This section deals with the meaning of words (Glossary) used on my site. Words are listed alphabetically, and some may link to other words or examples.


Abiotic - not biotic; not related to life or specific life conditions. Usually meaning physical or chemical factors, such as temperature, humidity, inorganic chemicals.

Aeration - Process by which the oxygen-deficient air in compost is replaced by air from the atmosphere. Aeration can be enhanced by turning. Aerobic - A biochemical process or condition occurring in the presence of oxygen.

Aerobactor - a specific genus of bacteria, most of which are strictly aerobic bacteria.

Aerobe - any organism requiring atmospheric concentrations of molecular oxygen. An organism requiring atmospheric concentrations of molecular oxygen as the final acceptor in metabolism. oxygen as the final acceptor in metabolism.

Aerofication - the process of adding air (oxygen) to a substance, whether solid or liquid. In liquids, often used when utilizing a (air compressor) pump in tanks, or 'splashing' devices in ponds. With lawns, "core-aerofication" is a term used when putting holes in a lawn with a mechanical device (usually a water-filled roller with 'spikes' extending from it) - which is not very effective as an air input device, but can be a very beneficial way to add compost tea into the ground at root level during the airation process.

Actinomycetes - medium temperature colonizers that produce the very thin grayish 'cobweb-type' growths throughout the compost that give a pleasing, earthy smell, like a forest floor. Actinomycetes usually colonize the compost most often AFTER the thermophilic bacteria have been active (2nd turn and during 'curing').

Active fraction organic matter - organic compounds that can be used as food by microorganisms. The active fraction changes more quickly than total organic matter in response to management changes.

AIR FORCE Brewer - is the brand name of ROI compost tea brewers. AF-25 is a 25-gallon brewer; AF-50 brews 50 gallons, and AF-100 produces 100 gallons of tea per brew.
Air Force Brewers are the easiest to clean of any brewer on the market, due to design of the tank stand that permits the tank to tilt for use of a pressure washer.

Anaerobe - An organism requiring reduced oxygen concentrations, or elevated carbon dioxide concentrations in rider to be able to perform metabolic processes. Strict anaerobes typically are killed by even the slightest oxygen concentrations, while facultative anaerobes can function in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions, but use very different metabolic pathways depending on oxygen concentration.

Anaerobic - without oxygen.

Arthropods - are bugs - known as arthropods, that make their home in the soil. They get their name from their jointed (arthros) legs (podos). Arthropods are invertebrates, that is, they have no backbone, and rely instead on an external covering called an exoskeleton.
Arthropods range in size from microscopic to several inches in length. They include insects, such as springtails, beetles, and ants; crustaceans such as sowbugs; arachnids such as spiders and mites; myriapods, such as centipedes and millipedes; and scorpions.
Arthropods can be grouped as shredders, predators, herbivores, and fungal-feeders, based on their functions in soil. Most soil-dwelling arthropods eat fungi, worms, or other arthropods. Root-feeders and dead-plant shredders are less abundant.

Arthropod Functions - what do arthropods do?

  • Shred organic material. Arthropods increase the surface area accessible to microbial attack by shredding dead plant residue and burrowing into coarse woody debris. Without shredders, a bacterium in leaf litter would be like a person in a pantry without a can-opener – eating would be a very slow process. The shredders act like can-openers and greatly increase the rate of decomposition. Arthropods ingest decaying plant material to eat the bacteria and fungi on the surface of the organic material.
  • Stimulate microbial activity. As arthropods graze on bacteria and fungi, they stimulate the growth of mycorrhizae and other fungi, and the decomposition of organic matter. If grazer populations get too dense the opposite effect can occur – populations of bacteria and fungi will decline. Predatory arthropods are important to keep grazer populations under control and to prevent them from over-grazing microbes.
  • Mix microbes with their food. From a bacterium’s point-of-view, just a fraction of a millimeter is infinitely far away. Bacteria have limited mobility in soil and a competitor is likely to be closer to a nutrient treasure. Arthropods help out by distributing nutrients through the soil, and by carrying bacteria on their exoskeleton and through their digestive system. By more thoroughly mixing microbes with their food, arthropods enhance organic matter decomposition.
  • Mineralize plant nutrients. As they graze, arthropods mineralize some of the nutrients in bacteria and fungi, and excrete nutrients in plant-available forms.
  • Enhance soil aggregation. In most forested and grassland soils, every particle in the upper several inches of soil has been through the gut of numerous soil fauna. Each time soil passes through another arthropod or earthworm, it is thoroughly mixed with organic matter and mucus and deposited as fecal pellets. Fecal pellets are a highly concentrated nutrient resource, and are a mixture of the organic and inorganic substances required for growth of bacteria and fungi. In many soils, aggregates between 1/10,000 and 1/10 of an inch (0.0025mm and 2.5mm) are actually fecal pellets.
  • Burrow. Relatively few arthropod species burrow through the soil. Yet, within any soil community, burrowing arthropods and earthworms exert an enormous influence on the composition of the total fauna by shaping habitat. Burrowing changes the physical properties of soil, including porosity, water-infiltration rate, and bulk density.
  • Stimulate the succession of species. A dizzying array of natural bio-organic chemicals permeates the soil. Complete digestion of these chemicals requires a series of many types of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms with different enzymes. At any time, only a small subset of species is metabolically active – only those capable of using the resources currently available. Soil arthropods consume the dominant organisms and permit other species to move in and take their place, thus facilitating the progressive breakdown of soil organic matter.
  • Control pests. Some arthropods can be damaging to crop yields, but many others that are present in all soils eat or compete with various root- and foliage-feeders. Some (the specialists) feed on only a single type of prey species. Other arthropods (the generalists), such as many species of centipedes, spiders, ground-beetles, rove-beetles, and gamasid mites, feed on a broad range of prey. Where a healthy population of generalist predators is present, they will be available to deal with a variety of pest outbreaks. A population of predators can only be maintained between pest outbreaks if there is a constant source of non-pest prey to eat. That is, there must be a healthy and diverse food web.


Bacillus - a specific genus of bacteria, typically gram-positive, rod-shaped, aerobic, spore-forming bacteria, often occurring in chain-like formations. Used generically - any rod-shaped, chain-forming bacteerium.

Bacteria - unicellular microorganisms, occurring in many forms, .

Bacteria - are tiny, one-celled (unicellular) microorganisms, occurring in many forms, existing either as free-living organisms or as parasites, with a broad range of biochemical, sometimes pathogenic (to humans) properties.
Bacteria have an important role in decomposing organic matter, nutrient retention, disease suppression and building soil structure through the formation of micro-aggregates. Particular types of bacteria can undertake a range of other functions including the degradation of toxic compounds and nitrogen fixation.

Generally 4/100,000 of an inch wide (1 µm) and somewhat longer in length. What bacteria lack in size, they make up in numbers. A level teaspoon of productive soil generally contains between 100 million and up to 1 billion bacteria. That is as much mass as two cows spread over the top quarter inch of soil in one acre. The cows would not appreciate that...

