Soil Science


 To better understand how vermicomposting functions, having a basic knowledge of soil science,  will help. So, I am going to list some very invaluable resources here for you.  A really good basic book to read would be Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis with a forward by Elaine Ingham

You can read it online:  

http://ge.tt/9LYCbnC/v/1


Soil Biology Primer

The Soil Biology Primer is an introduction to the living component of soil and how it contributes to agricultural productivity and air and water quality. The Primer includes units describing the soil food web and its relationship to soil health, and units about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms. It is suitable for a broad audience including farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals, resource specialists, conservationists, soil scientists, students, and educators.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/biology.html



Printed copies of the Soil Biology Primer may be purchased at the Soil and Water Conservation Society online store at http://www.swcs.org


Chapter 1: THE SOIL FOOD WEB

By Elaine R. Ingham

SOIL BIOLOGY AND THE LANDSCAPE

An incredible diversity of organisms make up the soil food web. They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods, to the visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants. As these organisms eat, grow, and move through the soil, they make it possible to have clean water, clean air, healthy plants, and moderated water flow.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/soil_food_web.html



Chapter 2:  THE FOOD WEB & SOIL HEALTH

By Elaine R. Ingham

HOW DO FOOD WEBS DIFFER?

Each field, forest, or pasture has a unique soil food web with a particular proportion of bacteria, fungi, and other groups, and a particular level of complexity within each group of organisms. These differences are the result of soil, vegetation, and climate factors, as well as land management practices.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/fw_soilhealth.html



Chapter 3:   BACTERIA

By Elaine R. Ingham

THE LIVING SOIL: BACTERIA

Bacteria are tiny, one-celled organisms – generally 4/100,000 of an inch wide (1 µm) and somewhat longer in length. What bacteria lack in size, they make up in numbers. A teaspoon of productive soil generally contains between 100 million and 1 billion bacteria. That is as much mass as two cows per acre.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/bacteria.html



Chapter 4:  SOIL FUNGI

By Elaine R. Ingham

THE LIVING SOIL:  FUNGI

Fungi are microscopic cells that usually grow as long threads or strands called hyphae, which push their way between soil particles, roots, and rocks. Hyphae are usually only several thousandths of an inch (a few micrometers) in diameter. A single hyphae can span in length from a few cells to many yards. A few fungi, such as yeast, are single cells.

Hyphae sometimes group into masses called mycelium or thick, cord-like “rhizomorphs” that look like roots. Fungal fruiting structures (mushrooms) are made of hyphal strands, spores, and some special structures like gills on which spores form. A single individual fungus can include many fruiting bodies scattered across an area as large as a baseball diamond.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/fungi.html



Chapter 5:  SOIL PROTOZOA

By Elaine R. Ingham

 

THE LIVING SOIL:  PROTOZOA

 

Protozoa are single-celled animals that feed primarily on bacteria, but also eat other protozoa, soluble organic matter, and sometimes fungi. They are several times larger than bacteria – ranging from 1/5000 to 1/50 of an inch (5 to 500 µm) in diameter. As they eat bacteria, protozoa release excess nitrogen that can then be used by plants and other members of the food web.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/protozoa.html


Chapter 6:  NEMATODES

By Elaine R. Ingham

THE LIVING SOIL:  NEMATODES

Nematodes are non-segmented worms typically 1/500 of an inch (50 µm) in diameter and 1/20 of an inch (1 mm) in length. Those few species responsible for plant diseases have received a lot of attention, but far less is known about the majority of the nematode community that plays beneficial roles in soil.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/nematodes.html


Chapter 7:  ARTHROPODS

By Andrew R. Moldenke, Oregon State University

THE LIVING SOIL:  ARTHROPODS

Many bugs, known as arthropods, make their home in the soil. They get their name from their jointed (arthros) legs (podos). Arthropods are invertebrates, that is, they have no backbone, and rely instead on an external covering called an exoskeleton.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/arthropods.html



Chapter 8:  EARTHWORMS 

by Clive A. Edwards, The Ohio State University

 

THE LIVING SOIL: EARTHWORMS

 

Of all the members of the soil food web, earthworms need the least introduction. Most people become familiar with these soft, slimy, invertebrates at a young age. Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning that they exhibit both male and female characteristics.

They are major decomposers of dead and decomposing organic matter, and derive their nutrition from the bacteria and fungi that grow upon these materials. They fragment organic matter and make major contributions to recycling the nutrients it contains.

More... http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/concepts/soil_biology/earthworms.html


This information has been resourced from the United Stated Department of Agriculture website. Natural Resources Conservation Service - http://soils.usda.gov/


It has been noted by several researchers that earthworm casts usually contain more "total and nitrate nitrogen, organic matter, total and exchangable magnesium, available phosphorus, base capacity, and moisture equivalent" than their surrounding environment."--(C.A. Edwards and J.R. Lofty, in "Biology of Earthworms", 1977, p.201) This fact should hold true whether the surrounding environment is soil, manure, kitchen waste, or whatever.