Helping Trees Help Themselves
by James Davidson, conference blogger
“I am a community of one trillion,” Michael Phillips said.
Even though he looked to be one six-foot-something bearded man wearing a gray vest, Michael Phillips, author of the popular orcharding book The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist, insisted he was part of a community of bacteria and fungi and countless other microscopic creatures, and it is this wider view that he brings to growing fruit.
During an inspiring full-day pre-conference presentation, Phillips discussed the idea that fruit trees are also parts of multi-faceted vibrant systems. Learning more about these living communities and how to support their health allows orchardists to use nature’s own power to avoid chemical culture and get beyond even standard organic practices. A holistic approach is not only better for the environment, Phillips said, it also leads to healthier trees and more nutritious and flavorful fruit.
Phillips himself grows fruit on his two-acre Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire. Inspired in part by his wife Nancy’s holistic approach to human ailments, as well as a desire to spray less sulfur on his fruit trees, Phillips came up with some practices designed to enhance a tree’s natural defenses.
A large part of it comes down to fungal duff management. Fungal duff refers to the decaying organic matter and fungal community living beneath a tree. Whereas many standard agricultural practices, even in the organic world, tend to tip the balance toward a bacteria-dominated environment, the best spot for a fruit tree is one that mimics forest edge conditions, where the fungal biomass in the soil outweighs the bacterial biomass by a factor of 10 or more.
Standard substances in the organic toolbox, including copper and sulfur, are okay, Phillips said, if used sparingly and for the right reasons. But the rest of the time, orchardists should focus on keeping the trees in optimal health by fostering the natural defense systems of the trees, particularly on a microscopic level.
Phillips says this is best done through “biological reinforcement,” including applications of nutrient-rich organic materials that in turn enhance beneficial fungal communities both on the tree and in the soil. Phillips proceeded to explain some of these new practices, many of which are detailed in his new book, The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way.
I spoke with some of the attendees afterwards to get their reactions to the program. David Sullivan and Julianne Kellogg of Little Rock, Arkansas, said the main reason they decided to come to the sustainable ag conference was to see Phillips, and they were not disappointed. Both are interested in holistic livestock management practices, and they enjoyed seeing how a holistic outlook could be applied in an orchard setting as well.
Elizabeth Beak, an agricultural consultant from Charleston said, “It was absolutely fantastic.” She enjoyed hearing about how better plant nutrition ultimately can improve human nutrition. She hopes one day to plant some peach and pomegranate trees of her own.
Meg Smith spoke for many of the attendees when she said afterwards, “My head is full!”
It was indeed a lot of information to take in, but Phillips emphasized that as overwhelming as it may seem at first, each orchardist would settle in on his or her own set of issues and would not have to be an expert on every pest and disease. The main point was to do everything possible to help the trees help themselves, thereby avoiding pest and disease problems in the first place.
“It’s really all about biodiversity,” Phillips said.
SAC 2012 Workshop - Federal Sustainable Agriculture Policy Efforts
by Jacqueline Venner Senske, conference blogger
Generally speaking, the Farm Bill is kind of a hot mess.
This legislation shapes agriculture in this country. It determines what farmers grow and what support they get and generally underpins everything about food production and consumption.
That said, much good comes out of it. And without it, we lose ground on the battles that have helped to advance sustainable agriculture in recent years. And it does some really good things, like providing funding to staff and researchers at places like the Center for Environmental Farming Systems.
Think You Know the Farm Bill?
Sarah Hackney is the Grassroots Coordinator at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and her presentation and demeanor were accessible and open yet savvy. She had us take a quick quiz. Read what’s below, but don’t scroll down to peek until you’ve done the exercise.
Rank these components of the Farm Bill from biggest to smallest.
- Conservation Programs
- Crop Insurance Subsidies
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Commodity Subsidies (direct payments)
- SNAP: $775 billion
- Crop Insurance Subsidies: $90 billion
- Commodity Subsidies: $67 billion
- Conservation Programs: $65 billion
A couple of things surprised me here. First, SNAP is not only the biggest component of the Farm Bill; it’s the biggest by a HUGE amount. Second, funding for Conservation Programs is nearly on par with Commodity Subsidies, which is good. Ms. Hackney noted that many think the reason this year’s nationwide drought didn’t turn into a Dust Bowl is the conservation programs put in place over the last 50 years.
