake graph] into a mineral called Feldspar with the contrasting mycelial strands which have a twisting tangled pattern which fungi normally make.

Although, interestingly, Fungi do manufacture a number of chemical acids and other enzymes which do indeed breakdown and weather rock in the soils. The photograph below she used for illustrative purposes only is Mold, growing in a Petri dish from a sample of dust and debris which was taken from some repair work in the bathroom of an apartment. To take this picture, the photographer, Bob Blaylock put the entire Petri dish on the stage of my microscope. The mold is growing in EasyGel nutrient from Wild Goose Science. The mold strands beautifully illustrate the same design patterns we see in the common mycorrhizal fungi hyphae which are clearly different from the chemical etching done on mineral rock if we were talking mere chemical reactions on stone. 

"The tunnels seem like they were made by something … alive. They are the spitting image of hyphae – that is, filaments – of fungi."

Image: Landeveert 'Feldspar' 2001

She then provided another beautiful illustration of something that the average person can actually see feel and touch. Something they may have commonly stumbled upon if they have ever gone for a walk in the woods. Most granite rocks and boulders in forests will be colonized by lichens and mosses. Most folks also understand the degradation and weathering effects that such organisms have on buildings like bricks, rock, rood slates or even the gravestones in a cemetery. 

"But why would a fungus tunnel into a rock? There’s no food there, and it no doubt takes a sizeable capital investment to assemble and secrete the acids necessary to eat raw rock."

"There is a precedent: lichens. The crusty creatures, a combination of fungi, algae, and attendant bacteria/archaea, are the first and last word in Earth-based rock colonization. Wherever naked stone is found, lichens will be there."

Image by Bob Blaylock (Mold - August 2010)

Sure enough. I've previous written articles on Biological soil crusts (Lichens, Mosses, Cyanobacteria, etc], from desert areas and also from here in Sweden within the shallow soils of some of this regions Boreal Forests. Such ecosystems are fascinating and foundations for any future life development. I wrote the Boreal Forest example specifically because most people find deserts boring and the soil crusts which exist there are probably not even remotely noticed by the average person. Hence the Boreal forest example has bigger and better examples of mosses, lichens and fungi which most people find more exciting and sexy when it comes to the visual. But it should be noted that Desert Biocrustal systems are equally important. I'll post the links below. But it is interesting that the microscopic deeper soil layers of this subject are not effected by the surface work from these living organisms.

 Photo: "Caloplaca thallincola" by Jymm - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

"They cover almost 10% of Earth’s land surface, and if you are paying attention on your next forest or tundra hike, you will be astounded to note just how much real estate they have staked out – not just on rocks, but also on tree bark and soil."

"The fungal half of lichens are the drilling specialists, excreting acids that break down rock and enable the fungus to get a hypha-hold in micro-trenches, cracks, and etch pits (small lens-shaped cavities formed by the action of water). The acids are derived from the food that the algae provide to the fungus." 

"But the shafts in the photos at the top of the page were found nowhere near a lichen or a boulder. They were inside little bits of stony soil. What other fungi could be driving these tunnels ?" 

An interesting feature of the illustration below which you really don't see are those hormonal substances that the mycorrhizal fungi  manufacture or produce which hinder or suppress the plant's root  from growing root-hairs and might even encourage actual dichotomous branching from the root tip itself which will further enhance performance. So this tangled looking fungal mantle which covers this area of the root and inserts itself in between the cortical root cells is where all the interactions of nutrient, water and sugar exchanges take place between the fungi and the plant. This allows a much enhance performance of root area absorption than it had previously or if it were under and industrial science-based management as recommended by Dow Agro-Chemical and/or Monsanto. See how superior nature is compared to imaginary human improvements influenced by nothing more than bottom line profiteering ???

Reference: smith se read dj (1997) Mycorrhizal Symbiosis (second Adn) Academic Press

The illustrated image above also comes from her referenced resource material from the Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences here in Uppsala, Sweden. See how she describes what is going on in the above image:

"The fungus forms a root sheath called a “mantle”, and from this mantle, it sends hyphae both into the soil and into the root. The hyphae that invade the root do not actually invade the cells there. Instead, they weave a web around them, a structure known as the “Hartig Net”. Why would a tree put up with such a flagrant home invasion? To start, the net is a secure place where the fungus and the tree can exchange goodies.