Bacteria Types

  • Nitrogen-fixing bacteria form symbiotic associations with the roots of legumes like clover and lupine, and trees such as alder and locust. Visible nodules are created where bacteria infect a growing root hair (Figure 4). The plant supplies simple carbon compounds to the bacteria, and the bacteria convert nitrogen (N2) from air into a form the plant host can use. When leaves or roots from the host plant decompose, soil nitrogen increases in the surrounding area.
  • Nitrifying bacteria change ammonium (NH4+) to nitrite (NO2) then to nitrate (NO3) – a preferred form of nitrogen for grasses and most row crops. Nitrate is leached more easily from the soil, so some farmers use nitrification inhibitors to reduce the activity of one type of nitrifying bacteria. Nitrifying bacteria are suppressed in forest soils, so that most of the nitrogen remains as ammonium.
  • De-nitrifying bacteria convert nitrate to nitrogen (N2) or nitrous oxide (N2O) gas. Denitrifiers are anaerobic, meaning they are active where oxygen is absent, such as in saturated soils or inside soil aggregates.
  • Actinomycetes are a large group of bacteria that grow as hyphae like fungi. They are responsible for the characteristically “earthy” smell of freshly turned, healthy soil. Actinomycetes decompose a wide array of substrates, but are especially important in degrading recalcitrant (hard-to-decompose) compounds, such as chitin and cellulose, and are active at high pH levels. Fungi are more important in degrading these compounds at low pH. A number of antibiotics are produced by actinomycetes such as Streptomyces.

Beneficial Organisms - non-pathogenic life; often improving the growth of a desired organism in a more-or-less mutualistic association, where both organisms benefiit from the presence or association of the other.

Butyyric Acid - a volitile organic acid produced through the incomplete anaerobic oxidation of organic matter, typically identified as "sour milk' smell.


Cation Exchange Capacity

Centipedes - are multi-segmented invertebrates, with each body segment having one pair of legs. Centipedes feed on other invertebrates of many sizes, and therefore centipedes do not directly assist in decomposing the plant material in compost. However, centipedes are part of the compost community and can coexist with the decomposers, and add protein to the material when they die and leave deposits.

C:N Ratio - Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio. The proportion of carbon to nitrogen affects how quickly microorganisms work. Materials high in carbon include leaves, sawdust, wood chips, and straw. High nitrogen materials are such things as grass clippings, food scraps and manure. The optimum C/N ratio is in the range of 25/1 to 35/1.

'Complexity - means number of species and the number of different kinds of species in the soil.

Compost - Organic matter that is undergoing decomposition or has resulted from decomposition, yet is only PARTIALLY decomposed. FULLY decomposed compost is called Humus.
Finished (aged) compost has many benefits:

  • Improves soil tilth condition, and structure;
  • Icreases the soil's ability to hold water and nutrients;
  • Adds living organisms to soil;
  • Dissolves mineral forms of nutrients by microbial activity;
  • Buffers soil from chemical imbalances;
  • Provides biological control of certain soil pests;
  • Increases organic materials in soil;
  • Keeps organic materials out of landfills and waterways.
  • Can be used as a mulch;
  • Tea from compost is a liquid fertilizer;
  • Can be used as part of a potting media 'recipe'.

Composting - Biological decomposition of organic materials by microorganisms under controlled conditions to a relatively stable product. There are basically two types of composting:

  • Aerobic - which involves oxygen in free air through a process of turning to maintain aerobic conditions. Microbes intake oxygen and exude carbon dioxide, which can fill the pores of decomposing material to the extent that microbe populations cannot 'breathe', and will therefore die (or become dormant), effectively discontinuing the decompostion process unless an exchange of carbon dioxide with oxygen takes place. Which is why Gas Exchange (re-aerating) is one of the most important aspects of aerobic composting.

Technically, aerobic brewing of compost tea in a water solution is an aerobic composting process if organic material/matter is utilized as microbe feedstock. The objective of any composting process is ranching - propagation of a diverse set of microbes.

  • Anaerobic - usually in a liquid solution, without the presence of free oxygen in air, but can also occur in wet mud. Microbes that decompose organic material require water, whether anaerobic or aerobic. Dry organic material does not decompose quickly, or well.

+Compost Tea ~ Why use it?
According to Dr Elaine Ingham:
"The simplest definition of compost tea is a water extract of compost that is brewed, or in other words, the organisms extracted from the compost, the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, were given a chance to increase in number and activity using the soluble food resources and nutrients present in the liquid. An enormous diversity of bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes should be present, depending on the quality of the compost. It is usually made over a minimum 24-hour cycle to ensure optimum extraction and diversity…It is not manure tea, bacterial tea or leachates. Real actively aerated compost tea does not contain human pathogens.
Compost tea is used for three reasons:

  • to innoculate microbial life onto the foliage of plants and/or into the soil;
  • when properly applied with approved programs, will be more cost-effective than traditional non-sustainable applications of fertilizers, pest-control additives; and
  • to add soluble nutrients to the foliage or to the soil, to feed soil organisms and plants at root level.

The use of compost tea is recommended any time the organisms in the soil or on the plants are not at optimum levels. Chemical-based pesticides, fumigants, herbicides and some synthetic fertilizers kill a range of beneficial micro-organisms that encourage plant growth, while compost teas improve the life in the soil and on plant surfaces. Even the use of natural minerals - such as phosphate and lime - can disturb the natural balance of the Soil Foodweb if used improperly.
High quality freshly-brewed compost tea will innoculate the leaf surface and soil with beneficial micro-organisms, instead of destroying them. You can own your own brewer, stick with a proven program, and make compost tea at less than $60 per hectare. In many instances, that figure will enable paying off your Brewer asset in less than 1 year, just in the chemicals you no longer have to buy!!

Compost tea brewing - Compost tea is a brewed water extract of compost that contains all the soluble nutrients, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes from the compost it is brewed with.
Production methods include:

  • completely aerobic - (Actively Aerated Compost Tea - AACT);
  • using fermentative selective conditions (Fermented Compost Tea - FCT);
  • using Limited Brewing Conditions Tea (LBCT) where the tea mixture does not attain a minimum of 5ppm dissolved oxygen, OR suffers a loss of dissolved oxygen (below 5ppm) and returns to aerobic conditions later.
  • using truly anaerobic conditions (Non-Aerobic Compost Tea - NACT).

A true compost tea should contain ALL of the organisms that are present in the compost and will maintain a dissolved oxygen level of 6ppm or higher.
Loss of the aerobic groups when FCT, LBCT or NACT are made, leaves a question whether these products should even be called compost tea. They will all (to some degree) lack the large (aerobic) component of the biology needed to obtain the benefits that are possible from compost or compost tea.

Corms - Compressed underground stem with bud on top, these growths tend to be very hardy.

Counting - organism groups, such as bacteria, protozoa, arthropods, etc.; or subgroups, such as bacterial-feeding, fungal-feeding, and predatory nematodes, are counted and through calculations, can be converted to biomass. Direct counts – counting individual organisms with the naked eye or with a microscope. All organisms can be counted, or only the active ones that take up a fluorescent stain. Plate counts – counting the number of bacterial or fungal colonies that grow from a soil sample.

Cured - Cured compost that has stabilized and is ready to be planted in.

Cured Compost Curing is the biological 'aging' process of 'stabilizing' mature compost to encourage production of humus by diverse microbe populations. Curing takes place naturally, by allowing it to develop a higher content of organic matter before it is used. Fully-cured (aged) compost is often referred to as "Grade A" or Compost-Tea Quality. See also Finishing.


