Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Roundup and Its Effects on Soil Microbes

Monsanto’s Roundup is an herbicide that has been regularly used since the 1970s to prevent growth of weeds on farmland. While its initial use helped many farmers meet demand and keep a steady supply of crops free from weed growth, weeds have developed a resistance to the herbicide and Roundup’s lasting effect on soil is taking its toll.

According to, resilient weeds and their evolving resistance to Roundup has forced farmers to resort to what has been deemed a “high toxic pesticide cocktail.” Plants need micronutrients within the soil like iron, calcium, and zinc to grow strong and fend off diseases.
  • Roundup binds to these micronutrients and thus makes them unavailable to plants.
  • In turn, the soil is filled with higher volumes of oxides that plants can’t use to grow, and they become more susceptible to disease through a damaged root structure. 
  • Depending on the soil where Roundup is used, the chemical could degrade in a matter of days or a matter of years.
It is also worth mentioning how Roundup can effect humans - Green Med Info states that concentrations of glyphosate can induce damage of DNA in human cells, while Catalyst Magazine mentions that the most severe of doses can lead to coma or death. Studies also show glyphosate contaminating groundwater used for human consumption.

One might wonder how they can do their part to avoid the harmful effects of Roundup and improve soil health in their homes, community gardens, and more. Remaining vigilant about where your food comes from, encouraging natural microbial growth through Bokashi composting, and resorting to natural ways of weed control are some great ways to take proactive action against Roundup. Catalyst Magazine recommends using home remedies such as white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, boiling water, or essential oils like tea tree, citronella, or clove to safely and effectively combat your weed problems at home.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Overcoming Soil Compaction

Dealing with Compacted Soil


Machinery makes agricultural life easier and far more efficient, but the same machines that make modern agriculture possible can also lead to inhospitable, compacted soil. Even when machine use is moderate, livestock trails can lead to the same condition. The constant weight of tractors, trucks and cattle stresses the soil, displacing air and causing soil densification. Organic farmers have a few methods at their disposal for maintaining plant growth in spite of dense soil conditions.

As soil compacts, it air that was trapped in little pockets is pushed out. These air pockets provided space for water retention and drainage. They also provided space for aerobic microorganisms (ones that need air) to thrive. The aerobic microbes are almost entirely good microbes. As the amount of air in the soil decreases, there are no spaces to store moisture or drainage or air and aerobic microbes are not able to survive. What starts to happen is the anaerobic microbes start to populate the soil. Most of the anaerobic microbes are bad microbes and are connected to plant and soil diseases. One need only look at a field after a rainstorm and see where all the water puddles and stays. In that area is where the highest compaction is and where the highest amount of plant diseases can be found.

The quickest method is also the most labor intensive. Tilling can break up compacted soil in a farm or garden simply by mechanically breaking up the damaged land. Tilling, however, has its drawbacks as also destroys the good fungi in the soil, namely mycorrhizae. As tilling exposes organic material to the air, the material begins to oxidize and breakdown faster that it would if it had been left alone. This causes the soil to become even more compacted over time. This is why “minimum till” or “no-till” methods are preferred.

Solutions to this include rotational planting, amending the soil with compost or fermented food wastes (link), cover cropping without tilling, and adding loads of good microbes with soil inoculants such as EM-1.

Feel free to comment below and let us know any additional tricks you have found to be useful when dealing with compacted soil, we would love to hear from you!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Organic Methods for Nitrogen Fixation

The Benefits of Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria

Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere and is fundamental to the growth and health of all plant life. On its own as an inert gas, however, nitrogen is useless for agriculture and gardening. It must first undergo nitrogen fixation in order to become ammonia and act as a fertilizer. This process occurs naturally through lighting strikes and in the root systems of legumes. Most plants, however, rely on nitrogen fixing bacteria to provide them with the ammonia that they need to grow.

Bokashi composting remains one of the oldest and effective organic methods for rapid nitrogen fixation. For centuries, Japanese farmers have combined a carbon base with a mixture of microorganisms and covered their food waste to provide a place for nitrogen fixing bacteria to thrive. Whether you use the same methods or modern probiotic methods, you can turn your garden or farm soil into a source of nitrogen-rich compounds proven to increase yield and increase the disease resistance of your crops.

