Food Chains

Some soil creatures eat other smaller soil creatures, some just lay their eggs in others so that when the hatchlings emerge they can feast on the body of their incubator. Some cover their prey in gooey slime. All the stuff that alien invasion horror movies are made of is happening right beneath our feet. Scary Huh, does that make you too scared to go outside in your bare feet?

Relax, without all these different kinds of creatures our Earth could not survive, in fact it is us who are the scary monsters

There are many different food chains, they usually end with the meat eaters. Man is at the top of his food chain so it would make good sense for him to ensure that every tier of the chain below him is well taken care of, from the animals and plants he eats to the crops and pastures they eat. To the very soil that the crops are grown in, because in the soil is another whole world of microbial flora and fauna (plants and animals).
There are creatures that convert waste into food for plants, others that break down fibrous carbon material like leaves, sticks and logs into soil. Other creatures gather plant material into small pockets underground that gives off heat as it decomposes and results in the growth of fungi. There are even creatures that “farm” other smaller creatures that can provide them with food.
We are poisoning our backyards, our parks, pastures and waterways so fast we are jeopardising our own survival. Every living creature is a part of the perfect balance and harmony that is nature. When we kill off one species, it will have a butterfly effect on many more.
Most food chains are thought to start with a green leaf.
Snails, caterpillars and insects that eat green leaves are in turn eaten by larger insects, birds or small mammals. These animals themselves then become a part of the food chain as they in turn become food for something bigger.
Unfortunately due to man’s ignorance (lack of knowledge and understanding), the food chain is in a mess, the result is poor soil health which results in disease of plants animals and man.

An example of man’s ignorance that occurred in china in the 1950’s was during the communist regime of a great leader called Mao Tse Tung. He proposed a plan called “the four pests initiative” that was supposed to bring greater prosperity to the Chinese people. The Chinese people were encouraged to kill all rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. It was thought that since sparrows consume about 4.5 kg of grains each, that if they were all killed, 60,000 more Chinese could eat grain again.

What happened instead after the sparrows were killed is history. 30 million Chinese died in a famine that was caused in part due to a lack of sparrows. (The insects that the sparrows would normally have kept in check were able to multiply greatly and decimated the food crops.) No doubt the lack of flies, rats and mosquitoes had repercussions as well.
Although we have these horrific examples in history of what happens when we upset the balance of nature, we continue to invent new more destructive chemicals to kill insect pests and “fertilise” the soil.
Do we still believe we can interfere successfully without there being any ill affects?
Can we correct the mistakes of the past and work toward a more prosperous future?
Where should we start?
You may have heard the saying “start from the ground up”. Well I think that would be the best place to start in our case, because from the soil comes life.

What is Soil

Healthy soil is made up of weathered rock and organic material, water and air. But the secret ingredient in soil that has been overlooked, are the living organisms. Micro-organisms, microscopic animals, insects and worms all flourish in healthy soils.
Minerals and organic matter need to be present in the right balance to sustain soil organisms including fungi, protozoa, nematodes, mites, worms and other tiny creatures found in healthy soils.

These organisms are essential for healthy plant growth. They help convert organic matter and soil minerals into the vitamins, hormones, nutrient and disease suppressing compounds that plants need to grow. Their excretions also help to bind soil particles together.
The organic matter in soil helps to retain moisture and is food for micro-organisms and other forms of soil life. Healthy soil has a lot of air in it. Insects, microbes, earthworms and soil life require air to live. Air also has atmospheric nitrogen in it which is used by plants.
So you can see there needs to be a balance between the components that make up soil, for the creatures in the soil to flourish. What happens to the life in the soil when we use herbicides to kill weeds?
Does some of the chemical get stored in the plant?
What happens to an insect that eats the plant?
What happens to an insectivore (larger insect, bird or small mammal) when it eats the insect?
What happens to the herbivore (rabbit, kangaroo, sheep cow etc.) when it eats the plant?
Does the chemical also get consumed by us when we eat plants or meat that have ingested it?
What happens to the chemical residue when it rains?
In the case of other chemicals like insecticide and fertiliser the same questions apply.
Would we need to apply fertiliser to soil that had a healthy balance of micro-life and organic matter?
Would we need to water crops as much if there was enough organic matter in the soil?
Is it too late to learn how to work with the soil?
Are the repercussions of not learning to work with the soil threatening all life?
It is due to our lack of understanding that the world is on the brink of ecological disaster. We need to change our ways if we are to survive.
We shouldn’t leave this up to farmers, politicians, chemical companies, environmentalists or others. We can all make a difference if we start in our own backyards.