Microbial Analysis for Growers
4.7 (99 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
331 students enrolled

Microbial Analysis for Growers

Harness Soil Microbes for Plant Health and Nutrition
4.7 (99 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
331 students enrolled
Created by Mary Lucero
Last updated 1/2020
Current price: $139.99 Original price: $199.99 Discount: 30% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • 2 articles
  • 9 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Use a microscope to determine whether soil microbial density and diversity are adequate to support production of healthy, nutrient dense plants.
  • Learn strategies to increase the microbial diversity and density of your soil.
  • Understand the nutritional, ecological, and economic benefits of putting trillions of microbes to work in your soil.
  • Experience growing plants.
  • Note: You will need a microscope to implement what you learn. We'll show you how to choose one that meets your needs.

     One of the best kept secrets in agriculture is that microbes carry out every function growers rely on chemicals to provide.  When you have adequate microbial diversity and density in your soil microbial community, your need for costly inputs can be reduced or eliminated.  

    Whether you are an urban gardener, growing food in containers on your balcony, a farmer planting hundreds of acres for commercial markets, a landscaper managing city parks, or anyone else who works with plants and soils, learning to recognize microbial indicators of soil health can help you grow better quality plants with higher yields and fewer inputs.  

Microbial Analysis for Growers can help you transform your growing practices. Learn:

  1. When and why a do it yourself soil test for microbes makes sense.

  2. How to choose a microscope suitable for soil testing. 

  3. How to classify and identify important soil microbes by general morphotypes.

  4. How to use your results to help you grow high quality crops. 

  5. How to corroborate your qualitative, visual results with qualitative soil respiration measurements.  

Note:  All the equipment needed to conduct soil biology testing will be described within. It is not necessary to have the equipment on hand to take the course. 

Who this course is for:
  • Anyone who grows plants (farmers, nursery growers, greenhouse growers, home and community gardeners, turfgrass managers).
  • Grower educators (master gardeners, extension agents, crop consultants, certified crop advisors, science and agriscience teachers...).
  • Restoration biologists and soil health technicians
Course content
Expand all 20 lectures 02:55:41
+ Introduction
2 lectures 08:08

Here is a brief introduction to what we will cover in the units ahead.

Written Introduction

Soil productivity declines when microbial diversity and density are not maintained.  This course was developed to give growers tools that allow them to quickly estimate microbial diversity and density with sufficient accuracy to guide routine management decisions.

Preview 03:42
+ Getting Started With Microbial Density and Diversity (MDD)Analysis
16 lectures 02:36:10

How did we do?  Answer these five questions to see how clearly my message is getting across!  Don't know the answer?  Replay the video as often as you like.

Unit 1 Quiz
3 questions
Unit 1-Why Microbes Matter, part B

Quiz for Unit 1, Part B

Unit 1-Why Microbes Matter, part B
1 question

After completing this section, you will be able to discuss both the benefits and the limitations of a Microbial Density and Diversity Analysis.

Unit 2-Why Perform a Microbial Density and Diversity (MDD) Analysis?

Unit 2 Quiz

Unit 2-Why Perform a Microbial Density and Diversity (MDD) Analysis?
3 questions
Unit 3-Choosing Microscopes and Other Equipment
Unit 3-Choosing Microscopes and Other Equipment, Part A
3 questions
Unit 3 Part B-Choosing your Microscope.
Unit 3 Part B Quiz-Microscope Features You Need to Succeed
2 questions

In Unit 4 you will learn how to collect soil, compost, and compost tea samples that provide meaningful insights into the structure and function of associated microbial communities.  Sample storage will also be discussed. 

Unit 4-Taking Informative Samples
Unit 4 Quiz-Taking Informative Samples
3 questions

In Unit 5 you will learn how to extract microbes from your soil sample, prepare a wet mount for analysis, and examine your slide under the microscope.

Unit 5-Sample Preparation Protocol
Unit 5 Quiz-Sample Preparation Protocol
4 questions

In the previous five units, we have discussed how microbes can influence plant production, why microbial analysis can help guide management, the what tools you need to analyze microbes at home, how to collect and prepare your soil samples, and how to examine them under the microscope.   

In unit six, we step back for a moment to look more deeply at the functions of microbial communities within various niches (plant surface, soil crust, rhizosphere, etc.) of the plant ecosystem.  While this particular unit is more theoretical than applied, it is important to appreciate microbial community interactions before the value of having diverse representatives from the kingdoms we will examine in unit 7 become clear. 

Unit 6-Classification of Microbial Communities
Unit 6 Quiz-Classification of Microbial Communities
3 questions
Unit 7-Microbial Kingdoms You Want In Your Soil, Part A.