"But fungi are also particularly good at seeking and absorbing (you might think of them as biological “Bounty”) owing to their diffuse bodies, which comprise a vast network of tiny tubes that max out surface area. Since fungi live in their food and secrete their digestive enzymes directly into it before resorbing the digested slurry, they are effectively one giant inside-out intestine (to those of you who dislike mushrooms, I apologize for putting you off them forever now -- though if it helps, mushrooms themselves generally do not digest anything, being strictly reproductive structures. That doesn't help either, does it?)."

She next provided the readers with an illustrative photo example of a soil penetrating root with end cap and it's fine root hairs without the colonization of the mycorrhizal fungi. The purpose really is to illustrate just how limited any plant is without the extra aftermarket add on parts I described in past posts where I previously compared a plant to a factory stock car out of the showroom and multiple species of fungi & bacteria comparison to all those after market performance enhancement auto parts, like a set of Hooker Headers which further enhance a stock automobile's high performance which makes it a true muscle car. Here is her description followed by the image:

"Unassisted, trees are limited to their own relatively meager collection of root hairs, found only near the tips of roots. The rest of the root is just a conduit. Fungi, by contrast, absorb across their entire bodies. Furthermore, root tips are vastly larger than a hypha. Even root hair cells – the finest filament available to roots, which sprout from the side of root tips -- are around 15 micrometers in diameter. That’s one and a half to five times as large as a hypha. You can easily see them with the naked eye."

Image: Oergon Caves, by AnimalParty - Wiki Commons (2011)

Now what I find interesting about this image above is that it also beautifully illustrates the limited nutrient and water uptake infrastructure of a farm crop grown which is common with the  maintenance recommendations of the conventional industrial business model we have today. If we just focus strictly on how the synthetic fertilizer inputs and all other synthetic pesticides actually cause a sterile soil system, the dosage concentration must be high enough so that a certain percentage will be actually used by the crop plant. It's a numbers game. The plant has certain specific requirements for proper growth. The industrial practices deliberately limit how much rooting absorption area will actually exist in the soils. So the chemical potency needs to be high enough to ensure that enough uptake from the limited root infrastructure will provide such requirements to the plant's above ground food producing  factory. Such high potency of chemical inputs also assure that the mycorrhizal fungi will never colonize these crop plant root systems. The high synthetic fertilizer potency triggers an epigenetic switch within the plant's DNA to actually turn off production of the chemical signaling which sends a message to fungal spores or hyphal strands to colonize the root. If the mycorrhizal fungi already exist, the shut off switch will trigger the fungi to detach from the root system. In any event, the root absorption area becomes far limited and the soil changes from a mycorrhizal soil to a bacterial one which actually favours weed (ruderals) competition. 

This is because a mycorrhizal system will outcompete the weeds for available phosphorus. If there are any weeds that do germinate, they will be greatly stunted in growth. This also benefits the Agro-Chemical companies who want to sell the farmers more synthetics to kill off those weeds. The conventional Agro-system remains flawed, inferior, but this at the same time allows the industrial business model to remain intact and more powerful. It's extremely important for everyone to understand where the problem lies, what makes it flawed and why there are such powerful lobbies to keep the status quo. But there is more in understanding how this root structure operates by illustrating things we see and use in our world. Look at the illustration below. This is a core boring and cleaning device with water jets engineered into the head for cleaning out a bore hole.

Image; Stone Age Gopher Water Injection Bore Hole Head

Like an industrial water well drilling bit designed with jets to soften, lubricate and cool down the material ahead of it so that the drill head can more easily bore a round core through rock and other challenging material, a plant's root system also can itself bore through many challenging materials. The illustration at right shows that such technologies may also be used in branching off a main bore hole shaft and going horizontally, just as plant roots do. As I have written about previously, there are several shrubs and trees which have an incredible ability known as hydraulic lift & Redistribution of water from deeper layers to the surfaces which also may be shared with other shallower rooted plants. But the reverse is also possible and it's known as hydraulic descent where water is taken from the surface during rain storms and stored into the deeper layers of the sub-soils. The plants have a tough root cap which can expand it's growth further into tough soil materials with the help of water and other enzymes it itself may produce. But the plant is limited and this is where the fungi also manufacture enzymes and biologically created acids to dissolve minerals pushing ever further into newer soil regions that the plant wouldn't otherwise have access to and on a microscopic level. 

