Guideline Index

Chapter 5: Understanding and Managing Soil Biology

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Soil biology serves many functions to sustain plant growth. Find out why soil biology is important; which biota are active in the soil; what regulates soil biology; and how to manage soil biology to support profitable and sustainable dairying.

5.1 Introduction

Dairy systems are generally high input and bearing in mind that all nutrient transformations – be they organic manures or inorganic fertilisers – are mediated by soil biology, any negative impact on soil biology may reduce the efficiency of nutrient and carbon cycles. Being aware of the needs of soil organisms will allow the farmer to make more informed decisions with regard to protecting and enhancing soil condition. Find out what soil biology is, what it does, why it is important, what affects it and how to manage this resource to support profitable and sustainable dairying.

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5.2 Soil [no explanation]Organic Matter[/no explanation]

Soil Organic Matter is the common feedstock that supports soil biology. Find out what it is comprised of and the significant functions it performs.

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5.3 Components of the soil biological community

Soil biology may be described by size, taxonomic group and the functions they perform. Find out what soil biology is, the functions they perform in natural soil processes and where they are located in soils.

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5.4 Why is soil biology important to dairy farmers?

Soil biology is important to production because of the various soil improving functions carried out by the soil organisms. Find out how soil biology influences nutrient supply and loss, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas release, soil structure, pesticide and herbicide degradation and water quality.

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5.5 What regulates soil biology?

There is growing awareness of the importance of soil biology to efficient soil function. Find out what regulates soil biological populations so that favourable management practices can be used to promote biological function.

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5.6 Measurement of soil biology

Currently there are relatively limited options for commercial testing for soil biology. Find out what the future holds using the science of genomics to reveal patterns in microbial community structure and function.

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5.7 Managing soils to improve biology

Opportunities to improve microbial biomass and biological function require management of the primary and secondary regulators. Find out the best management practices to provide air, energy and habitat for soil biology, whilst minimising negative impacts.

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5.8 Microbial inoculants and biological amendments

The interest in soil biology has encouraged market responses in the form of organic amendments, biological inoculants and microbial stimulants. Find out which products have been subject to rigorous and proven testing over time, how to determine if a product is a worthwhile investment and how best to conduct your own farm trial.

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5.9 Summary

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5.10 References

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