There are billions of bacteria, fungi and insects in just a teaspoon of soil and the levels of these micro-organisms are correlated to the amount of organic matter in the soil. They break down crop residue and create glues that hold the soil together and make it hold up against wind and water erosion. Soil life is increased through no-till, cover crops and more diverse crop rotations. There are two simple tests to measure levels of micro-organisms: 1) Measure the number of small earthworm piles (called middens) in a square foot. Ten middens in a square food would indicate a high levels of soil life because earthworms are a good indicator of the presence of other, much smaller, micro-organisms 2) Bury a piece of cotton (some have buried underwear) for several weeks and see the level of decomposition, though this will depend on temperature and precipitation.

« Back to Glossary Index