"Taken together, these traits mean fungi can probe and penetrate crevices that roots and root hairs cannot. Thus by partnering with fungi, trees can make use of a much larger soil volume than roots alone could do, and can consequently absorb more water and nutrients than trees without fungal partners."

"Ectomycorrhizal fungi hold up their end of the deal by secreting acids that dissolve mineral particles from a distance. Via special digestive proteins called enzymes, they can also access organic forms of nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil (like amino acids, peptides, proteins, amino sugars, chitin, and nucleic acids) that plants wouldn’t otherwise be able to exploit. But there is a lot of other competition in the soil for these nutrients -- from other fungi, from bacteria, and from protists." 

"And the tunnels in those mineral particles sure looked suspicious."

"Scientsts began to connect the dots. What if ectomycorrhizal fungi were not just passively sopping up whatever nitrogen, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron they could scavenge from the soil? What if ... what if ectomycorrhizal fungi are actually mining hard rock for their trees?"   

"One clue can be found by looking at thin sections of fungus-enveloped root still embedded in soil. In this sample, probing hyphae sprouted from the mantle have wrapped mineral particles in a fungal embrace."

Image: Landweert et al 2001

In the photograph to the right, notice the thin section of an ectomycorrhizal root tip showing root (r), fungal mantle (fm), mineral particles (m), and ectomycorrhizal hyphae (h). Scale bar = 50 micrometers. Scanning electron micrographs of these particles show the fungi not only grasping, but invading them. In the photograph below again notice the scanning electron micrograph of branching hyphae that embraced and penetrated a mineral particle. Fungi seem to enter the particle at upper right and center right. Scale bar = 10 micrometers.

"As you saw in the image at the top of this post, thin cross sections taken from tiny pieces of feldspar and hornblende – common minerals in conifer forest soil – reveal tunnels inside with rounded ends, curving paths, and constant 3-10 micrometer diameters that also seem to finger fungi as their drivers."

"Scientists speculate that secretions of organic acids at the tip of the hyphae driving the tunnels release potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions from the mineral, simultaneously excavating the tunnel and releasing these valuable elements for absorption."   
"Could anything else be responsible?"

"Scientists have also observed that the tunnels are found most commonly near the soil surface, and much more rarely deeper down. That definitely seems to implicate something alive."

"And as mentioned above, the tunnels look radically different from the etch pits and saw-tooth cracks that are the hallmarks of purely chemical weathering. As a result, scientists now think ectomycorrhizal fungi have *two* ways of shanghai-ing nutrients for their trees, summarized below."

Illustration: Landweert 2001

"Fungi can access organic sources of phosphorous and nitrogen that would otherwise be unavailable to trees via enzymes they make, but also by mining soil minerals"

"Fungal mining has many advantages. Some feldspars contain pockets of apatite, a major source of phosphorous in forests. By excavating these otherwise locked nutrient chambers, fungi are able to access a phosphorous source that would be unavailable to plant roots alone."

"Fungal tunnels and the acids used to make them also speed up mineral decay and increase mineral surface area available directly to plant roots. Futher, fungal mining cuts off competition from other soil microbes for nutrients by accessing minerals in seclusion directly at the source. And it provides trees access to minerals even in acidified soil (the product of decades of acid rain), which can make grabbing them straight from the soil more difficult chemically."
"The speed with which fungi drive their tunnels is not blinding, but not glacial either, considering the miner is just a few micrometers across. One estimate suggests that the tips of fungal hyphae could be pushing their leads at the rate of 0.3-30 micrometers per year. If so, the authors calculated that 150 meters of pores are formed each year per liter of “E horizon” soil – a type of forest dirt leached of many minerals. In this same relatively small volume, 10,000,000 hyphal tips would be tunneling into sand grains at any given moment."