The Situation Now
It’s time for a new Farm Bill. Congress allowed the 2008 version to expire September 30 without putting a new one in place. The Senate passed its version, but the House’s version is stalled in committee. And Congress is on break through the election. When they return, it will be for a lame duck session lasting just a few weeks. To pass the Farm Bill by yearend, it has to get out of committee, passed in the House, reconciled with the Senate version, and then approved by both branches. Possible, but unlikely.
What’s more likely in the current political context – one characterized by polarization, brinksmanship and a lock of bipartisanship and in which the Fiscal Cliff must also be addressed before the end of the year – is that the House and the Senate pass a continuing resolution to maintain the status quo.
A third option is doing nothing. If neither this Bill nor a continuing resolution is passed before year end, come January 1, funding for many programs (especially ones that advance sustainable agriculture) ends, and all federal farm policy reverts to 1949 policy. Talk about a hot mess.
So what’s to be done?
Call your representatives. Read more about the Farm Bill on NSAC online. Talk about the Farm Bill to everyone you know. Call your representatives. Learn more about the Farm Bill. Tell your story, if you’re a farmer or food producer – through media, to organizations like CSFA, to anyone who will listen. Call your representatives. Sign this petition. And did I mention to call your representatives? Government representatives WANT TO HEAR FROM THEIR CONSTITUENTS. A call gives them a story they can connect to and a relatable cause they can champion. It provides them the best, most concrete information about the direction and actions they should pursue. And it makes your voice heard.
So speak up.
SAC 2012 Workshop – FoodCorps: A Tool for Growing Farm-to-School Capacity workshop
by Jacqueline Venner Senske, conference blogger
FoodCorps is amazing and totally inspiring. The morning session on Saturday was a little chaotic – or maybe kinetic is a better term for it – but the energy in the room was incredible. FoodCorps service members from around North Carolina didn’t just tell us about their incredible experiences teaching kids about food and how it grows; they showed us. They demonstrated how they get kids to eat the food (Telling a second grader, “I need you to put it in your mouth. And swallow.”), how they engage students about nutrition (One talented service member led the room in a song about the USDA’s new My Plate nutrition recommendations to the tune of “My Girl.”), and we even made food (Collard Wraps with hummus, red pepper, shredded carrots, and a dash of lemon juice. Fun to make, fun to eat, beautiful to look at, and totally easy for kids.)
So let’s back up a second. First, some basics about FoodCorps (pulled from FoodCorps.org):
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy.
We do that by placing motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Working under the direction of local partner organizations, we implement a three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids. Our Service Members:
Teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from
Build and tend school gardens
Bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias
The organization coordinates at state and national levels but operates locally through various partner organizations. In North Carolina, NC 4H and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems host FoodCorps, led by Tes Thraves.
In North Carolina, there are six FoodCorps sites, each with unique partner organizations.
- New Hanover/Brunswick Counties, Feast Down East
- Gaston County, Gaston County Cooperative Extension
- Moore County, Communities in Schools
- Guilford County, Guilford County Cooperative Extension
- Warren County, Warren County Cooperative Extension, Working Landscapes & UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- Wayne County, 4-H & CEFS
Each FoodCorps program in each school looks a little bit different because it develops according to the specific situation. This ability to implement the organization’s three pillars – Knowledge through Nutrition Education, Engagement through School Gardens, and Access through Farm to Cafeteria programs– in ways that work for individual schools seems like it’s a big part of the program’s success.
Another thing that is a huge contributor to the program’s success is the people. FoodCorps members are the kind of people you just want to be around. They have light. They shine. They have bottomless energy and provide constant inspiration. The mission of the organization is important, and founder Debra Eschmeyer is an amazing visionary and savvy leader, but the kids on the ground are its beating heart.
FoodCorps service members are making changes in these communities one kid at a time. And that’s the only way change will happen.
2012 Sustainable Ag. Conference – Farmers’ Markets: Elements of Success workshop
by Jacqueline Venner Senske, conference blogger
Markets are a vital component to local food systems. They also happen to be a trendy pursuit at this moment in time. So when market managers from a variety of locations and situations gather, they find they are dealing with common problems, regardless of the idiosyncrasies of their specific situations.
