CONTROL “WEEDS” AND NURTURE SOIL HEALTH BY UNDERSTANDING THE STAGES OF ECOLOGICAL SUCCESSION FROM BARE DIRT TO MATURE FOREST
In regenerative agroforestry we work too hard for bad results when we unwittingly adopt the practices of degenerative agriculture, i.e., excessive weeding, tillage, chemical fertilizers and biocides, all of which keep the soil in a degraded state.
This image is from a stellar, inspired and accessible book called “Regenerative Soil, The Science & Solutions” by Matt Powers.
Here’s what the image conveys:
From left to right, as an ecosystem moves through the stages of succession from bare soil to mature forest, it moves from alkaline to acid, from bacterial dominant to fungal dominant and from arid to humid.
Understanding the stages of ecological succession can be the key to controlling “weeds” which are often present because bad management keeps the soil in a degraded state, i.e., closer to the early stages of succession.
A section of ground dominated by vines, shrubs and trees with slightly acid fungal dominant soil is going to be less inviting to “weeds.”
There are exceptions to this rule. Certain invasive species might be strong no matter how carefully you nurture soil health. However, it is harder for them to invade a mature ecosystem that includes a healthy soil ecosystem.
PRINCIPLES OF SOIL HEALTH
-Avoid synthetic fertilizers
-Avoid toxic and synthetic biocides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.
-Avoid bare ground. Always keep the ground covered with SOMETHING, whether living roots, (like cover crops) or organic matter (like leaves, limbs, logs, wood chips, mulch or crop clippings).
This 1) nurtures soil health, 2) enhances soil structure and function and 3) infuses the soil food web with a diverse and robust community of living things—bacteria, protozoa, fungi, nematodes, worms, slugs, ants, etc.
This community of living things IS soil health. This underground community of living things delivers bio-available nutrients to the plants. The plant community then returns the favor by nurturing an ever more robust soil food web.
A NEW FRONTIER
This whole discussion of soil health lead by Elaine Ingham, Christine Jones, Ray Archuleta, Matt Powers, and Gabe Brown is—arguably—the new frontier.
This topic has been so neglected for so long and is so little understood. But “in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” A little knowledge goes a long way.
If you grow the soil, the soil will grow your plants.
“Soil and plants are one.”