Research Publication Title

Drought Conditions and the Effects on Soil Biodiversity at Babe + Sage Farm

Presenter Information

Callum LeverFollow
Mary PlaucheFollow

Major

Environmental Science

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Allison VandeVoort

Keywords

Drought, Nematodes, Macroinvertebrates, Sustainable Agriculture, Babe+Sage Farm

Abstract

During the fall of 2016, middle Georgia was in a mild drought. This presents some obvious challenges to farms, but also can harm an unseen part of the farm, namely the soil biodiversity. A large part of soil health is an abundance of microorganisms living in the soil and their ability to perform soil functions such as nutrient cycling, creating flow paths and decomposition of organic matter. It is impractical to try and count every organism in a soil, so nematodes and macroinvertebrates were used as a soil health indicator. Tilling, or turning the soil, destroys entire soil ecosystems. Babe + Sage practices reduced tilling, so an advanced community of microorganisms would be expected if there was not a drought. Two sites were studied at the farm. One site was inside a hoop house and the other was in an open field. Both sites are watered daily, but the loamy sand soil has poor water retention and the dry, sunny days increase evaporation. Soil from each site was placed in a berlese funnel to extract the macroinvertebrates and a Bearmann funnel was used to extract nematodes. The number of organisms was counted and identified to the class level with a stereomicroscope. The hoop house had a greater number of microorganisms as well as concentration of nematodes than the field did. There was also greater diversity in the hoop house. 11 species of invertebrates were found in the hoop house compared to just 5 in the field. The hoop house has a healthier soil than the field because it is cover, which reduces evaporation and it has a larger organic component in the soil, which increases water retention. It was recommended that more organic matter be added to the field soil to increase water retention and help the soil health recover.

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Drought Conditions and the Effects on Soil Biodiversity at Babe + Sage Farm

During the fall of 2016, middle Georgia was in a mild drought. This presents some obvious challenges to farms, but also can harm an unseen part of the farm, namely the soil biodiversity. A large part of soil health is an abundance of microorganisms living in the soil and their ability to perform soil functions such as nutrient cycling, creating flow paths and decomposition of organic matter. It is impractical to try and count every organism in a soil, so nematodes and macroinvertebrates were used as a soil health indicator. Tilling, or turning the soil, destroys entire soil ecosystems. Babe + Sage practices reduced tilling, so an advanced community of microorganisms would be expected if there was not a drought. Two sites were studied at the farm. One site was inside a hoop house and the other was in an open field. Both sites are watered daily, but the loamy sand soil has poor water retention and the dry, sunny days increase evaporation. Soil from each site was placed in a berlese funnel to extract the macroinvertebrates and a Bearmann funnel was used to extract nematodes. The number of organisms was counted and identified to the class level with a stereomicroscope. The hoop house had a greater number of microorganisms as well as concentration of nematodes than the field did. There was also greater diversity in the hoop house. 11 species of invertebrates were found in the hoop house compared to just 5 in the field. The hoop house has a healthier soil than the field because it is cover, which reduces evaporation and it has a larger organic component in the soil, which increases water retention. It was recommended that more organic matter be added to the field soil to increase water retention and help the soil health recover.