Soil organic matter: the heart of the soil

Biodiversity in the soil performs most of the functions in healthy soil. Without this the soil collapses and becomes dysfunctional. Many parts of the world are experiencing devastating droughts exacerbated by dysfunctional soils, lacking ground cover and structure, soil biodiversity with poor water and nutrient cycling.

Biological dysfunction is caused by chemical applications and tilling changing aerobic to anaerobic soil as well as decreased plant and microorganism diversity. Generally speaking under these conditions ground cover will be mainly pioneer grass species that do not contribute many nutrients back to the soil. Microorganisms in turn will migrate to areas which are aerobic with sufficient moisture to provide the nutrients they require. We have eliminated tilling and are excited to experiment with multiple drought resistant ground cover mixes- e.g. grasses, clovers, flowers, herbs.

Chemical destruction on the other hand is brought about through the use of fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Not only do they negatively impact and hinder the function of soil microorganisms, they destroy the natural ecosystem and balance of nature. This will eliminate natural predators and alter the existing SFW (soil food web). In 2015, when we bought the farm, about 35% of the olive fruit was damaged by insects or fly strike. Last season (2021) the damage to the fruit was about 0.5% (negligible). Why? Because we have allowed nature to balance itself, eliminated chemical disturbance and allowed biodiversity to flourish, creating stability. We decided not to use chemicals to combat these problems, it took about 3 years for there to be a noticeable difference. Now after 6 years we can enjoy the full benefit of organic farming. The benefits of these practices is reflected in our organic extra virgin olive oil; the colour, taste and nutritional value providing exemplary results each year.

I believe much of the worlds drought could be prevented through correct soil management. This worldwide problem needs to be addressed first by raising awareness and educating individuals about the heart of the matter, which is restoring fully functioning soils. Are you in it for the long haul, we need more worriers for the cause!!!

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