Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hum - Humus – Humble - Human

“The root word HUM comes from the Latin humus, meaning earth and ground. The Latin humanswhich means MAN begins with HUM. HUMus = earth, then becomes HUMble = lowly; and finally, to HUMAN”, Dr. James Cassidy.

Last month at the High Desert Conference in Sierra Vista, I had the eye-opening and mind-expanding experience of meeting and listening to Dr. James Cassidy of Oregon State University. Wearing a fedora and suit jacket covering a black t-shirt with bold white letters spelling out SOIL, Dr. Cassidy opened by holding up a minute particle of dirt. He asked a slightly confused audience to identify what he held between his fingers. When we responded with ‘dirt’. He answered with “a million bio-organisms”.

In the hour that followed, Dr. Cassidy amused, enlightened and challenged us to rethink our understanding of the importance of soil. The essential question is ‘why should we care about soil’? Simply put – all life begins with soil and we are intimately tied to the life of the soil. Humans cannot photosynthesize. We are dependent on organisms that can photosynthesize in order to get the energy and nutrients we need to survive. “Most of the organism that we eat depend on soil, along with air, sunshine, and water to make the energy and nutrients needed to survive.” (Dr. Cassidy)

A highlight of his talk was being introduced to the new Soil Web Apps that UC Davis and the California Soil Resource Lab have produced. These apps can be used to access USDA-NCSS soil survey data – which drills down to the soil type in your backyard. FYI – my land is not prime farmland. When overlaid with mapping of geo-political upheaval, it is striking how closely linked poor soil is to conflict, poverty and starvation.

Soil is a complex mixture of:
  • Water
  • Air
  • Minerals – which we have ample of in our dirt
  • Organic Matter and Microbial Life – our dirt is sadly lacking in these organisms.
The microbial life consists of bacteria, fungi (mycorhizzae), arthropods, nematodes, protozoa and in some areas – earthworms.

Minerals in the soil include nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur and a host of other nutrients that are essential to plant health and our own health.

The good news – no matter where you are, your soil can be improved by adding microbial life. Dr. Cassidy’s solution mimics what I have learned from my best teachers – add compost. It’s as simple as that.

- Contributed by Deb at ARBICO Organics

Have you ever taken a moment to ponder your soil's microbial profile? Do you seek out soil solutions to boost your microbial populations? Let us know about your piece of the earth/humus and we will be glad to offer our advice!

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