After creating and running the All Local Farmers Market in Columbia for seven years and creating the new Soda City Market, not to mention also running Caw Caw Creek Farm, Emile DeFelice is an expert on markets. On top of that, he exudes intense energy, a passion for learning, and an active and adaptable thought process. And every person in the room – mostly market managers and a few sellers –hung on his every word.
The session was a combination of narratives on Emile’s experiences and lessons learned, punctuated with profound sound bites, and eager questions from market managers seeking input on their existential challenges.
As any politician knows, sound bites are sexy. Their danger lies in oversimplification, but in Emile’s case, it seems like things really do come down to some basic truths. As he proclaimed, he loves capitalism. He’s obsessed with markets. He loves people and wants them to work happily and well. And in the end his experiences have taught him that while yes, every situation is different, the basic truths still apply.
- Low expectations are the key to happiness. Sounds cynical, but I don’t think this is. What he meant was to be realistic and don’t get overcome with disappointment when things don’t go as well as you hope.
- Set boundaries. This means making clear rules and communicating them. It means when there are penalties for stepping over boundaries, make them effective. And if the penalty isn’t effective, increase it.
- Local food is transpolitical. It’s one of the few things in America where people at both extremes can agree.
And some other useful things…
- Markets that succeed are focused on the success of their farmers and vendors.
- An empty space does not a market make.
- Never get caught selling. In other words, make interactions about building relationships, not just promoting business.
- The good of all always supersedes the good of one.
- Sample. Sample. Sample. The most compelling reason to buy a great product is its taste.
- Programming works. Develop partnerships and innovate. Flash mobs, for example, can offer great energy and interest to markets.
- Being at your Market should be an enhancing life experience for everyone involved.
- Don’t make it hard for people to give you money. Look into recent technologies, like Square Up, if you don’t already use it.
- When it comes to marketing, always go one step past the line.
Emile mentioned some favorite resources…
- Books by Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman’s, a Community of Businesses (ZCoB) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offer great lessons on food, finance, and service. Suffice it to say – it’s a special place. (Full disclosure: The author of this post worked at Zingerman’s Deli for 5 years before moving to Charlotte.)
- Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating
- Zingerman’s Guide to Great Service
- Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Part 1:A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business
- Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader
- Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill
- The Legal Guide For Direct Farm Marketing by Neil Hamilton
by Gillian March, conference blogger
Greenbrier Farms, a three hundred acre organic livestock and produce farm in Dacusville, Pickens County, South Carolina, is operated by Chad Bishop and Roddy Pick. Roddy and Chad have downsized considerably in terms of livestock and are, to a certain extent, having to ‘do-over’. In the last year, they have sold their 287 breeding ewes and the majority of their breeding cows, shrinking the herd down to 37 steers and heifers. Greenbrier Farms used to be in the breeding business for cattle, but now the farm is in the finishing business.
Roddy, who runs the livestock side of the operation, now considers himself a grass farmer as his main focus is on getting his pastures right. In past years when his herd was bigger, he would bring on the hay for the winter. But now, in his words, he has “kicked the hay habit” completely. The cows at Greenbrier Farms are purely grass fed, with a daily free-grazing bucket of minerals (‘cattle health insurance’). A free-grazing system is in place, and each paddock is managed separately in terms of the season and the nutritional needs of the herd. Once a field has been free-grazed and then stripped down with a bush-hog, it will be over-seeded with seasonal specific seed. However, with Roddy’s research and attention to – literally – the grass roots of his land, he hopes to have a multi-species forage system that will be self-sustaining in his five year business plan.
There is no doubt that Mr. Pick is a businessman, but his attention to animal welfare is exemplary. When we, the thirty something spectators, got off the bus and among the pigs, they were as happy running round our legs as puppies in a kennel! The hogs are used to being handled and are extremely calm (well, as calm as a pig can be when exciting things are happening – like the arrival of food or a busload of visitors). Each day, when Roddy brings the feed to his hogs and the minerals to his cattle, he goes on foot. Roddy walks through the herds to be in touch with each member of his livestock, spotting any issues with the wellbeing of his animals off the bat, thus preventing undue stress in dealing with any problems.
