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Re: Species diversity + Plate Culture
Still, there are other uses of plate counts...
One useful aspect of plate culture is to look at potential
for disease suppression and pathogen inhibition, by
microbial cultures or with compost samples. Make a
compost extract and put your sample in there and let the
critters duke it out.
Pathogen Inhibition Assay @ Bob Baars site
It is also interesting to just grow out microbes from composts
and soils and microbial inoculants. You can "see" diversity for
yourself as the different microbial cultures start to grow on a plate.
Compare high diversity plates to low diversity plates -- a contrast
between well managed soils and neglected soils -- and you start
to get the idea what diversity is all about and why it is important.
There is a memorable piece in the Japanese "Life in the Soil"
video that illustrates this point.
You can also select microbial cultures that start to grow from soils
or composts, identify them by mass spectrophotometry, then culture
them, then add them as an adjunct to compost teas and liquid
biologicals. Agri-Energy Resources in Illinois is doing this
on a commercial basis.
The power of this approach can be understood from Midwest
Bio-Systems' experience in the Georgia vegetable grower's field,
where a virus in bell peppers was "arrested" through an
integrated eco-farming approach that included mineral balancing,
high quality compost application, and amended compost teas
obtained from Agri-Energy Resources. Getting a vegetable crop
to grow out of virus infection through organic and biological farming
practices is a *major* development.
No wonder people are so upset about the NOP rules on
compost teas. The sophistication among organic farmers and
crop advisory labs to implement advanced biological farming
aproaches -- such as sophisticated compost tea blends -- is
years ahead of 95% of the land-grant university of USDA
Incidentally, Agri-Energy hosts this piece that I am fond
of passing along; a synopsis of European and American
viewpoints on the importance of soil life and humus management.
The Soil Life - Humus - Soil Fertility Connection
Likewise, Midwest Bio-Systems hosts this piece on compost
Distinguishing Compost Quality
And this piece,
University Research on ACS Compost from Midwest Bio-Systems
It is sometimes helpful to read a different viewpoint. In the
following piece, Johnny Agulia at ABC ORGANICS summarizes
the difference between "Plate-Count" and "Direct-Look" methods
for microbial analysis. Be sure to read the "French Poodle effect"
to gain a hands-on appreciation for the biological farming approach
versus the NPK farming approach.