Dead plant material - organic material; detritus; surface residue: All these terms refer to plant, animal, or other organic substances that have recently been added to the soil and have only begun to show signs of decay. Detritivores are organisms that feed on such material.

Decomposition - the process by which organic materials "break down", as in conversion of organic MATERIAL into organic MATTER, generally with biomass reduction, and production of the organisms involved in the decomposition process, along with production of metabolic waste products and carbon dioxide.

Disease suppression - the ability to inhibit, compete with, or consume disease-causing organisms, which prevents them from causing a particular disease. A complex soil food web contains numerous organisms that can compete with disease-causing organisms. These competitors may prevent soil/dirt pathogens from becoming established on plant surfaces or roots, and thereby preventing pathogens from getting food, and thereby propagate.
Further, such beneficial organisms may feed on 'pathogens', or generate metabolites that are toxic to, or inhibit pathogens. Organisms may be called 'pathogens' because they are detrimental to plants (plant pathogens), or animals (animal pathogens) or whatever... Point being, that just because an organism is "classified" by somebody to be a "pathogen" does not mean that it is 'pathogenic' to humans. Unless specifically indicate as such.

Dressing - see: Top-Dressing


Earthworms - are gardener's 'best friend' because they perform many functions that produce excellent compost.
Well - let's be specific here. Compost is an aerobic or anaerobic activity performed my man. Not by animal. Technically, vermicomposting is not composting. The processing of organic material, to turn it into organic matter, through the intestinal system of any animal - is NOT composting. But, I'm not going to be 'picky' here... Earthworms eating decaying organic matter has been called "composting" for longer than I've been alive. So it's "composting". OK. But it's not. Just for the record.
Their primary activity is digesting microbes in/on organic matter (from which they derive their nutrition) to produce rich castings (excrement) that are very nutritious for microbes and therefore, plants.
Earthworms are divided into 23 families, more than 700 genera, and more than 7,000 species. They range from an inch to two yards in length and are found seasonally at all depths in the soil. In terms of biomass and overall activity, earthworms dominate the world of soil invertebrates, including arthropods.
also move through the soil and create passageways for air and water. Furthermore, material that has passed through the earthworm (the castings) are higher in available nutrients than most 'manures'.
High temperature aerobic composting will kill any earthworms present in feedstock if they are not able to escape before temperatures get too hot for them. Therefore, introduce earthworms to the composting system AFTER THE 2nd TURN of the aeration/screening process, when the pile temperatures have stabilized to less than 100 degrees farenheit.
Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning that they exhibit both male and female characteristics.
Earthworms dramatically alter soil structure, water movement, nutrient dynamics, and plant growth. They are NOT essential to all healthy soil systems, but their presence is usually an indicator of a healthy system. Earthworms perform several beneficial functions:

  • Stimulate microbial activity. Although earthworms derive their nutrition from microorganisms, many more microorganisms are present in their feces or casts than in the organic matter that they consume. As organic matter passes through their intestines, it is fragmented and inoculated with microorganisms. Increased microbial activity facilitates the cycling of nutrients from organic matter and their conversion into forms readily taken up by plants.
  • Mix and aggregate soil. As they consume organic matter and mineral particles, earthworms excrete wastes in the form of casts, a type of soil aggregate. Charles Darwin calculated that earthworms can move large amounts of soil from the lower strata to the surface and also carry organic matter down into deeper soil layers. A large proportion of soil passes through the guts of earthworms, and they can turn over the top six inches (15 cm) of soil in ten to twenty years.
  • Increase infiltration. Earthworms enhance porosity as they move through the soil. Some species make permanent burrows deep into the soil. These burrows can persist long after the inhabitant has died, and can be a major conduit for soil drainage, particularly under heavy rainfall. At the same time, the burrows minimize surface water erosion. The horizontal burrowing of other species in the top several inches of soil increases overall porosity and drainage.
  • Improve water-holding capacity. By fragmenting organic matter, and increasing soil porosity and aggregation, earthworms can significantly increase the water-holding capacity of soils.
  • Provide channels for root growth. The channels made by deep-burrowing earthworms are lined with readily available nutrients and make it easier for roots to penetrate deep into the soil.
  • Bury and shred plant residue. Plant and crop residue are gradually buried by cast material deposited on the surface and as earthworms pull surface residue into their burrows.

Effective Microorganisms(EM) - Effective Micro-organisms were isolated from traditional ferments of vegetable materials, such as cabbage and kitchen waste (bokashi). The main organisms typically found in EM are (1) Lactobacillus (about 6 to 8 species), (2) actinobacteria (as low as one to as many as 20 species), (3) purple, non-sulphur photosynthetic cyanobacteria (typically only 1 species, although at times 2 to 3 have been observed) and (4) many, many different types of yeasts, which are the fungi that can grow in facultative anaerobic conditions. All of the organisms in the EM product (sold by this Australian laboratory) are facultative anaerobes. Their observed benefits in soil, compost or tea are that they produce copious quantities sticky material, which can result in rapid soil aggregation and ability to stick to plant leaf surfaces. Organic acids which may help stabilize pH if soil is too alkaline are also made in high concentrations by facultative microbes (but those sticky substances are not the same as the lower pH, much ‘nastier’ acids that are made by non-beneficial species of bacteria and yeasts) which grow in more classically anaerobic (none or very little oxygen) conditions. Probably the best thing about EM organisms is that they compete with human pathogens in the conditions that the human pathogens usually grow the best – facultative conditions. EM organisms will typically out-compete any human pathogen growing in reduced oxygen conditions, even with high concentrations of sugar (for example, molasses). More work needs to be done before government regulatory agencies will accept this method for control of human pathogens, but replicated work has been done by both the SFI parent organization regarding EM studies, as well as several other studies and many observations by SFI in field conditions. For example, in one study, dairy animals fed EM in their food rations did not have E. coli in their manure. Compost made from that manure had no human pathogens detectable in it, because (ostensibly) they were not in the manure. Are there limitations and abuses that people could perform to make EM not work? Sure. We need to document where (1) benefit can always be expected, where (2) benefits might be questionable and need to be tested, and (3) where benefit will not occur.

Enterobacteriaceae' - are a large family of bacteria, including many of the more familiar pathogens, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Genetic studies place them among the Proteobacteria, and they are given their own order (Enterobacteriales), though this is sometimes taken to include some related environmental samples.

Members of the Enterobacteriaceae are rod-shaped, and are typically 1-5 μm in length. Like other Proteobacteria they have Gram-negative stains,[1] and they are facultative anaerobes, fermenting sugars to produce lactic acid and various other end products. Most also reduce nitrate to nitrite, although exceptions exist (e.g. Photorhabdus).
Many members of this family are a normal part of the gut flora found in the intestines of humans and other animals, while others are found in water or soil, or are parasites on a variety of different animals and plants. Escherichia coli, better known as E. coli, is one of the most important model organisms, and its genetics and biochemistry have been closely studied.

Exudates - simple sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, enzymes and hormones released by organisms and plants into the environment, typically for the express purpose of encouraging the growth of bacteria and fungi which form a biological shield around plants and their roots, thus preventing desease-causing organisms from growing to harmful proportions and detecting the root.