Is the livestock business currently keeping food on the Bishop’s and Pick’s tables? This is a transitional period
for the farm and a third of their income comes from agritourism. The old hay barn that was part of the farm when Chad’s Aunt and Uncle owned it has been converted into an ‘events room’ and many weddings are held on the abundant acreage of Greenbrier Farms. Have Chad and Roddy ‘sold out’ to cater to tourism? I think not – this profitable sideline enables them to pay attention to restoring the land and best practices for the livestock..AND all the meals prepared for the weddings and events are locally sourced, with the majority of the meat and produce raised and grown on-site at Greenbrier Farms.
A cut of meat is only as good as the animal it comes from, and the animal is only as good as the forage it eats, and the forge is only as good as the organic matter that is in the earth. Become a grass farmer like Roddy Picks and the animals will practically take care of themselves!
SAC 2012 – Hands-On Mushroom Cultivation Workshop
by Keia Mastrianni, conference blogger
Saturday’s second session was marked with the intention of attending the workshop entitled “Strategies to Organic Beekeeping,” but after discovering its intermediate level contents, I hoofed it on over to the Upstate Children’s Museum for the hands-on mushroom experience with Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mountain.
Unbeknownst to me, I shared a table at the Local Foods Feast with Tradd and his wife, Olga Cotter, the night before they were awarded the honor of CFSA’s Young Farmers of the Year.
The Cotters own and operate Mushroom Mountain, a cultivation and spawn supply company in the foothills of South Carolina that specializes in many strains of edible and medicinal mushrooms. Tradd Cotter is as much a scientist as he is a farmer. Pre-conference goers had the opportunity to tour Mushroom Mountain and enjoy a more in-depth look into mushroom cultivation and the Cotters’ immense wealth of fungal knowledge.
At the workshop,Tradd invited people to become masters of their own mushroom domains by teaching a mixed crowd of experienced growers, beginners, and wannabe cultivators to “think like a mushroom.”
He began with ecology, discussing the cyclic nature of mushrooms and their inherent desire to remain in a vegetative state.
“Mushrooms only fruit when they run out of food,” says Cotter. He demonstrated three easy ways to cultivate mushrooms.
Log cultivation was first. This easy way to cultivate mushrooms requires little to get started. Those interested need only a fresh cut piece of deciduous softwood (oak, maple, sweetgum, poplar, ash), a drill, a drill bit, a hammer and a small amount of melted wax. Shitake mushrooms are a popular strain with log cultivation and, Tradd mentions, quite forgiving to the neo-mycophile. The process was simple- drill holes in the log, insert a spawn plug, wax over the hole and wait.
Mushroom Mountain offers spawn for log cultivation in two forms- spawn plugs and sawdust spawn. The class was given various spawn to inspect with their noses, a favorite pasttime of Cotter’s.
Next was a demonstration on wheat straw cultivation. Essentially, a stew of cooked wheat straw is mixed with other media – like cotton hulls, beet pulp, or alfalfa – drained, and then mixed with mushroom spawn before being placed in a fruiting container. Attendees were encouraged to take a bag of the straw mixture home to cultivate their own mushrooms.
Cotter was so generous fielding questions that the group nearly missed a demonstration on how to construct a wood chip bed for King Stropharia production.
Cotter emphasized the role that mushrooms play in sustainable practices. Mushroom cultivation can contribute to vermi-composting and are a fine way to recycle materials like wood chips or cardboard. Mushroom Mountain also pioneers the use of mushrooms for medicinal purposes.
SAC 2012 – Student Panel
by Keia Mastrianni, conference blogger
One of the final sessions of the CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference gathered a panel of young minds from upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina universities together to share the important work they are doing across the region in the name of sustainability.
The event was hosted by Dr. Laura Lengnick of Warren Wilson College and featured six student leaders who shared their work which covered a broad range of topics from building forest gardens to implementing sustainable dining policies and senior thesis projects.
Macon Foscue, a student at UNC-Asheville, led the individual presentations, sharing a project he participated in last spring where he and a group of students built a forest garden with the goals of adding a sustainable eco-system to his college campus.
Also from UNC-Asheville, Julie Loveless ,shared her work on bringing more sustainable foods to her college campus. Loveless emphasized the human health aspect of sustainable eating and discussed the incredible work that has occurred inside the UNC-A dining halls, incorporating more plant-based and local foods to student meal options. Loveless also stressed a three-pronged approach to sustainability that addresses issues from social, environmental and economic aspects.
