Growers, is your soil or compost part of a healthy microbial food web? Is it supporting plant nutrition, storing water, building resistance to pests and disease, and producing high crop yields with minimal inputs?
Soils that support complex microbial food webs also house the air, water, and nutrients plants need to grow well. Microbial Analysis for Growers teaches participants why healthy microbial communities are critical for plant production at any scale. Learn:
Note: All the equipment needed to conduct routine soil biodiversity analysis will be described within. It is not necessary to have the equipment on hand to take the course.
This prelaunch version of the course will begin with the units that are completed and uploaded as of August 10, 2017. 7 other units have been recorded, and they will be uploaded as soon as editing is complete. Participants that purchase the Pre-launch course will have full access to the final version. The benefits of joining during pre-launch include:
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.
Quiz for Unit 1, Part B
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 Quiz
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dr. Mary Lucero spent thirty years in research, examining plant and microbial interactions in complex agricultural ecosystems. Her conclusions that microbial communities drive all living systems offer transformational insights growers can use to accelerate crop production, reduce the need for agrochemicals, and develop cultural practices that restore soil, conserve water, and repair damaged ecosystems.