Recovering Soil after Fire and Drought

Posted by Mark Berndt on 6th Dec 2019

Recovering Soil after Fire and Drought

"Fire recovery: soil impacts and actions"

A YouTube video with Nicole Masters, Agroecologist, Integrity Soils Webinar funded by Point Blue Conservation Science. Picture credit wikimedia commons.

We see fire damage above the ground far too often, though unseen, the damage below the ground is equally devastating. Often the soil life is destroyed or seriously damaged with major losses of fungal and bacterial life. The loss of soil fungi is very serious as it alters the soil fungal to bacterial ratio towards the bacterial end which promotes weed and annual plant growth. Extended droughts can also do the same thing and bacteria can create a waxy, water resistant layer in the soil as a last ditch effort to hold onto the last of the moisture. This results in a soil which is difficult to wet and rehydrate.

To repair the damage and quickly return the soil to production or long term stable systems we need to accelerate succession and push through the weed stage by increasing the soil fungal mass and providing food for it to grow. Of course this does require some water to make the soil life happen, but if a water resistant, waxy hydrophobic layer exists, how do we break through?

The secret is worms and calcium, that's how nature does it and we can promote worm and fungal life with similar foods and liquid vermicast. The calcium breaks through the waxy layers and the vermicast contains proteins and microbes which activate the soil life required to remove the wax and the bacteria that produce it. Adding long term soil life food like fish hydrolysate, kelp, molasses and humic acid will ensure the rebuilding process continues.

Nicole Masters from Integrity Soils has produced the video above which goes into the process in much more detail. It proposes a very good recipe for the recovery brew but it's costs may restrict it's use. Where costs or area to be covered is prohibitively expensive, then the following brew should be considered as a minimum requirement.

7L Fish Hydrolysate
1kg Molasses or sugar
5L Liquid Vermicast
10L liquid lime
1L humic acid
Per hectare with sufficient water to broadcast.

Groundgrocer has a new liquid vermicast from Island Biologicals called BioCast+ which we have found to be very effective. It is a two part system with an activator to kick start the biology.

This recovery system is also wonderful for stimulating soil biology on non drought or fire effected areas and can be the basis for compost teas, extracts and EM-1 fortified solutions.

This message was originally going to promote today as world soil day I hope this information will be of more value for practical ways to build and repair soil. My thoughts are with all those effected by the current fires.

Mark Berndt