Alexis Hand from Warren Wilson College shared a similar interest in bringing sustainable foods to students. She is currently working on developing a sustainable dining policy that utilizes a food scoring system and adaptive management approach. Hand works directly with panel facilitator, Dr. Lengnick.
Presbyterian College student, Paul Rice, shared the progress and development of an anonymously donated plot of land for a sustainably run student garden.
Furman University was well-represented by students Coleman Allums and George Flowers who have both traveled the world in the name of education and sustainability research. Allums shared his personal experiences living on a small farm in Italy along with his work on the Furman Farm.
Flowers also shared his experience learning about “agri-culture” through travel and how his work in Tanzania influenced his senior thesis project which unearths the meaning of sustainability across five cultures.
The panel facilitated meaningful conversation in a Q & A following the presentations and inspired dialogue for continued collaboration. Loveless called for “sustainability to be interdisciplinary.”
Fellow students in the audience asked questions relating to their own work and each student on the panel expressed the impact their work has had on their lives as it relates to food and the environment.
The student panel was truly awe-inspiring. It was a session that embodied the resounding message of the conference: that we all have an obligation to mentor and nurture the future of sustainable agriculture.
SAC 2012 Workshop – Cooking with Local Ingredients
by Jacqueline Venner Senske, conference blogger
Listening to speakers who are deeply passionate about what they do is magic. Both Chef Patrick Wagner of the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas and Meredith Mizell of Red Fern Farm glow with passion for what they do and they beamed at the opportunity to share it with others.
Chef Patrick delivered his presentation, “Cooking with Local Ingredients with a Focus on Herbs,” with the skill and clarity of an experienced teacher. And, as any good food professional knows, a taste of something delicious to accompany a presentation ensures a positive reaction. On Saturday afternoon, we got to sample Slow Roasted Beef Short Ribs with Mustard Greens, Melted Onions, Roasted Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes, and Apple Chutney. In a word, YUM.
His presentation offered exactly what you would expect – useful cooking tips and techniques from a pro, along with recipes and suggested flavor combinations. One of the most intriguing suggestions was the combination of lavender and black pepper as a rub for beef and game. He also mentioned adding rosemary to the mix.
A few of my favorite highlights from Chef Wagner…
- The flavors of dry herbs are twice as concentrated as that of fresh herbs.
- Be careful when cooking meat seasoned with a dry rub, a paste, or a marinade. Excess seasoning may stick and burn.
- High acid marinades will cook the proteins in the meat. Cook marinated meats at t lower temp.
- When cooking grains, stirring releases starch. This very useful when making a risotto as you want the start to create a sort of sauce. To get fluffy rice, however, resist the urge to stir! In fact, Chef Wagner recommends starting in on the stove but finishing it for the last 10 minutes to so in the oven to remove the temptation to stir.
- Kosher salt for cooking and seasoning. Sea salt for finishing.
Next up in the session was Meredith Mizell of Red Fern Farm, where she specializes in culinary and medicinal herbs. Meredith pur
sued a graphic design career for several years before returning to her family’s farm. Since then, her passion for herbs has led her to become an expert on growing, drying, and product development. Besides selling fresh and dried herbs, Meredith makes baked goods containing herbs, herb butters, herb-infused vinegars, salves, dream pillows, and more. She hopes to add teas to her produce list very soon as well.
Meredith has learned from her customers that the biggest barrier to using more herbs is storage. Toward that end, she provided Storage Tips for 15 Fresh Herbs. The general theme is to treat them like fresh cut flowers – trim the ends and store upright in a mason jar with fresh water. It’s also helpful to pull an open plastic bag over the top of the upright herbs.
These two presenters spoke about a similar topic from different but equally interesting perspectives, and I left excited to try much of what I’d learned. As Chef Wagner pointed out, knowing the story of your food imbues it with meaning, and having a relationship with the people growing it adds value. Those of us growing and producing food know this perhaps better than anyone. But understanding how to get the most out of that food, how to make its flavors come alive, is one of the most compelling arguments for eating local.
SAC 2012 Workshop: Best Practices in Soil and Water Conservation through Livestock
by Gillian March, conference blogger
I was expecting a technical and scientific presentation, but instead the seminar proved to be an entertaining and informative discussion forum. Whether this was the intent of presenter Jill Epley, I am not sure, but she probably enjoyed the flowing discussion as much as we did in the audience. There were farmers present with acreages ranging from small to large; and so, the question is, “Can the same guidelines be followed when acreage is in abundance as when it is in short supply?” I believe that the answer that came from the seminar is “yes”.
