UNITY, Maine — The annual Spring Growth Conference presented by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) and held at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity is a daylong event that digs deeply into topics that impact farmers, whether a specific crop, technique or management practice. The 2017 conference, to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 4 (snow date March 5), will focus on life among the roots: soil microbiology.
MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference: Soil Microbiology
March 4, 2016
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
(Snow date March 5)
MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center, Unity
Keynote speaker Will Brinton of Woods End Laboratories in Mount Vernon, Maine, will present “Healthy Soil: A Biological Plant Mediator and Microbial Battleground.”
Brinton started his soil testing lab because he believed organic farming required a different soil test. Conventional farming, based on mineral nutrition theory, is served by testing inorganic factors. Organic farmers have always seen soil as a vibrant, living (biological) system and have always professed to feed the soil so that the soil could feed the plant. In this view, a healthy soil may be largely self-sustaining, supplying plants with what they need for nutrition and pest defense – without significant intervention. Yet few soil testing services deeply address this biological system and the ability of soils to feed plants.
Meanwhile, over time many elements of mineral theory have moved into organic practice, such as the popular focus on soil mineral balancing.
The increased popularity of “soil health,” however, has created new interest in scientific means of depicting soil biology and nutrient capacity. If successful, these developments may influence organic approaches. The sweeping innovation of no-till practices, an outgrowth of intensive chemical farming, is also pressuring organic practitioners to reexamine soil management methods to incorporate the underlying biological basis of fertility.
Brinton will explore the need for a rigorous soil biological perspective in addressing soil fertility, and he’ll discuss different approaches to building biological soil health. Should we add new microbes to our soils via commercial inoculants, for example, or should we try to support existing microbial communities in situ? Like any other farm animals, microbes need to eat and will compete with other organisms to acquire and alter a niche. Farmers can use manure, compost and green manure crops to feed indigenous organisms and to help create a biological balance that can minimize populations of crop disease organisms and confer long-term stability to soils.
Brinton will discuss his Solvita soil test as a way to introduce soil biology to mainstream soil testing labs. He will address how a more expansive understanding of the interrelated biological, chemical and physical factors that determine plant health and nutrition could impact organic, sustainable, regenerative soil management practices.
Brinton will also discuss the role of soils and good farming practices in relation to climate change and mediating atmospheric CO2 levels. After the keynote a panel of organic farmers will discuss how they improve and feed soil microbes in their farm systems.
Registration (includes lunch): $75 individual and $100 couples. FMI and to register, please visit http://mofga.org/Events/SpringGrowthConference.
Youth Program and Child Care Available
MOFGA and Northwood Natural Learning are also excited to announce a new youth program in conjunction with the annual Spring Growth Conference! While adults are learning inside, kids will spend the day outside. By playing, exploring and learning with skilled nature mentors, they will build on the naturalist knowledge, survival skills and deep nature connection practices that can support them to be confident connected nature enthusiasts for life. To register your children, please call the MOFGA office at 568-4142. Cost for the program is on a sliding scale of $20 – $40 per child, but please do not let cost be a barrier. No one will be turned away because of cost. Registration will close when the class is full.
Childcare is also available for children under the age of 4 separate from the Northwood program. Registration is available by calling the MOFGA office.
—The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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