Big questions with microscopic answers. Microbes through the looking glass

Big questions with microscopic answers

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Big questions with microscopic answers. Soil microbes through the looking glassI have had one of those conversations with a couple of young guys today that makes me think, “Damn, so much left to learn and so few years to do it in!”

I met with a guy named Ash Martin, principal of Microbiological Laboratories and his assistant Dr Ta Nguyen to discuss possible work we could do together in soil microbe improvements. But in order to get there in the conversation, I asked him how he had gotten this far in microbe analysis, identification and measurement. His answer was enlightening as it exemplified everything that is good in scientific development. He said, “I studied the great works of biologists who have gone before me and I set about building onto this work.”

Pioneers by their very nature will not get everything right. They develop a theorem and either prove it or disprove it. Just because they have come to a conclusion does not mean it’s necessarily the correct one, but based on the knowledge they have thus far, the answer becomes more of a ‘valid way-point’ in exploration.

In this case, soil biology and its relevance to carbon sequestration as well as plant health is relatively new in terms of being taught and accepted in mainstream agriculture. This is mainly because it has been quite difficult to analyse, measure and identify. Dr. Elaine Ingham from today is not an old woman, yet she is credited with naming more soil bacteria than any person before her. And she says there are thousands more to give names to as they become identified.

So, whilst the population of species yet to be discovered is vast, soil biologists like Ash Martin and Ta Nguyen are content to take small steps with their everyday analysis of farmers soils for microbial content. They note if the variations they see along the way form new patterns or distinctive discrepancies with past theorems. Or maybe looking too hard can cause an aberration. Whatever, they are a small business with a few highly skilled people measuring and discovering incredibly powerful and, sometimes, useful organisms that we take for granted under our feet. And they’re looking at OUR farm soils.

I know at this reasonably late stage in my farming career that so many answers to mankind’s very large and often adverse creations lie in the soil and its microscopic inhabitants. What I can do about it and how I can work alongside such biologists to get this knowledge back out into the paddock is up to me. Just as the researchers who went before Ash and Ta eventually ran out of time and passed on the baton of knowledge-thus-far to new and dedicated scientists, so we all should share the findings with the next generation for them to build upon.

Thanks for the insight today, gentlemen.

Nic Kentish
RCS Advisor and Educator
Nic Kentish in the paddock









Here at RCS, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with wide-ranging and holistic advice. We have close relationships with an extensive network of the industry’s leading experts, such as Microbial Laboratories Australia, and thus can offer you a complete advisory package. Contact us to discuss how we can work together to advance every aspect of your business.

Don’t leave now! Read another great article by Nic Kentish:
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