Charles, a rancher from Braebun Farm in North Carolina, was ranching as soon as he could walk. He truly believes that the adjective “intensive” in the phrase ‘management intensive grazing systems’ references the management rather than the grazing – in other words, if you intensively manage your land then, (reducing this to a simplistic plane), everything falls into place. Charles felt that the focus should not be on over-seeding specific grass for seasonal grazing, but instead should be on the methods themselves at the level of the soil.
A discussion ensued about which type of grazing provided the best management – free grazing or mob grazing (the latter is measured as 1,000 lbs of animal per acre). The consensus was that the crux of good grazing methods is in the livestock taking down the forage to a reasonable stubble. Some members believed that mob grazing allowed animals to be picky and eat only the forage that suited their tastes, and therefore felt that livestock should be left in a pasture until they have eaten everything. This reminded me of being a child and having to stay at the table until my plate was clean before I could have dessert – and for the cows the “dessert” is being moved onto some fresh new forage. Others believe that mob grazing results in what doesn’t get eaten getting trampled, and this clears the field just as well.
This is what I believe most of us took away from the seminar – that forage is only as good as the soil and the soil is only as good as the management practices. Not to be too hard on some farmers, but when one sees animals on pasture where there are bare patches of dirt, it is perhaps due more to poor management practices in terms of grazing techniques rather than climate and geography . In the Southeast U.S., only extreme drought will prevent pasture growth and, if one allows the grasses to flourish that are indigenous to the area, then a farmer’s livestock should be guaranteed green pasture year round. Good grazing management practices will enable pastures to re-seed themselves as healthy land will contain a few decades supply of seed in the earth. Once bare patches begin, then erosion sneaks in and it will take decades to restore good topsoil and grow healthy forage.
Ms. Epley gave us six golden rules for soil formation: 1) soil must be covered at all times with vegetation, 2) good mineral content (so first rule of thumb is get your soil analysed), 3) air, 4) water, 5) living things in the soil and living things on top of the soil, and 6) intermittent disturbance (which for the farmer/rancher would be his livestock ‘mobbing’ their way through his pastures).
So, if we manage well, Mother Nature will take care of the rest.
SAC 2012 Workshop: Fungal Dynamics Underlying Plant Health
by Apoorva Srivastava, conference blogger
With a background in public health, understanding the concept of the human body and disease comes naturally to me. The intricacies of plant health and the infectious modes, explained by Michael Phillips, was a humbling reminder that all life forms are essentially functional and interact with the environment in similar ways.
When it comes to plants, Phillips pointed out the four fungal groups, distinguishing between the beneficial and the disease causing ones. Essentially, in order to tackle the specific disease causing fungi, it is imperative to make sure that the target approach does not also eliminate the beneficial fungi. For instance, the use of heavy metals like copper for eliminating a pathogen also means killing the beneficial ones as well.
When battling with fungal diseases, it is primarily important to know the timing of the infection season, since the visible form manifests only once the plant has been infected and the fungi has reproduced in a large enough numbers to act have a detrimental effect on the plant. This highlights the importance of understanding that, in order to enhance a plant’s immune system, techniques that create a competitive fungal environment – meaning they prevent either kind of fungi from colonizing dominantly – should be employed to keep the plants healthy.
In this light, the right mix of probiotics for trees can provide the right kind of balance, keeping the unwanted fungi from reproducing and damaging the plant in large quantities. Some of the essential components of the right brew are fatty and oleic acids that create an inviting atmosphere for certain microbes. These can be introduced through liquid fish or ground up fish. Alternatively, milk or whey can also be used for keeping infestations of powdery mildew in check.
From what seems like a never-ending list of natural remedies, the probiotics can be targeted either towards the systemic immune system or to the superficial defense of plant cuticles. For instance, salicylic acid from willow trees activates the systemic acquired resistance (SAR) by altering what otherwise may have been optimum pH levels for certain microbes to survive. Oil from the neem tree can repel insects from laying eggs and feed competitive colonization, and the turpenoid components support the SAR as well. Cuticle defense can be acquired through the help of things like coconut soap, horsetail plant, or garlic scapes.