LEM: Getting started is half the battle

This is Part Three of a three part series on Local Effective Microorganisms (LEM) by Laura Ney and Kishan Mahmud. You can read Part One here and Part Two here.

On Wednesday, we looked at how LEM is made. Now, it’s time to look at the next step of the process.

LEM-Part3After making the LEM we:

  • Planned and marked our plot layout
  • Planted our plots
  • Built shelters for the compost study
  • Learned how to isolate DNA
  • Plated samples of our 4 LEM barrels for bacterial and fungal colony counts
  • Brewed the LEM liquid phase
  • Sampled and collected over 100 gallons of swine effluent from the UGA swine unit
  • Designed and built CO2 respiration/ammonia volatilization chambers
  • Insulated our LEMs against U.S. winters
  • Designed and built an application system to apply our treatments
  • And took hundreds of base-line samples

After a long, very smelly day of mixing and applying our LEM, False-LEM and Swine Effluent treatments, on Thursday Dec 4th 2014, the project officially began!

Now the real work begins. We have gotten the project off of the ground. The next few years, both here and in Monteverde, we will be measuring microbial activity using home-made CO2 respiration and NH3 volatilization chambers. We will be extracting nematodes from soil samples and analyzing their numbers and community structure. We will extract DNA samples and determine the different types of bacteria that are present and surviving in the soils. We will perform many different chemical extractions in order to measure the available nutrients of the soils. And these are just some of the array of soil analyses that we will preform on our plots. We will also perform various crop analyses which include taking near infra red readings which compare chlorophyll levels (greenness) as well as measuring yield and nutrient content of harvested crops. And maybe at the end of it all, we will have a slightly better understanding of the mystery of nutrient cycling that is constantly going on beneath our feet.  We would love to share our findings and along the way, explain some of the science and mechanisms behind why we are doing what we are doing and how soil does what it does.

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