"Spread across the soil of an entire planet, the extent of fungal mining surely dwarfs anything  undertaken by humans. Its scale, and the volume of soil that fungi have helped create over what may be half a billion years of delving, beggar belief."

Source: Scientific American & Jennifer Frazer (

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The Soil Food Web

Published on Apr 8, 2015

Pioneering 'Soil Food Web' scientist, Dr. Elaine Ingham, B.A., M.S., PhD., explains the interconnected relationships of microbes in healthy soil. Learn how a biodiverse microbial community in the ground is critically important for soil nutrient uptake and vibrant plant health. Honoring the many life forms that thrive in living soils help us produce nutrient dense crops that are grown organically and sustainably while conserving water and maintaining the ecosystems that connect all life.

Visit Dr. Ingham's website for workshops and many free resources for growing food organically at Get more in depth workshops available from Dr. Ingham at

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The Roots of Your Health: Elaine Ingham on the Science of Soil

The following is a reposting of an article from Sustainable Food Trust

March 6, 2015 - by Linda Brown

Earlier this year, US soil microbiologist Elaine Ingham, of Soil Foodweb Inc. fame, caused several gasps at the Oxford Real Farming Conference with her controversial lecture, ‘The Roots of your Profits’. I recommend anyone interested in joined-up thinking about health to listen to this and view her slide presentation.

Put bluntly, Ingham’s message is that if you are interested in health, you have to be interested in soil. This lecture, and her work in general, brilliantly explains why.

Time to take a deep breath, prepare to have conventional thinking about soil turned on its head and find out why soil biology should matter to you.

Soil vs Dirt

As most of us have realised, soil is not merely a prop for plants or ‘terra firma‘ for the biosphere; it is an infinitely complex underworld and inter-dependent web of micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and micro-arthropods to name a few.

It is this hidden world that allows our planet and our society to thrive. It is every bit as important to our health as breath itself.

But far from nurturing the soil that feeds us, agriculture often destroys it. Every time the soil is disturbed, or artificial fertilizers and pesticides are applied, soil life is killed and soil structure compromised.

Soil erosion, the leaching of water and nutrients, anaerobic conditions, pests and diseases all follow. The system gradually collapses and eventually the soil – now bereft of soil life – is degraded so much it becomes mere dirt.

It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of destruction, and farmers then have to devote their energy to dealing with the destructive knock-on effects.

Myth Bashing

For Ingham, agriculture should be the art of nurturing soil life. It’s essential to understand what makes the life in soil tick – and conversely what destroys it – as well as how to manage soil life so it works to overcome the challenges that producing food presents. Get your soil biology right – ensuring the ‘good guys’ (aerobic micro-organisms) flourish and are in balance – and the rest falls into place.

Forget the latest farm app: the most essential piece of equipment a farmer or grower can have is a microscope. And the one skill she or he needs above all else is how to make aerobic compost and compost teas. It is these that contain the necessary microorganisms for soil health. Applied correctly, this is the only magic bullet you’ll ever need. It’s as simple as that.

But Ingham also goes further. She has no time for wasting money on soil tests, pointing out that during her lifetime the number of plant nutrients considered to be essential has increased from 3 to more than 40. Who can say what a plant needs, except the plant itself?

Applying this mineral or that fertilizer, Ingham says, is also a waste of money. Assays of plant tissues reveal that the nutrients present bear no relationship whatsoever to any soluble artificial nutrients applied. A plant requires all nutrients to a greater or lesser extent, and only it knows what it needs and when – the trick is having all those nutrients in a bio-available form in the soil at all times.

She also blows away the myth of pH, the measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. Since when, she asks, has nature said a pH 6.5 is ideal for crops, when they grow successfully in ranges from 5.5–11? Soil pH varies so widely even along a root hair that an average value is meaningless. It isn’t the soil pH that needs analyzing, it’s the soil’s microbial life.

Even more controversially, Ingham points out that all soils on the planet have enough (inorganic) nutrients locked up in their mineral particles (that is, particles derived from rocks) to feed plants for the next 10,000 billion years. What?!