Taxonomists are scientists that strive to classify living things based on similarities and differences.  Because life and science are both constantly evolving, taxonomy has been changing ever since Carl Linnaeus proposed the binomial nomenclature system.  

In recent decades, the hierarchy of Domain has been placed above Kingdoms, and we have seen three Kingdoms divide into six.  These changes are driven by new technologies that permit classification based on DNA sequence differences. 

In Unit 7A, you reviewed contemporary Domain and Kingdom classifications.   We also discussed differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.  Please answer the questions below to evaluate your understanding of the characteristics that define these categories.

Unit 7 Subunit A-An Overview of Biotic Kingdoms and Domains
4 questions

One feature that helps you distinguish a deer from an elk, or a wolf from a fox, is the size.  In the same manner, size is one of many characteristics you can use to distinguish among different kinds of microbes.  

An optical reticle is strongly recommended, for ensuring more accurate measurements. Before you can use your reticle, you must calibrate each your objectives using an optical micrometer. In this unit, we will show you how that is done. 

As you determine the distance represented by each unit in your reticle write this value on a label you can attach to your microscope. This will help you remember the value as you begin analyzing soil samples.  

Because your reticle remains the same even as you switch objectives, you will need to calculate a unique value for each objective on your microscope. 

Many microscope dealers offer excellent training on how to calibrate your objectives.  Links to some of these additional resources are included.   

Unit 7 Subunit B-Measuring Microbes

     The questions below will assess your understanding of how to calibrate your eyepiece reticle against your objective micrometer so that use your reticle to measure the microbes you observe under the microscope.

Unit 7B Quiz-Measuring Microbes
3 questions

     In subunit 7C, you will learn to distinguish living microbial cells from the mineral matter, organic debris, and other objects present in soil.  You will also learn to recognize prokaryotic cells based on their size and shape.

Unit 7 Subunit C-Recognizing Living Cells and Identifying Prokaryotes
Unit 7 Subunit C-Recognizing Living Cells and Identifying Prokaryotes
3 questions

Learn the key features that distinguish each kingdom of eukaryotic cells (Protista (protists), Fungi, Plantae (plants), and Animalia (animals).  Find online resources that can help you recognize protists and fungi.

Unit 7-D Recognizing Eukaryotes

Review distinguishing features of protists, fungi, plants, and animals

Unit 7 Subunit D-Recognizing Eukaryotes
3 questions

     If you are going through the trouble of collecting soil samples, it is worth your time to consider soil physical properties in addition to microbial diversity and abundance.  In this subunit, you will learn how to estimate soil pH, texture, and humic acid content of your soil.   The methods described here for are chosen for speed and ease of use in farm and garden environments. They are less precise than a laboratory analyses.

Unit 8-Record Keeping Pt A-Soil Quality Estimates

Review simple soil quality estimates you can perform in conjunction with your MDD Analysis.

Unit 8 Part A Quiz- Optional Soil Quality Estimates
3 questions

Summarize and record observations of microbial density and diversity.

Unit 8-Record Keeping Pt. B Estimating Density and Diversity

Learn how to minimize errors tied to your MDD Analysis.  Consider features of rich microbial communities and organic amendments that buffer plant systems against change created by human error.   Learn how to interpret results of your MDD Analysis. 

Unit 8 Pt. C Minimizing Error, Keeping Records, and Interpreting Results
Unit 8 Part C Quiz
2 questions

Learn two simple principles that help you apply your MDD Analysis results to management of high yield, nutrient dense crops, pest resistant fruits and vegetables, beautiful gardens, and healthy landscapes. 

Unit 8 Pt. D. Using Results to Guide Management
Unit 8 Part D Quiz
2 questions
+ Written Summary with Flow Charts
1 lecture 00:03

You understand the theory, and you know what to look for.  But there is a lot to remember your first few times through.  This quick protocol and two flow charts can be printed out and checked off step by step as you carry out your own MDD Analysis and interpret your results. 

Summary and Flow Charts to Guide Your First Analysis
+ Section 4-Measuring Soil Respiration
1 lecture 11:19

Did you know soil breathes?  Okay, it doesn't exactly inhale and exhale like you and I do.  But the cellular respiration processes that convert sugars to carbon dioxide (CO2) are as essential to soil creatures as they are to you and I.  This means soil microbes are constantly releasing CO2, kind of like you release CO2 when we breath. The amount of CO2 the soil releases can  be used as a vital sign of sorts.  If you stopped exhaling and releasing CO2, that would not be a good sign.  The same is true for your soil.  High levels of CO2 production suggest more healthy microbial cells are thriving in your soil. 

In this unit, you will learn how to measure the amount of CO2 your soil produces with a do it yourself kit. 

Unit 9-Measuring Soil Respiration
Unit 9-Measuring Soil Respiration
4 questions