You may have spotted in previous posts, that we have been preparing a field for building more polytunnels here on the farm this Summer. Alex has sown some of the area with salads and vegetables for this growing season, and the rest with nitrogen fixing cover crops to help prepare the soil and improve soil fertility for seasons to come. Noel, our farm manager and resident expert on biodynamics, took a look, the other day, at the young buckwheat plants that are coming up, and got quite excited!
“This is a young buckwheat plant from the cover crop that Alex sowed in the field. When I dug it up I was very excited by what I saw, so wanted to share it. Often when you pull up a plant like this, the roots will be bare. You can see in this case there is plenty of soil clinging to the roots. This is a sign that there is a healthy symbiotic relationship forming between the plant’s roots and the microbial life in the soil.
When plants photosynthesise they make sugars, but not all the sugars get used by the plant. Some are sent down to the roots and out into the soil as fluids known as “root exudates”. The root exudates feed friendly soil microbes like bacteria and fungi, and create perfect conditions for their growth in the area surrounding the roots. In return, the soil microbes extend the root zone of the plant and allow it to access minerals and trace elements that otherwise would not be available to it. The friendly microbes also protect the plant’s roots from harmful bacteria and nematodes, as well as producing a sticky substance called Glomalin. The glomalin binds soil particles together creating soil structure. This is exactly what you see in the photo !
When plants and soil life exist in a healthy balance like this, the plants become healthy and nutrient dense. These same nutrients get passed up the food chain to the animals and humans who eat them. We would like to see all plant roots on the farm looking like this. I can’t say for sure but this is one of the effects one expects to see after using BD 500p* which we did two weeks before sowing. It would be very soon to see results like this but who knows… it’s encouraging!”
By Noel Higgins
*BD 500p is a field spray used in biodynamic farming – a bit like homeopathy for soil! More on this in another post 😊
**This post was written on June 17th. 9 Weeks Later – Here is how the field is looking on 5th August!