The only reason the Green Revolution worked is that it fed dirt, not soil. Sustainable intensification? Forget it. It won’t work because it can’t: it still relies on the chemical inputs that destroy soil life. Get your soil biology right, and you don’t need to spread manure, rotate crops or till soil. (At this point, even the organic farmers at the Oxford conference winced.)

Theory Into Practice

Ingham has spent the past 40 years putting her knowledge into practice and training farmers, growers and gardeners to become soil doctors. She has achieved impressive results. Pasture grasses, for example, have increased rooting depth and protein content has gone up from 5%–25%.

But to understand why her followers achieve the results they do requires a basic primer in the evolutionary relationship between plants and soil life.

Nature’s Elegant Solution

Plants use sunlight to make sugars; they then send most of these to their roots as exudates (substances that ooze out from plant tissue) – or, as Ingham puts it, they deliver ‘cakes and cookies’ to the soil for aerobic bacteria and fungi to feed on, encouraging them to amass around the roots and prosper.

These ‘good guys’ have three important functions: they form a protective army to fight off the ‘bad guys’ (anaerobic micro-organisms responsible for disease); they contain the necessary enzymes and acids to break down and transform inorganic nutrients in soil particles into organic nutrients suitable for plants; and they play a critical role in the formation of soils’ structure, which is necessary for water retention, preventing the leaching of nutrients.

Why, then, do you need an armory of chemicals when nature has already provided a ready-made solution?

Why Life Needs Death and Death Creates Life

At this stage, the nutrients that plants need are still locked up in the microorganisms, and are only released when the latter die. To enable this, nature has evolved predators – creatures that eat other creatures for their food – to create food chains and thus ensure constant nutrient recycling.

In this case, the predators are protozoa, which eat bacteria, nematodes and micro-arthropods, which eat fungi. These predators then excrete the excess nutrients – now bio-available – into the surrounding soil, creating a constantly replenishing supply of food around the plant roots, where they are needed. Clever, isn’t it?

We can see why predators are necessary for plant life, and why we are better working with the fundamental rules of nature than against them. As Ingham has pointed out, Mother Nature doesn’t need human beings, but we need Mother Nature. It’s a one-way street. This is why we have to go back to soil biology to reform agriculture from the ground up. As she says, it’s the only way forward if human beings are to remain on this planet.

Compost: The Key to Sustaining Life

The evolution of plant life is intimately bound up with the soil biology prevalent during its development. The types and ratios, for example, of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms determine what crops will flourish, and enable evolutionary succession to take place.

It follows that what grows where is a good indicator of your soil biology; and it provides clues to where the imbalances might be in the soil, which are preventing you from growing the best crops you can. Again, the simple, quick and easy way to fix this is to ‘inoculate’ the soil with the correct compost.

This is why compost is the nearest farming gets to a cure-all: it holds the key to sustaining life. It’s cheap and easy, and as soils become self-sustaining, the problems go away and crops are more productive – they become stronger, healthier and more nutritionally dense. No wonder, then, that Ingham is not popular in conventional agriculture or the chemical industry.

It’s More Than a Gut Feeling

As Ingham’s lecture illustrates, the vital connection between healthy soils, plants, animals, people and planet is not mere rhetoric but an evolutionary truth. Patrick Holden, Chief Executive of the SFT, has also noted that the parallels between soil and human health are too obvious to ignore. Just as the ‘good guys’ in the soil promote and protect soil health, so the beneficial microbial flora in our gut (our microbiome) are essential for promoting and protecting our digestive health, and boosting our immune system.

But guess what? Antibiotics, antibacterials and antifungals impact negatively on our microbiome. One can only wonder, then, what a lifetime of food additives, junk food, pesticide residues, degraded food produced from chemical farming and even GM ingredients do to our internal ‘soil life’?

This is why the quality of the food we eat, and how we produce it, is so vital. And it is why we need to take Ingham and other whistleblowers seriously when they warn us that the quality of our soil affects the quality of our food and its fundamental ability to nourish us.

Photograph: Mycatkins

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