Wait… It’s alive? For some novice growers, the recognition that healthy soil is living soil, is one that doesn’t come instinctually. We’ve all seen some of the things that live IN soil, worms, ants, pill bugs, mice, even going up the food chain to snakes and other sub-terranean animals. But the concept of ‘living soil’ goes much deeper, and gets much smaller.
One of the keystones of regenerative agriculture is the idea that microscopic organisms (microbes, as they’re known formally) are the true powerhouse of your soil. Minerals, nutrients, and carbon, are all essential components of healthy soil, without which your plants would struggle to thrive. Microbes are the driving force that creates this connection between your cannabis and the soil; they make nutrient uptake possible. Every input your plant consumes was made bioavailable with the help of microbes.
Though this is a large reason why microbes play such an important role in your soil, nutrient uptake is far from the only factor that makes microbes so essential. Other functions performed by beneficial microbes include nutrient liberation and nutrient cycling, breaking down crop residue, disease suppression, nitrogen fixation, and so many more. Different microbial species perform these essential functions in your soil, which is the reason why soil microbial diversity is so crucial. The more species present in your soil, the more functions that are possible.
"Figure: Effects of high microbial diversity in soils. Soils with high microbial abundance and diversity can support pathogen suppression, increase nutrient availability for crops, and enhance nutrient cycling..." Figure credit: Laura Kaminsky.
So why is this so impactful for cannabis growth? For small-scale growers, cannabis can be somewhat of a finicky plant to cultivate as well as an expensive passion project, so having microbial support from your soil aids in providing the nutritional needs of the crop. The nutrient demands of cannabis means that readily accessible nutrients become critical as the plant nears & enters the reproductive/flowering phase of the plant’s lifecycle; you can’t play catch-up with cannabis, so having diversity of microbes aids in providing appropriate nutrition. Diverse microbes can help to make nutrients in your soil available as your plant needs them, reducing the amount of work you need to perform to stay on top of your growth goals. The support that microbially diverse soil provides can not only improve your plant’s growth and “health and wealth” rates, but also supports the development of nutrient-dense flowers with a richer concentration of cannabinoids such as THC, THCA, and CBD. You can get more out of every plant you cultivate.
Professional-scale growers know that microbially rich soil can help to increase the ROI of every harvest. In addition to promoting increased oil and resin production, a diverse population of beneficial microbes aids in providing the plants ability to naturally resist pathogen attack through competitive exclusion and bio-sanitation. Pathogens, diseases, pests, and weeds can easily thrive in environments where there is little competition for resources. A large population of diverse microbes means that there is a more intense competition for resources. Microbes that are in a symbiotic relationship with your plants are more readily able to out-compete and even consume pathogens before they have the chance to decimate your crop.
Healthy soil is a living ecosystem, with billions of different organisms working together. Soil biodiversity is one of the most critical components to supporting healthy plants, and can be a determining factor in the quality of your overall harvest. Whether you grow in a living soil like Purple Cow IndiCanja or Crafter’s Mix, or just support your garden soil’s microbial population using a liquid biological such as BIOACTIVE LiquiLife, the 'living' element of your soil is one of the most important factors for success.