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So Greg, we’re going to keep talking about biology today in another video but I want to really focus on soil and where all that biology lives around the root structure. There’s a lot of different soils out there in the world and a lot of different properties that they can have depending on where they are located. Certainly! Soils develop over time through the effects of weather, but one of the biggest determinants of the soil that will develop, is the parent material. It’s the rock that’s there that has weathered and broken down through chemical and biological action. That really sets you up for what you’ve got. And also the age of your soil, and how much it has weathered. Soil is defined as the relative proportions and sand, silt, and clay. That’s really important, there are those 3 components. People at home can actually use just a simple jar test, with some water and a little bit of surfactant, to actually see how big the layers are and know what their soil composition is. Yeah, anybody can simply do that at home and that actually gives you a lot of information. It’s not just “look at those cool 3 layers that settled out in there”, but they really tell you how that soil is going to behave and perform. How well it holds moisture, how readily it drains, whether its susceptible to compaction. Yeah, there are so many important things that can come out of soil quality, especially for those outdoor growers. I think this probably is a good point to remind our viewers that, a lot of people say they grow in soil and really what they mean is they’re actually in a soilless mix. Soil, like we’ve been talking about, is actually outdoors and is what you can see in the landscape. A soilless mix is going to be more about organic fibre. A lot of the times it can be based on peat, or on coco pith, or core and so, that’s actually a soilless mix. Now, what we’re going to talk about today is actually something for both of the So what we have is soil or soilless, but we want to amend the soil, and there are so many different ways that you can amend soil. Some of the more general ones that you can think of probably relate to maybe organic matter. Yeah certainly. So, anytime we are amending soil it’s to treat a deficiency in that soil. And most viewers would generally jump to nutrients, and certainly any fertilizer amendment is treating a deficiency with respect to nutrients. But like I mentioned, the relative proportions of sand, silt, and clay, or if you are in a soilless media, those have various properties and while they have been engineered to be great growing environments for roots, they may be limiting in their ability to retain nutrients or support biological activity. In your outdoor garden, the soil you got is the soil you got, and adding more sand or adding more clay is not practical for changing those properties, but there are various amendments that we can add. Compost, manure – organic matter sources, or biochar that dramatically improved the property of those soils with respect to moisture and nutrient holding, porosity, and good airflow to support beneficial biology. It’s interesting, you brought up biochar and that is something we’re going to talk about during this video. This is a pretty new idea in agriculture, except it’s actually a really old idea. This is loosely based on the idea of terra preta down in the tropics. Yeah in, was it Brazil? They found a lot of areas in… those are very weathered soils, in the tropics because you’ve got these hot climates and a lot of rain fall, the soils tend to be very weathered and not very productive. This is a really good point for people because when you think about a jungle, you always think it must be so fertile, but really that soil, because of the heat, the biological activity, is really thin. So that’s a great point, but these terra preta soils actually changed that dynamic. If I can just touch on that comment, if you look at a tropical environment, most of the nutrients in that system are tied up in the vegetation. And very little of it, because you get such a rapid turnover and breakdown of organic matter in the tropics, you don’t get a lot of it in the soil. So if you cut down the forest and plant a garden, they tend to not grow very well. Sure, exactly. Whereas in a temperate climate most of the nutrients in that system, or probably 60% of them, are in the soil at any given time, and the rest is in the vegetative mass. So in a tropical environment, there is a lot that can be done to improve productivity, and they found these pockets of enriched organic matter soils that were very productive. And they traced those back to being former gardens of ancient civilizations. That anthropogenic soil, essentially it’s just like how a lot of our growers are using soilless mixes at home that they are amending, it’s really similar. This was a lot of pottery, plant residues, char from the fire, there was a variety of things they found in these layers and in incredibly productive soil. It’s very difficult to replicate or even understand how it developed because of the age of these deposits. But we definitely know that biochar, on its own, can produce some of the same effects as these rich, dark soils in those tropical rainforest areas. And there’s definitely some things we should touch on in terms of quality of char. Feedstock is one thing that’s really important. What are you using to make the char? What’s the process? The best processes are always going to be that low oxygen, using the gases to really cook down, and essentially what you end up with a biochar is that, well technically what’s called amorphous graphite, but it’s really a hard-walled sponge. That’s the really exciting thing about biochar is what it can do for that soil as an amendment. A well-made biochar, using the proper feedstocks and pyrolysis conditions, will have a very high surface area. Basically, I refer to it as a hotel for microbes. It has charged surfaces on it so the nutrients in the soil are attracted and lightly adhere to the surfaces of the biochar, so they don’t get flushed out with watering and they stay there for plant growth. It helps also hold a lot more moisture… Yeah, air and moisture. To me it’s almost like the edge effect. When you have a forest, the edge of the forest is normally the most productive, and that’s really about surface area. So what you’re saying on surface area at a microscopic level is exactly the same, where it gives more habitat for things to develop. It’s a really interesting organic amendment for soil and we have taken biochar and made it the primary ingredient in our product Black Pearl. Black Pearl though, is more than biochar. So let’s just drill down on what is the main purpose and function behind adding biochar to the soil. Again, it’s to improve those soil properties. Even in a soilless mix that has been engineered – peat, coco coir has a high water holding capacity while still maintaining good porosity in it, but adding biochar can dramatically increase that. And also, while they can hold good moisture and have good air circulation, they may not hold nutrients all that great and they may not be the best environment for supporting a living soil environment, with all the beneficial microbes… I think that’s an important point about the Black Pearl product as well, is that it’s more than just biochar. You’re also getting those organic chelates, different kelp extracts, and also different minerals from rock dust. All of those things act together to improve soil quality, not by just improving the physical but also, giving biology the chance to use some of those additional supplements as well. Things like rock dust can be exceptional for biology. Exactly. We are providing the house with the biochar, but you also need to provide the supermarket for those microbes to thrive, and Black Pearl really considers all that. I think that’s an interesting thing about the industry for gardeners and growers out there, is that everyone focuses on biology now but they don’t necessarily focus on how to keep that biology alive and sustainable within the rhizosphere. It’s really important to think about feeding soil, feeding biology, just as much as feeding the plant. Exactly, you can’t just add the biology and forget about it. If you really want to create that balanced living soil environment, you need to provide for all the needs of the microbes, and that requires shifting focus a little bit from the plant to the soil. In turn, the plant benefits from a healthier soil environment.

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