November/December 2022 - 18

SOIL HEALTH
Feeding Microbes
Improve postharvest water holding capacity with
proper microbial management
BY CASSIDY MILLION
DIRECTOR OF AG SCIENCE, HELIAE AGRICULTURE
50%
W
hile all things agriculture are only possible
with water, there are few farmers who have
never cursed water at its extremes.
West Coast and Southwest tree nut farmers manage
widespread, year-after-year drought conditions.
Southern pecan farmers are forced to wait for the
rain to stop and hope flooding doesn't cause too much
damage. In both scenarios, the worst thing a grower can
do is be unprepared.
Soil health (the biological integrity of the soil) and
soil quality (how well soil does its job) both play a part
in water holding capacity. Growers should support the
physical, biological and chemical properties of soil to
improve irrigation water productivity, water storage
and crop productivity. When California almond growers
adopted soil health management practices, nut yields
increased 10% to 20%.
Whether your orchard is prone to flooding or droughts,
growers can activate soil microbes to improve water
holding capacity and reduce extreme weather damage and
abiotic stressors.
Formulating the ideal soil for water
holding capacity
The healthier the soil, the more water it can retain in
drought - and the more water it can move through the soil
profile if there's excess. Here are some things to consider
when determining soil health and quality.
Texture: Depending on the type of nut trees and the
environmental impacts, soil texture should include a
composition of sand, silt and clay.
Structure: Healthy soils have soil particles arranged
into aggregates, which are essential for water and
nutrient movement, penetration and retention.
Drainage and aeration: These both are essential to
avoid nutrient loss and solubility. Poor drainage or soil
18 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2022
lacking aeration can be at greater risk to flood damage.
Moisture: Essential for any orchard, moisture
promotes nutrient uptake, root growth and overall tree
well-being.
pH: Important to know and understand, as pH can
change nutrient forms and affect nutrient availability.
Temperature: Soil temperature can affect nutrient
uptake and an orchard's ability to grow.
Soil microbes: These microorganisms promote
healthy soil texture, structure, drainage, moisture
retention, soil temperatures and nutrient availability.
Soil microbes should be abundant, diverse, active and
well-fed for you to reap these benefits.
By understanding the chemical, physical and
biological makeup of your soil, you can support your
orchard's overall health and well-being.
What are soil microbes?
Soil microbes are microorganisms in the soil. One
tablespoon of soil can have 50 billion soil microbes!
They improve soil structure, texture and plant nutrient
availability - but only if they're active. As a survival
mechanism, soil microbes will go dormant due to
starvation or lack of water. Roughly 75% of farm soil
microbes are dormant.
To wake them up and receive the benefits of active soil
microbes in the orchard, they must be fed a carbon-rich
microbial food. Root exudates can be a food source for
soil microbes from June to August, but this is normally
not enough. Some types of soil microbial food include
microalgae, molasses and compost. Tree nut farmers
should look for a soil microbial food that's easy to add to
their current applications.
Once active, soil microbes help mitigate abiotic
stress. From water management to stress management,
supporting bacteria and fungi soil microbes is crucial.

November/December 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of November/December 2022

November/December 2022 - 1
November/December 2022 - 2
November/December 2022 - 3
November/December 2022 - 4
November/December 2022 - 5
November/December 2022 - 6
November/December 2022 - 7
November/December 2022 - 8
November/December 2022 - 9
November/December 2022 - 10
November/December 2022 - 11
November/December 2022 - 12
November/December 2022 - 13
November/December 2022 - 14
November/December 2022 - 15
November/December 2022 - 16
November/December 2022 - 17
November/December 2022 - 18
November/December 2022 - 19
November/December 2022 - 20
November/December 2022 - 21
November/December 2022 - 22
November/December 2022 - 23
November/December 2022 - 24
November/December 2022 - 25
November/December 2022 - 26
November/December 2022 - 27
November/December 2022 - 28
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