Faculative Anaerobe - organism that can perform metabolism using either oxyben or inorganic molicules as the final electron acceptor in metabolism. These organisms generally switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism at low oxygen concentrations.

Fermentation - a decompostion process that involves specific microbe groups that produce carbon dioxide. Both aerobic and anaerobic processes can be included as a 'fermentive' process, although usually this term refers to an anaerobic process in which alcohol is produced, such as in wine or beer fermentation.

Fermentor - a vessel used for a fermentation process such as making beer or wine. Broadly applied, any container in which metabolic processes are being performed.

Finishing Compost - a term used for the process of 'curing' compost to allow a greater degree of organic matter and humus. Maintaining a consistent moisture content is very important to the aging process. See also Curing.

Fish Products - Different fish contain very different amounts and types of oils, proteins, bone, and cartilage. Recognise that fish from contaminated waters will be high in that contaminant. Read the Fish Product labels carefully to determine content, as knowledge of too-high levels of heavy metals or inorganic salts will be revealed there.

Knowledge of the level of these chemicals in your soil is necessary in order to know if the addition of a great deal, a little or no mineral would be beneficial to the plants being grown. Data are needed to know how much can be added safely or how much needs to be added to the soil.

As with so much in life, there is a Goldilocks principle in all of this, enough but not too much is what is required. You need to know how much can be added, or how much needs to be added, in order to determine the amount of any of these products from a chemical point of view.

  • Fish hydrolysate: Fish hydrolysate, in its simplest form, is basically ground up fish carcasses. After the fish fillets are removed for human consumption, the remaining fish body, (which means the guts, bones, cartilage, scales, meat, etc.), is put into water and ground up. Some fish hydrolysate is ground more finely than others so more bone material is able to remain suspended. Alternatively, enzymes may be used to solubilise bones, scale and meat. If the larger chunks of bone and scales are screened out, calcium or protein, or mineral content may suffer. Look at the label carefully for the concentration of mineral elements in the liquid.Some fish hydrolysates have been made into a dried product, but most of the oil is left behind in this process, which means a great deal of the fungal-food component would be lacking.
  • Fish Emulsion: If fish hydrolysate is heated, the oils and certain proteins can be more easily removed to be sold in purified forms. The complex protein, carbohydrate and fats in the fish material are denatured, which means they are broken down into less complex foods. Over-heating can result in destruction of the material as a food to grow beneficial organisms. Once the oils are removed and proteins denatured and simplified by the heating process, this material is called a fish emulsion. How much heating? How much of the fungal food was removed? Testing is needed to determine what organisms the product will select for growth.
  • Fish Oils: Fish oils, removed when fish hydrolysate is heated to a high enough temperature to drive the oil to the surface, typically are fungal foods. The Carbon:Nitrogen ratio (C:N) of oil is generally wide enough to limit the bacterial response, although contamination with denatured protein from over-heated fish can result in a bacterial response. Both bacterial and fungal growth could be desirable in certain instances, while strictly fungal growth would be desired in other cases. A simple way to assess how much damage to the complex organic structure occurred during processing (cooking and purifying steps) is to determine how well beneficial fungi grow in the material before versus after processing.
  • Dry Fish Products: Hydrolysates and emulsions can be dried. But many of the complex oils, fats and structurally complex proteins are lost. All dried fish materials need to be tested to determine whether fungal foods are still present after drying.

Foliar foodweb - What is the foliar foodweb? Dr Elaine Ingham explains that: “The foliar foodweb is the set of organisms, similar to the soil foodweb, on the foliage of your plant. The plant leaf, blossoms, stems, etc. release exudates, just like the roots, to feed these organisms and keep a protective layer around the plant so disease can’t attack, and nutrients will be cycled correctly for the plant.”

FoodWeb - the SET of organism RELATIONSHIPS, often based on who-eats-who, or which organisms cycle a particular nutrient within an ecological community.

Food Webs - each field, forest, or pasture has a unique soil food web with a particular proportion of bacteria, fungi, and other groups, and a particular level of complexity within each group of organisms. These differences are the result of differences in soil, disturbance of soil (dirt) vegetation, and climate factors, as well as other land management practices, including proximity of grazing animals.

Food Web Primary Producers plants, lichens, moss, photosynthetic bacteria, and algae that use the sun’s energy to fix carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Most other soil organisms get energy and carbon by consuming the organic compounds found in plants, other organisms, and waste by-products. A few bacteria, called chemoautotrophs, get energy from nitrogen, sulfur, or iron compounds rather than carbon compounds or the sun.

Fulvic Acid - a particular fraction of complex humic material, composed of medium molecular weight, long-chain organic compounds, typically 2,000 to 6,000 dalton-length chains. May refer to recalcitrant humic materials that can still be used by certain bacteria. Turnover times may be 100 to 3,000 years in some soils, but usually less in dirt.

Fungi - are simple plants of the division Thallophyta, that lack chlorophyll (the green pigment that allows most plants to convert sunlight into carbohydrate). Instead, most fungi obtain nutrients from dead plant matter (saprophilic). Therefore, Fungi are important decomposers that may range in form from a single cell to a body mass of branched filamentous hyphae that often produce specialized fruiting bodies (such as yeasts, molds, smuts and mushrooms). Fungi that develop in compost are most active in the later stages of the compost pile, where they finish the decomposition of materials partially decomposed by thermophilic microbes.
Hyphae usually grow as long threads or strands, which push their way between soil particles, roots, and rocks. Hyphae are usually only several thousandths of an inch (a few micrometers) in diameter. A single hyphae can span in length from a few cells to many yards. A few fungi, such as yeast, are single cells.

Fungi Groups - Three general functional groups:

  • Decomposers – saprophytic fungi – convert dead organic material into fungal biomass, carbon dioxide (CO2), and small molecules, such as organic acids. These fungi generally use complex substrates, such as the cellulose and lignin, in wood, and are essential in decomposing the carbon ring structures in some pollutants. A few fungi are called “sugar fungi” because they use the same simple substrates as do many bacteria. Like bacteria, fungi are important for immobilizing, or retaining, nutrients in the soil. In addition, many of the secondary metabolites of fungi are organic acids, so they help increase the accumulation of humic-acid rich organic matter that is resistant to degradation and may stay in the soil for many hundreds of years.
  • Mutualists – the mycorrhizal fungi – colonize plant roots. In exchange for carbon (energy) from the plant, mycorrhizal fungi help solubolize phosphorus and bring other nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, micronutrients, and perhaps water) to the plant. One major group of mycorrhizae, the ectomycorrhizae grow on the surface layers of the roots and are commonly associated with trees, particularly conifers. The second major group of mycorrhizae are the endomycorrhizae that grow within the root cells and are commonly associated with grasses, row crops, vegetables, and shrubs. Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi are a type of endomycorrhizal fungi. Ericoid mycorrhizal fungi can by either ecto- or endomycorrhizal.
  • Parasites (pathogens), cause reduced production or death when they colonize roots and other organisms. Root-pathogenic fungi, such as Verticillium, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia, cause major economic losses in agriculture. But many fungi help control diseases. For example, nematode-trapping fungi that parasitize disease-causing nematodes, and fungi that feed on insects may be useful as biocontrol agents.