Plants have the same needs that they have had throughout their entire evolution: water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen-rich nutrients. The best methods for providing those nutrients are as old as those same needs; employ nitrogen fixing bacteria for some of the safest, fastest-acting fertilizer available.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Preventing Over-Watering And Amending Your Soil

The Southwestern part of the United States is no stranger to droughts over the last few years. It seems every summer we are in the midst of a record-breaking drought that slows agricultural production and dries out our gardens and lawns. With the shifting of seasons finally upon us, we’ve seen quite an influx in rainfall over the past few weeks. While the rain is fantastic for regions in need, it also presents an opportunity for hobbyists and home gardeners to avoid over-watering, amend their soils, and possibly store water for future dry spells and droughts.

If the weather forecast says rain is on the horizon, consider tilling dried out patches in your garden or lawn. Churning the soil will give you a leg up on soil aeration before rainfall.

Keep an eye out for over-watered areas that aren’t draining well after a rainstorm. Flooded plants can have their roots damaged as a result of too much exposure to water. Not only does flooding affect their ability to retain moisture in the future, it also can kill off the microbes and other small organisms in the soil that are helping keep the ecosystem flourishing. Chances are these spots are full of clay-based soil. Adding organic matter from a Bokashi compost kit will help improve the soil’s moisture retention and draining properties so your plants don’t get flooded every time it rains.

Similarly to flooded areas, be on the lookout for areas that seem to drain too fast. You might have sandy soil on your hands. Compost can also aid in making those areas retain water for the proper amount of time so your plants get the nourishment they need.

Purchase one or multiple rain barrels. Installed under a gutter’s downspout, a rain barrel is a great way to harness and store rainwater for future use. A heavy duty, plastic barrel complete with a screen top to filter out debris and a spigot to pour out water in small amounts will allow you to distribute it evenly over your garden when needed. Just make sure you cap off the barrel when it is full so as to avoid overflowing, mosquito infestations, and stagnation!

While the rain around the country is heavily needed and thoroughly appreciated by plants and humans alike, it doesn’t mean we should stop taking care of our crops and gardens. By maintaining proper soil amendment and moisture levels, your lawn or garden can flourish long after the rains have gone.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Improving Soil Moisture Retention

Organic Means of Preserving Soil Moisture

Soil water is the lifeblood of your crops. Properly hydrated soil regulates ground temperatures for reliable flowering and seed germination, helps sensitive plants survive the summer months, provides structure, and encourages the growth of crop-friendly organisms. Without proper care, however, soil can lose its water retention; even generous rainfall is lost, quickly sinking into the water table without efficiently benefiting the plants above. Organic farmers and gardeners have two excellent tools at their disposal for reversing these effects.

  • Organic Matter One of the best ways to improve damaged soil is by introducing healthy soil. Organic food waste makes an excellent soil amendment; treat your growing area with several inches of it in trenches or holes in order to create a moisture-retaining surface that will support young roots and nurture the soil below. Water and nutrient-rich food wastes, if diligently replenished, can protect your soil while gradually imparting its growth-encouraging elements.
  • Soil Life Two forms of soil life play a role in your soil’s water retention: macroorganisms and microorganisms. Macroorganisms, such as worms, are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Their pathways loosen the soil, trapping more water between particles and soil structures. Beneficial microorganisms, however, are even more foundational. Soil-consuming bacteria reduce the size of individual soil particles, increasing soil retention at the soil’s most fundamental level. Worms eat bacteria and bacteria turn nutrients into food for plants. When you add microorganisms you not only feed plants, you also feed worms.
It is always best to employ multiple, complementary approaches when attempting to improve your soil. Organic topsoil amendments leak nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil below, encouraging the growth of your microbial starter culture. Working in tandem, each solution multiplies the success of the other.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Going Green with Local Farming

