Props needed – large sheet of paper with precollected soil with mycellium in it, and mycorrhizal funghi
Pass out I gram of soil to each person.
Explain what is in it – amount of bacteria, DNA etc – There is more bacteria in the gram of soil than there are humans on the planet.
Brainstorm: what is soil life and what does it do?
Bacteria – Decomposers of simple organic matter, nitrogen fixers (in symbiosis with plants). They also cause diseases in plants, animals and funghi.
Funghi – Decomposers of more complex matter eg wood, they help move nutrients and information around underground to different plants, they are also pathogenic sometimes.
Activity – Pass round examples of mycorrhizal funghi and an example of mycellium in leaf mould, sticking it together and connecting it. This is from forest soil, which is more stable, and richer in more complex organic matter, and is therefore more dominated by funghi. Garden soil is more bacteria dominated.
Protozoa – These eat bacteria and funghi, releasing their nutrients for other organisms.
Nematodes, insects, worms etc – these break down organic matter and soil to make it smaller and more available for the micro organisms. They also transport spores and bacteria around under the soil, helping them move much further than they would on their own.
Plants – these send sugars down into the soil to synergise with soil life. They control which bacteria are around them by sending different chemicals and sugars. Plants also communicate stress and other messages via the mycellium.
How to enrich soil life:
Feed with organic matter
Inoculate with healthy soil (which contains may micro organisms)
Compost tea (to add in bacteria etc)
Grow plants that will improve the soils as well.