Humic Acids - a particular fraction of complex humus, composed of extremely recalcirant, high molecular weight, very long-chain organic compounds typically 6,000 to 600,000 daltons in length, and highly structured in a three-dimensional manner. VERY resistant to any further decomposition, and highly condensed. Turnover time in soil or dirt may be as long as 3,000 years. Humic Acids: Humic acids are complex, highly condensed organic matter, with a high molecular weight which results in a deep, rich dark brown colour to these products.

Depending on the exact structure of the molecules, humic acids can bind salts, heavy metals, toxics, pesticides, and a variety of other reactive or ionic materials. Estimates have been made that each 1g of humic acid material can tie-up 1mg of ionic material. This means that the toxic material is no longer plant available. The benefit of having complex, highly condensed organic matter is readily apparent. The amount of humic acid material and thus the ability of that material to bind ions depends on the original source of plant material.

Typically humic/fulvic acids are extracted with very strong bases/acids from leonardite, which is soft, brown coal(or slightly less than 'coal' if less ancient such as humic substance deposits in west Texas). These strong acids and bases have to be neutralised before addition of the micro-organisms, or the acids and bases will harm the organisms. In addition, the humics extracted are denatured by the acid base reflux used, and thus the best products for growing microbes re-nature the humic acids before use.

If the pH of the product is very acidic or basic, the material needs to be brought to neutral pH before use. If pH is not adjusted, then the organic material will need processing by microbes before benefit will be apparent.

Fungi do the most work in the condensation processes of building highly complex materials like humic acid, although microarthropods, earthworms, protozoa and bacteria are also needed for full diversity of good humic materials.

As fungi decompose humic acids, they release simpler compounds, so of which are bacterial foods. Thus most humics have both a fungal and a bacterial growth response.

Humics - the mixture of all recalcitrant, long-turnover time organic compounds in soil or dirt, including both fulvic and humic fractions.

Humified organic matter - complex organic compounds that remain after many organisms have used and transformed the original material. Humus is not readily decomposed because it is either physically protected inside of aggregates or chemically too complex to be used by most organisms. Humus is important in binding tiny soil aggregates, and improves water and nutrient holding capacity.

Humus - organic material which is COMPLETELY decomposed by microbes. It is a relatively stable form of carbon, sequestered in soils and dirt for decades or even centuries. It is the END PRODUCT of composting.


Inoculants - Also called "activator" or "compost starter." A material rich in microorganisms which is added to the compost pile to accelerate the decomposition process. (Finished compost, manure, soil, are types of inoculants.)

Inorganic - Derived from a non-living source. e.g., rocks, sand, and plastic or shells (when used as mulch).

Invertebrates - (external structure) are common in compost and include: sowbugs, spiders, earthworms, millipedes, and centipedes. When you see these "critters" in your compost, it is a good sign that the bacterial activity and temperatures in the pile are low. This may mean that the compost is ready for use, or it may also indicate that the compost pile is not decomposing properly and not becoming hot enough to dissuade these creatures from populating the feedstock material.

Irrigate - to water.



KELP - Plant material from dried kelp: Kelp contains mineral components normally found in the proper balance for plants growth, in chelated forms. (Also available as Kelp Powder).

If harvested green and rapidly dried, the product will contain bacterial foods in the form of simple sugars and proteins, and fungal foods such as cellulose and wide C:N materials. If harvested after the plant sets seed or goes dormant, then only the fungal foods are normally present. Kelp also serves as a surface for fungi and bacteria to grow on (as does any particulate material).

Different kelps contain different mineral nutrients in varying ratios depending on water quality. Chemical analysis should be available from the seller so the proper choices can be made to return the missing mineral components. Use the kelp which supplies the lacking nutrient in high enough concentration to make a difference, depending on what you need in your soil. The addition will need to be to the soluble pool if soil lacks the proper biology. To the exchangeable pool if the nutrient cycling sets of organisms are present. Possibly no addition may be required if the mineral rock material contains plenty AND the proper biology is present and functioning.

Determination of what is chemically missing requires soil chemistry assessment. If no biology is present, then the soluble soil chemistry pool must be amended, since that will be the only pool available for plant uptake. If biology is present, then an Albrecht, or exchangeable pool assessment can be used, since there will be organisms to do nutrient cycling into plant available forms.

Different kelp species are known to contain very different sets of bacterial or fungal foods. They may contain an innoculum of bacteria and yeast which are adapted for marine habitats, not soil. Highly salty soils may have the same microbes, so in high EC soils, the biology needed can be enhanced. Most soils are not that salty. However some benefits have been observed by adding the species of salt-tolerant, and salt-utilising microbes that could only have come from the kelp.

Thus kelp can be a very versatile product, supplying bacterial and fungal foods as well as the missing nutrients, if it is harvested, washed, and processed carefully with any eye to preserving all these potential benefits. A careful assessment of what each kelp product can do to the biology and well as what it might fix chemically is required.


Labile organic matter - organic matter that is easily decomposed (metabolized).

Late Blight - a disease deadly to potato and other plants. Catching an outbreak in its earliest stages can reduce losses and increase options for control. Growers should check plants twice a week. It is important to look at leaves and stems under the canopy, as this is where the disease gets established first. Growers who think they have late blight should contact their local Cooperative Extension Office for more information.

The first sign of infected tissue is a water-soaked appearance of the leaves, which, in dry weather, quickly turn dark brown and brittle. Infected areas may be surrounded by a halo of chlorotic, or yellowed, tissue. During moist weather, a white cottony growth will develop on the underside of the leaves. Infected stems and petioles will turn dark brown or black.

Symptoms first show up around low-lying areas, ponds or creeks, near center-pivot irrigation rigs and in places protected from wind. Early planted fields are likely to be affected first. The ideal conditions for an epidemic of late blight are when night temperatures are 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, along with fog, heavy dew, rain or overhead irrigation, accompanied by daytime temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees.

Lawn = PITA = acronym for "Pain in the Ass". Turf areas are one of the most historically assinine developments of the modern age.
Historically, lawns in England were maintained only by rich people. When lawns did exist, they were mostly camomile and thyme. Lawns are an example of horiticultural practices and manufacture of mechanical contrivances promoted by greed that waste fossil fuels for no reason except to satisfy GREED for money by people and companies who promote lawns. I personally know Cooperative Extension Agents who spend a third of their time dealing with lawn issues. Ask yourself - what actual benefit do lawns produce in comparison to what they cost in money and time?
SMART people replace lawns with ground creepers such as Creeping Jenny. There are MANY alternatives to lawns, including natural meadows, butterfly gardens, rain gardens, and kitchen gardens. Planting trees and shrubs in naturalistic arrangements can help restore habitat for birds and wildlife.
If a lawn-like area is desired, use regionally appropriate species of low growing or mowable plants in lawn areas such as clover, creeping Charley, or sedum - instead of high-maintenance turf grass.
Turf grass only supports an industry that wastes time and money.
Lawn has NO benefits whatsoever except 'beauty' in the eye of the beholder who has been duped into believing that growing a lawn was a sign of prosperity. Assinine bunk, in this author's opinion. But don't believe me - check out the history for yourself. And quit wasting money and time on a growing a lawn!!