The Global Impact of the "Buy Local" Movement

We have all heard of the "buy local" movement but why should we all be buying locally grown produce? Although irresponsible farming methods like improper soil management and irrigation have negative environmental impacts, far more environmental damage comes from the transportation of crops. Buying organic farming goods from within your community simultaneously strengthens both your community and the environment.
  • Locally grown produce helps preserve the local landscape. When buying fruits and veggies from local farmers, money they receive allows them to maintain their land without the need for selling pieces to land developers. In the future, well-maintained land can promote tourism, recreational events that increase community awareness and grow your local economy.
  • Buying produce from local farmers brings a community together. Farmers markets are great places to say hi your neighbors and meet the farmers who grow your fruits and veggies. These markets put a name, face and story to the otherwise monotonous task of grocery shopping. Instead of carting thoughtlessly around a large supermarket, farmers markets give you interaction to ask questions about how they grow their vegetables and if they use any pesticides.
  • Produce is picked at the peak of freshness when buying locally. There is less time from the farm to your table which means that produce is not picked prematurely and artificially ripened in giant warehouses. Farmers are able to grow each fruit and vegetable to the peak of ripeness, enabling you to enjoy them instantly.
  • Buying local produce is an investment in the future. By supporting your local farms today, you can ensure that there will be farms in your community in the future. This is especially important as the uncertainty with the future of fossil grows. One thing you will be able to count on is having a local farmer grow what you eat.
  • Cheese and meats processed in local facilities look and taste better. Local livestock farmers typically have a direct relationship with processors and are able to oversee quality to ensure the best possible flavor.
Are you finally convinced to buy locally grown and processed produce and meat? Well, now what? Now, you check out Go Texan for specific restaurants, recipes and more to enjoy your locally grown food. Support Teraganix and other local agriculture efforts by creating a local economy and community that fosters the efforts of your neighborhood and your neighbors.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Differences in Soil pH

Many of us are familiar with the general pH designations of acidic and basic when it comes to general science. What some of us might not know is how pH levels can drastically affect the health of plants and vegetation. The optimum range for most vegetation is between 5.5 and 7.0 on the Hydrogen scale, but plants can survive on both ends of the pH spectrum. Let’s review the differences between the two and discuss what sort of nutrients are present in each type of soil.

Plants need nutrients to grow. Nutrients needed in higher concentrations are called macronutrients and include things like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and calcium. Nutrients needed in lesser amounts are called micronutrients and include elements like iron, manganese, zinc, and copper.

Acidic soil is widespread throughout the United States due to the fact that most regions in the U.S. receive rainfall year-round in varying levels. As such, most crops do better in slightly acidic soils. Acidic soils are chock full of higher concentrations of micronutrients, but will have a difficult time absorbing potassium, calcium, and nitrates.

Basic (alkaline) soil is found more in areas of the United States that receive less rain on average. Basic soils more heavily feature macronutrients such as the ones listed above, and plants growing in more basic soils will have a difficult time absorbing iron or zinc, for example.

So what happens if you want to grow basic plants in acidic soil or vice versa? Luckily, there are some modifications you can make to the soil. Before anything, get your soil tested professionally or purchase a simple pH testing kit. To increase the pH of your soil (make it more neutral or basic) you can try adding firewood ashes, ground oyster shells, or the most common method of adding ground lime. Ground lime comes pre-ground as an agricultural additive and should be available through the proper retailers.
Soils in the southwest can be as high as 9. These high pH soils are loaded with micronutrients, but have nearly no organic matter. Organic matter helps increase moisture retention, nutrient exchange, and biological activity. To lower pH in alkaline soils you can apply acids in liquid or powder form (short–lived effects) or you can increase organic matter(long-term effects) by applying compost, cover cropping, and crop rotation.

An incorrect pH for the plants you are trying to grow doesn’t mean the end of your gardening days. With a few basic modifications to your soil base and some careful planning, maintaining a soil pH will be the least of your worries and you’ll produce strong, healthy plants.

Teraganix is the official EM Technology distributor of North America. From micronutrient fertilizer and garden soil conditioning to probiotic supplements, EM-1 is a new wave of organic technology with a myriad of applications and useful properties for personal and widespread use.