Simple Soil Life Assay using Cotton
Robust soil life is vital to healthy soils. Soil microbes help cycle plant essential nutrients, release bioslimes, hyphae, and other "glues" that help form soil aggregates, and some even release plant hormones that trigger important plant processes such as flowering! As vital as these tiny soil livestock (as farm manager Andy Cotarelo likes to call them) are, testing for microbial populations or identification can be both difficult and expensive. Inspired by the Natural Resources Conservation Service Oregon challenge that helped spark greater interest in soil microbial health in the United States, ECHO Florida tried our own cotton strip trial to approximate soil microbial activity in different soil treatments. Using strips of cotton sealed in old mosquito netting (to exclude arthropods), we measured the amount of cotton decomposed over time. Check out our methods and results in our recent Research Update Blog. Try it in your own fields or gardens and let us know what you learn!