Lignin - a hard-to-degrade compound that is part of the fibers of older plants. Fungi can use the carbon ring structures in lignin as food.

Living organisms - bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, earthworms, arthropods, and living roots.


Measuring Microbe Activity' - Activity is determined by measuring the amount of by-products, such as CO2, generated in the soil, or the disappearance of substances, such as plant residue or methane used by a large portion of the community or by specific groups of organisms. These measurements reflect the total “work” the community can do. Total biological activity is the sum of activities of all organisms, though only a portion are active at a particular time.

  • Respiration – measuring CO2 production. This method does not distinguish which organisms (plants, pathogens, or other soil organisms) are generating the CO2.
  • Nitrification rates – measuring the activity of those species involved in the conversion of ammonium to nitrate.
  • Decomposition rates – measuring the speed of disappearance of organic residue or standardized cotton strips.
  • Cellular constituents such as: biomass carbon, nitrogen, or phosphorus – the amount of nutrients in living cells, which can then be used to estimate the total biomass of organisms. Chloroform fumigation is a common method used to estimate the amount of carbon or nitrogen in all soil organisms.
  • Enzymes – in living cells or attached to soil. Assays can be used to estimate potential activity or to characterize the biological community.
  • Phospholipids and other lipids – provide a “fingerprint” of the community, and can quantify the biomass of groups such as fungi or actinomycetes.
  • DNA and RNA – can detect the presence of specific species or groups.

MINERAL ADDITIVES - Any additive to soil, compost or compost tea should be in an organic or chelated form. Chelation means, in a practical sense, complexed with a protein. Another way to think of this is that an ionic form has been complexed with an organic molecule.

Addition of any salt (ionic or inorganic forms are salt forms) has the potential to harm the biology through osmotic effects, so inorganic additions to soil, compost or compost tea should be avoided to the greatest degree possible. Complexing salts with organic matter solves this negative effect.

  • Calcium additions: Calcium has been added to soil for a long time, as far back as humanity has written down records of agricultural practices, calcium in the form of bones and rock powders have been used. Chelated calcium has shown to be much more beneficial to biology than adding the salt forms of calcium, or indeed, any other nutrient. Each formulation enhances different sets of organisms, so data are required to know what will benefit with each product.
  • Calcium Carbonate: Also known as lime, which is a salt or inorganic form of calcium. This will alter the pH of anything to which this is added, and by taking up available hydrogen, will cause pH to raise. The loss of available water and the sudden pH shift can be extremely detrimental to organisms.
  • Calcium sulphate: Also known as gypsum, an inorganic form of calcium and sulphur. This is a salt (disassociates in water, and thus reduces useable water). When sulphate is released, the impact on organisms can be extremely detrimental. Typically the greatest impact is on the beneficial soil fungi. Plate count methods of assessing this impact are extremely mis-leading, as beneficial fungi dont grow in lab conditions on plate media and thus the loss of the important soil fungi is missed when sulfate is released.
  • Dolomite: A salt of calcium and magnesium. Historically used as a source of calcium but contains more magnesium than calcium, and results in even more rapid soil structure collapse after addition. Albrecht clearly showed that montmorillinite clay structure collapses when the ratio of calcium to magnesium drops below 6. Addition of a material that contains more magnesium than calcium drives the balance towards compaction, loss of nutrients from the soil, and if used long enough, will result in the need to use pesticides. If soil lacks magnesium, the better choice is to use kelp containing high levels of magnesium rather than adding dolomite.
  • Epsom salts: A salt form of magnesium and sulphate. Often used to leach calcium out of soil and increase magnesium levels. Except there is no way to leach just one compound without also leaching many other nutrients. In addition, the sulphate has quite negative impacts on microorganisms, especially soil fungi. Don't be mislead by plate count studies showing no impact on soil fungi in plate methods. These methods are incapable of growing 99.9% or more of the fungi actually in soil, and especially miss the beneficial species. The better choice is a chelated calcium, or kelp.


Mesophilic - Microbes which are active in the temperature range between 50°F and 120°F, but thrive between 70° to 90°F. Most of the decomposition that takes place in a compost pile is mesophilic.

Mesophiles - medium temperature microbes.

Metabolites - organic compounds produced by metabolic (within an organism) processes.

Microbes - generally there are three classes of microbes that work in compost piles - bacteria, actinomycetes (or actinobacteria) and fungi.

Microbial - relating to microorganisms.

Microorganisms - Microscopically small living organisms that digest decomposable (organic) materials through metabolic activity. Microorganisms are active in the composting process.

Millipedes - have multiple body segments, each having two pairs of leg segments (except the front few segments which have one leg pair per segment). Millipedes help the compost process by feeding on dead plant matter.

Mulch - Organic or inorganic materials which are spread on the soil surface. Mulch slows down the evaporation of water from the soil, moderates soil temperatures, discourages weeds and beautifies the landscape.

MSW Composting - Municipal Solid Waste Composting. The controlled degradation of the organic materials found in municipal solid waste. Includes some kind of preprocessing to remove non-compostable inorganic materials.

Mycorrhizal Fungi - Literally translated from Greek, mycorrhizae means "fungus-root".
there are two major types of mycorrhizae that develop a symbiotic association between fungi and plant roots, establishing a parasite/host relationship: VAM (vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae also known as Endo) and AMF (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi also known as Ecto). About 95% of terrestrial flowering plants form a relationship with mycorrhizal fungi, and the relationship is considered beneficial to the plant.
Mycorrhizal fungi form a net, called the Hartig Net, on, or within the first or second layer of feeder roots and send rhizomorphs along the root surface. Plants provide carbon energy to fungi that inhabit roots and the mycorrhizae provide nutrients to the plant from beyond reach of the root zone, and a degree of drought-tolerance. Some mycorrhizal relationships have been documented to help prevent plant disease.
Most trees (except conifers) and most agricultural crops depend on or benefit substantially from ENDO (parasitic to INTERIOR of roots) mycorrhizae. Conifer trees benefit from ECTO (parasitic to EXTERIOR of roots) mycorrhizae.
Some plants do not establish mycorrhizal relationships such as several members of the Cruciferae family (e.g., broccoli, mustard), and the Chenopodiaceae family (e.g. lambsquarters, spinach, beets). The level of dependency on mycorrhizae varies among varieties of some other crops, such as wheat and corn.
Land management practices affect the formation of mycorrhizae. The number of mycorrhizal fungi in soil or dirt will decline in fallowed fields or in those consistently planted to crops that do not form mycorrhizae. Frequent tillage may further reduce mycorrhizal associations, and broad spectrum fungicides are toxic to mycorrhizal fungi. Very high levels of nitrogen or phosphorus fertilizer may reduce mycorrhizal inoculation of roots. Some inoculums of mycorrhizal fungi are commercially available and can be innoculated at planting time, with highly beneficial results.
There are three kinds of mycorrhizal testing.

  • Root colonization - This test is performed on plant root samples and will tell you how much mycorrhizae are growing in a sample of roots, expressed as percentage of roots colonized.
  • Spore enumeration - This test is performed on soil, compost, or manufactured inoculum products and will tell you how many mycorrhizal spores are present per gram or milliliter of sample.
  • Colonization potential - This test is performed on soil, dirt or manufactured inoculum to determine the number of mycorrhizal units available.


