Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Colonizing Rock Dust

Lantana (lantana camara) is an extremely invasive plant in Australia that takes over vast areas and decreases biodiversity, stifling out other forms of life.

While it is seen by many as a highly noxious weed, apparently it has one hugely rewarding quality - its roots are a universal host of mycorrhizal fungi, which form a hugely symbiotic relationship between a plant's roots and the fungus. The mycorrhiza in the soil provide the fungus with relatively constant and direct access to carbohydrates supplied by the plant, and in exchange the fungus makes minerals and nutrients available to the plant's roots. Mycorrhizal fungi are a hugely important component of any healthy soil, especially in forests, but are often missing from our depleted soils.

According to Darren Doherty, you can encourage the growth of fungus in rock dust, so today I did a bit of an experiment. I screened out some rock dust from a pile of gravel, poured it into a plastic bottle, wet it down, put holes in it, and buried it top down underneath a stand of lantana.

In about 3 months, Peter will pull the bottle out, add water to it, and, and spray it in his food forest to increase the funghal activity there...

For more interesting reading on soil health, check out the Soil Doctor and the work of Dr. Elaine Ingham and the Soil Food Web info. Good stuff!

OK, time to head north to Robyn Francis's Djanbung Gardens in Nimbin to work on her place for a few days before a design course...stay tuned for the happenings on her small 5 acre farm!

1 comment:

  1. Thats the best tip I've had all week, now to find some lantana. Oh, we met on the Keyline course. Im at David Arnold's place in the agroforestry business, and looking forward to some Keyline work on the south coast. Your trip in Aus looks like its been fun, hope mine will be the same. look forward to your posts.