The living component of soil is integral to landscape processes. Made up of incredibly diverse organisms from one-celled bacteria and complex micro-arthropods to earthworms and plants, it is the soil food web that makes it possible to have clean air, healthy plants and moderated water flow.
Life on earth is sustained by a complex underground ecological system, but we have disrupted it through ignorance about farming and gardening methods. However, health can be restored. Energetic soil microbiologist Dr Elaine Ingham is leading the way in teaching farmers across the world, by opening the lid on the black box of underground soil processes. She has developed new methods – with and without microscopes – for rapidly assessing soil and foliage-related organisms. The strength of these methods, she insists, is that they “can be learned by the average grower, homeowner or commercial farmer to enable them to monitor life in their soils, composts, compost extracts and teas, sediments and manure lagoons on a daily basis”.
Her classes, workshops, public lectures and online courses focus on grower-related issues, the real costs of intensive chemical use, and the damage these chemicals inflict on soil and foliage. All this in turn enables farmers to increase their productivity, while simultaneously stopping the use of chemical nitrate fertilisers.
Chris Moss has been writing on travel, tech, sex, food, art and books for nearly two decades. He co-founded street paper Hecho en Buenos Aires, writes regularly for the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers, and is now writing a thriller set in Andalusia.
Dr Elaine Ingham