Nematodes - are non-segmented worms of the phylum Nematoda, having unsegmented thread-like bodies, typically 1/500 of an inch (50 µm) in diameter and 1/20 of an inch (1 mm) in length. Those few species responsible for plant diseases have received a lot of attention, but far less is known about the majority of the nematode community that plays beneficial roles in soil.
A large variety of nematodes function at several trophic levels of the soil food web. Some feed on the plants and algae (first trophic level); others are grazers that feed on bacteria and fungi (second trophic level); and some feed on other nematodes (higher trophic levels).
Free-living nematodes can be divided into four broad groups based on their diet:

  • Bacterial-feeders consume bacteria.
  • Fungal-feeders feed by puncturing the cell wall of fungi and sucking out the internal contents.
  • Predatory nematodes eat all types of nematodes and protozoa. They eat smaller organisms whole, or attach themselves to the cuticle of larger nematodes, scraping away until the prey’s internal body parts can be extracted.
  • Omnivores eat a variety of organisms or may have a different diet at each life stage. Root-feeders are plant parasites, and thus are not free-living in the soil.

The presence of root feeding nematodes in high numbers is an indication that the soil food web is in a degraded state. Beneficial predatory nematodes should be added to the soil where root-feeding nematodes are found.

Nitrogen-fixing Bacteria - the number of free-living (non-legume associated) nitrogen-fixing bacteria in compost varies, depending on the available nitrogen concentration in the feedstock mixture. May be in the range of one thousand (103) to one million (106) CFU/gdw).
Populations of free-living n-f bacteria will proliferate as the available nitrogen in compost decreases. As a consequence, there is typically an inverse relationship between biologically available nitrogen in the compost, and the concentration of free-living n-f bacterial population density.

Nutrient Cycling - The process of conversion of organic and inorganic material form one form to another, generally with the production of biomass by the organism doing the cycling. Production of metabolic waste products which serve as the next step in the nutrient cycle, and carbon dioxide
The opposite of leaching (extraction or loss of nutrients).

Nutrient Leaching - The least mobile nutrients will always be the organic forms, and the most mobilie, or leachable, are the mineral forms.

Nutrient Retention - The opposite of nutient leaching. Requires nutrients to be physically immobilized by inclusion in organic matter (in organisms or organism waste-products such as bacteria, fungi, plants or plant detritus) or by chemically binding on the surface of clay, sands, silts or organic matter by cation exchange.


Organism - a plant or animal; a system regarded as analoguous to a living body.

Organism Ratio - the ratio of fungi to bacteria is characteristic to the type of food web system. Grasslands and fertile soils usually have bacterial-dominated food webs – that is, most biomass is in the form of bacteria. Highly productive agricultural dirt tends to have ratios of fungal to bacterial biomass near 1:1 or somewhat less one way or the other. Forests tend to have fungal-dominated food webs. The ratio of fungal to bacterial biomass may be 5:1 to 10:1 in a deciduous forest and 100:1 to 1000:1 in a coniferous forest.

Organic - Derived from or produced through the biological activity of living organisms.

Oxygenate - To add oxygen


Particulate organic matter (POM) or Light fraction (LF) organic matter - POM and LF have precise size and weight definitions. They are thought to represent the active fraction of organic matter which is more difficult to define. Because POM or LF is larger and lighter than other types of soil organic matter, they can be separated from soil by size (using a sieve) or by weight (using a centrifuge).

Pathogen - Any organism capable of producing disease or infection IN ANYTHING, and TO ANYTHING. Often found in waste material, pathogens are killed by the high temperatures (131°F or higher for 3 days) of the composting process, or by antibiotics, or microcides, or whatever will terminate the life of the organism determined to be detrimental to whatever subject is being discussed. In this author's opinion - a very "over-worked" word.

pH - Literally, "percent Hydrogen" - a measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a material. The pH range for finished compost is generally 6.0 - 8.0, and microbes work quite hard to bring aged compost to 7.0 pH.

Phenols - a benzene carbon ring structure with hydroxyl groups at various positions attached to the carbons in the ring, typically resistant to enqume attack and therefore considered relatively resistant to decomposition. Many phenols have antibiotic or capabilities toxic to microbes - and so are to be avoided in the process of composting.

Photosynthetic Bacteria - fix atmospheric nitrogen and carbon, produce organic matter, and immobilize enough nitrogen and other nutrients to initiate nitrogen cycling processes.

Pillbugs - see "Sowbugs"

'+Plants'+ - Primary organic producers grown from seed, that uses sunlight for energy.

Plant Litter - Residue of plants, above and below the ground's surface. Fungi are common decomposers of plant litter because litter has large amounts of complex, hard-to-decompose carbon. Fungal hyphae (fine filaments) can “pipe” nitrogen from the underlying soil to the litter layer. Bacteria cannot transport nitrogen over distances, giving fungi an advantage in litter decomposition, particularly when litter is not well-mixed into the soil/dirt profile. However, bacteria are abundant in the green litter of younger plants which is higher in nitrogen and simpler carbon compounds than the litter of older plants. Bacteria and fungi are able to access a larger surface area of plant residue after shredder organisms such as earthworms, leaf-eating insects, millipedes, and other arthropods break up the litter into smaller chunks.

Predator - an organism that consumes other living organisms, as opposed to a decomposer, for example, which consumes dead organic material.

Prey - an organism that is eaten by a predator.

Protozoa - a group of single-celled animals that feed primarily on bacteria, but also eat other protozoa, soluble organic matter, and sometimes fungi. They are several times larger than bacteria – ranging from 1/5000 to 1/50 of an inch (5 to 500 µm) in diameter. As they eat bacteria, protozoa release excess nitrogen that can then be used by plants and other members of the food web. Because bacteria contain much more N per unit than C, the N is released as ammonium, a plant-available form of N.
Protozoa are classified into three groups based on their shape:

  • Ciliates are the largest and move by means of hair-like cilia. They eat the other two types of protozoa, as well as bacteria.
  • Amoebae also can be quite large and move by means of a temporary foot or “pseudopod.” Amoebae are further divided into testate amoebae (which make a shell-like covering) and naked amoebae (without a covering).
  • Flagellates are the smallest of the protozoa and use a few whip-like flagella to move.

Pseudomonad - (according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1921): any of a genus (Pseudomonas) of gram-negative rod-shaped motile [polar flagelate] bacteria including some that produce a greenish fluorescent water-soluble pigment and some that are saprophytes or plant or animal pathogens.
According to Wikipedia, this family of bacteria includes the genera Azomonas, Azomonotrichon, Azorhizophilus, Azotobacter, Cellvibrio, Mesophilobacter, Pseudomonas (the type genus), Rhizobacter, Rugamonas, and Serpens. Azotobacteriaceae were recently published as belonging in this family as well.
Derived from Greek 'pseudo' meaning "false" and 'monas' meaning "a single unit". In the year 2000, the complete genome sequence of a Pseudomonas species was determined.
Some species in this genus are plant-pathogens, while some are extremely beneficial to the growth of some plants.

Psychrophilic - Microbe species that work in low temperature range (below 65°F) and are most active around 55°F. In southern US climates, which are warm much of the year, composting rarely utilizes the low temperature bacteria. Except in winter, compost feedstock begins at mesophilic (50°F to 120°Ftemperatures), then increases into the thermophilic range above 131°F, which kills weed seeds and soil-borne diseases that could be detrimental to garden plants.

Psychrophiles - low temperature microbes.



Rebar - solid cylindrical metal bars, approximately 1/2 - 3/4 inch diameter, made in varying lengths from 4' to 40' +. Rebar is used in construction to reinforce the strength of poured concrete. This material may be salvaged from construction sites, or purchased at home hardware stores.

Recalcitrant organic matter - organic matter such as humus or lignin-containing material that few soil organisms can decompose.

Rhizomes - A creeping underground stem; these growths tend to be very hardy.

Rhizosphere - is the narrow region of soil directly around roots. It is teeming with bacteria that feed on sloughed-off plant cells and the proteins and sugars released by roots. The protozoa and nematodes that graze on bacteria are also concentrated near roots. Thus, much of the nutrient cycling and disease suppression needed by plants occurs immediately adjacent to roots.

Root exudates - soluble sugars, amino acids and other compounds secreted by roots.


Soil Aggregation - soil particles (sand, silt, or clay parent material) are bound together through the actions of microorganisms, and includes the space between these particles - formed through the bonding (cation) action, and by the larger faunal organisms in soil or dirt. The more aggregated the soil, in both small and larger ped structures, determines in part, how water and nutrients will be held in that soil or dirt.

Soil Amendments

Soil Classification

Soil Food Web - the living component of soil is complex and has different compositions in different ecosystems. Management of croplands, rangelands, forestlands, and gardens benefits from and affects the food web and the relationships in soil biology to agricultural productivity, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and to air and water quality. The major groups of soil organisms are: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and earthworms.

Soil Organic Matter - includes all the organic substances in or on the surface of the soil or dirt.

Soil Science

Soil Testing

Soluble - capable of being dissolved in a solution, such as water.
Solubilize: (verb) to make or become soluble, as in the addition of detergents to fats to make them dissolve in water.

Species Richnes Diversity (SRD) Index - is a measurement of the diverse 'set' of microbe populations that exist in a given sample, whether in physical compost, compost tea, soil or dirt.
Normally SRD is a classification of a particular microbial functional group - for instance 'aerobic' or 'anaerobic' or 'bacterial' or 'fungal'.
Such index is usually derived from a standard microbial ecology 'formula' that weighs the variety of species within a given functional group - from a 'normalized' analysis of species richness - against the total number of microorganisms associated with that functional group.

Diversity is important because there are numerous known interspecies relationships and inter-population interactions (and others not known but inferred) that contribute to beneficial actions for plants and animals.
Diversity allows for more varied and flexible response to fluctuations, stresses and disturbances within a given microbial community.

The index standard, and for that matter, total species diversity can be compared for given samples and used to determine impact of various agricultural crop management and horticultural practices in relation to microbial diversity found, or to compare and evaluate responses to various microbial products.
Classifications are usually given as high, moderate or low diversities for various indices.

Spiders - may be present in your compost, where they feed on invertebrates. Spiders help control garden pests and are beneficial creatures in finished compost.

Sowbugs (Pillbugs) - sometimes called "rolly-pollies" because they roll up in a ball when touched, come to your pile AFTER temperatures have lowered to the mesophilic range. They feed mostly on WOODY (cellulose/lignin) materials that were not decomposed by microbes existing in the compost community.

Spreaders/Stickers - Spreaders (also called surfactants): Typically reduce surface tension of water, and so cause water to spread more uniformly across surfaces. Concentration of the material is critical as well. Surface tension reduction can adversely affect the integrity of cell walls, resulting in death of microorganisms that such a spreader may contact. Testing is required to know effect on the biology at different concentrations.
Stickers - Increase tackiness or ability to stick to surfaces, and thus help the organisms stick to leaf, bark, flower, or seed surfaces. Often, just through the presence of copious amounts of sugar, protein or carbohydrate, organisms will make sticky glue-like materials.
The growth of organisms in a tea brew results in the production of the sticky materials required to stick the organisms to surfaces, the instant they reach the plant they are sprayed on. Addition of molasses, or oatmeal, for example, increases the growth of organisms that make sticky glue-like materials. Only if dealing with waxy-leafed plants, in dry periods of the year, are additional stickers commonly useful.

Strict Anarobe - organisms that perform metabolism using oxidized forms of nutrients (carbon dioxide, nitrate, nitrite, sulfate, sulfite, etc.) as the final electron acceptor in metabolism. Strict anaerobes will be destroyed when the come in contact with di-oxygen (O2), or ozone (O3) as their membrane structure is broken down by such compounds.


Thatch - According to the University of Illinois Extension Service (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawnchallenge/lesson5.html) "thatch is a layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green matter and the actual surface of the soil"...or dirt. The most common reason that thatch accumulates is due to too much nitrogen fertilizer application.
Thatch is NOT good, which..."creates a favorable environment for pests and disease - an unfavorable growing environment for roots..."
Mechanical dethatching is very destructive to a lawn. Roots are often growing in the thatch, instead of dirt - so plants are easily damaged or torn out.
Thatch is cured by applying microorgansms (principally in compost tea) to the thatch layer to decompose it and make it become part of the dirt in which roots can grow naturally.

Thermophilic - Heat-loving microbes that exist in a temperature range between 104° and 200°F. Ideal range is 122° - 131°F.

Thermophiles - high temperature microbes.

Tilth - The physical condition of soil relative to the ease of plant growth. The "fluffiness" of the soil, so roots grow easily.

Top-Dressing - the act of applying a solid or liquid to the surface of soil or dirt. Often used to describe the activity of applying something on top of the dirt in a garden, such as fertilizer or compost. Side-dressing is a synonymous term, used to apply a substance "to the side" of the stem or trunk of a plant. Whatever you choose to call it - a worthwhile activity - unless what you apply deters or kills plants.

Tubers - Thickened portions of underground stems with eyes or buds on the side (e.g. nutsedge).



VAM (Vesicular Arbuscular Mycorrhiza)' - VAM are a set of endo-mycorrhizal fungi that form arbuscules and vesicles within the roots of the plant.
Mycorrhizal fungi colonise the roots of most plant species, forming a mutually beneficial relationship that has a significant role in nutrient uptake, and protection against root feeding nematodes and pathogens, Mycorrizal fungi are especially important in supplying plant available phosphorous. Many studies have documented a decrease in mycorrizal colonisation when soluble phosphorous levels are high, usually as a result of excessive use of inorganic (chemical) fertilisers.
Host ranges of row crops for VAM are quite broad: the important factor to understand in choosing species of VAM is climate.
Ecto-mycorrhizal fungi form a net, called the Hartig net, within the first one–to–two cell layers of feeder roots and send rhizomorphs along the root surface. When growing conifers, ectomycorrhizal fungal experts should be consulted.
Also See: Mycorrhizal Fungi




Yard Waste - Leaves, grass clippings, yard trimmings and other organic garden debris.


Click Here to see: Compost Containments
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