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ABOUT WILD DIRT NATURE-BASED SOIL NUTRITION AMENDMENTS

 

020124 CDFA WILD DIRT LOGO 250Wild Dirt Nature-Based Soil Nutrition amendments are blended on Restoration Oaks Ranch to regenerate and replicate the healthy soil biology found in nature. Plants have received the proper nutrients and minerals to thrive since the beginning of time through their symbiotic relationship with soil biology. Wild Dirt is going back to our “roots” by focusing on the health of the microbes and their soil ecosystems.

First, we mix a combination of organic compost, sifted vermicast, pre-composted fungal food and several other carefully selected ingredients together. Then, using a large bubbling tank, or "vermi-tea brewer", we let the microbe population grow in oxygenated water. The oxygen encourages the beneficial soil microbes to replicate and thrive, while also preventing the harmful anaerobic microbes from growing. Once the population of microbes has peaked, we then take the "tea" and layer it into a windrow of compost and Biochar. This process greatly increases the richness and diversity of the beneficial microorganisms in Wild Dirt.

Plant roots in healthy soils continuously work with their microbial community by exchanging sugars for the nutrients they need (NPK & other micronutrients). This is nature's way, and this is the way we do it, too.

Wild Dirt Castings are pure worm castings, harvested from worms raised on Restoration Oaks Ranch with 100% locally sourced organic feedstock and native tree carbon. We feed and harvest Wild Dirt Castings weekly; they are an important element in all our Wild Dirt blends.

Wild Dirt Primal consists of plant-based organic compost, organic soil microbe food, our worm castings and carbon from local trees. Wild Dirt Primal increases the microbial population and availability of nutrients to the plants. The microbes and the microbial foods that are introduced with the application of Wild Dirt naturally regenerate and improve the soil structure of the soil ecosystem. 

Wild Dirt Biochar is Primal mixed with organic biochar. Biochar is a form of organic charcoal that is durable housing for beneficial microbes. Its complex structure provides surface area, protection and spaces that can store water and carbon better than most cultivated soils. Healthy soil without biochar will eventually build the structure that biochar does, but it takes longer. Biochar is a passive soil amendment that doesn’t break down very quickly and can stay intact for up to 100 years.

Wild Dirt Biochar adds structure to existing soil, accelerates the increase in microbial populations and the availability of nutrients to the roots. It will have a more immediate effect if it is introduced closer to the root zone habitat of the plants you are growing. If applied on the surface and watered in, it will naturally migrate down into the root zone like other surface-applied materials, but it will take longer for the soil to gain the biochar’s benefits.

Wild Dirt Long-Brewed Teas are microbe-rich liquids that can be applied via irrigation system, as a foliar application or as a soil soak. Our long-brewed teas are the result of freshly harvested worm castings that are placed in a circulating water tank along with selected organic microbe foods for 72 hours. Although it lacks bulk or structure, Wild Dirt Long-Brewed Tea has an exponentially higher population of beneficial microbes and microbial foods than bulk organics. Consider utilizing Wild Dirt Long-Brewed Tea as a cost-effective regenerative maintenance program for soils and  plants.

 

“Healthy soil stores carbon, stores water and feeds terrestrial plant life.”

FROM FERTILIZING PLANTS TO BUILDING HEALTHY SOIL

 

020124 CDFA WILD DIRT LOGO 250Every pound of organic matter can hold an additional 20 pounds of water. Every 1% increase in organic matter results in as much as 25,000 additional gallons of soil water per acre. Each 1% increase in organic matter also provides as much as 30 additional pounds of more available nitrogen per acre (Farmers.Gov, "Making Your Land More Resilient to Drought", 2022).

The USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) COMET-Planner tool reports expected carbon sequestration of 0.31 Metric Tons/acre/year for no-till and 0.20 Metric Tons/acre/year for reduced tillage for most regions in the United States (USDA NRCS, 2021). Assuming this sequestration rate, current no-till and conservation tillage on U.S. cropland sequesters 52 million Metric Tons of carbon per year. This is equivalent to taking 11 million passenger vehicles (or 10% of all registered passenger vehicles in the United States) off the road each year (Purdue University Center for Commercial Agriculture, "Opportunities And Challenges Associated With 'Carbon Farming' For U.S. Row-Crop Producers", 2021).

For soil to be regeneratively healthy, it needs to have a robust, diverse, functioning microbial community. Many inorganic fertilizers deblitate soil eosystems, rendering the soil less cabable of performing its natural functions, which include feeding plants, sequestering carbon and storing water.

Inorganic fertilizers provide mineral nutrients (NPK, etc.) directly to plant life in an immediately usable form, which is why they work, but they can also significantly reduce the population and diversity of the natural microbial soil community. When applied for years and decades, contemporary inorganics work against healthy soil ecosystems and all the benefits to terrestrial earth that come with it.

Wild Dirt Nature-Based Soil Nutrition amendments are blended from plant-based organic materials and carefully selected additives found only in nature. They do not contain waste stream compost, animal manure or non-organics of any kind. The primary purpose of these amendments is to shift plant management practices away from a focus on fertilizing plants directly with inorganic fertilizers to a holistic focus on not only providing nutrients to plants, but to building the health of the soil.

Wild Dirt Nature-Based Soil Nutrition builds soil structure, increases beneficial soil microbe populations and improves the diversity of soil ecosystems.

 

“Healthy soil stores carbon, stores water and feeds terrestrial plant life.”

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INORGANIC AND ORGANIC FERTILIZER?

 

020124 CDFA WILD DIRT LOGO 250By definition, fertilizer is a substance that adds specific chemical elements like Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphate (NPK) to the soil. Soil scientists generally agree that most plants require a total of 17 elements to complete their life cycle (Nature.Com, “Soil Minerals and Plant Nutrition,” 2015). At the molecular level, these chemical elements are nutrients that directly feed plants and, to some extent, organisms in the soil ecosystem.

Fertilizers that provide nutrients to the soil can be inorganic or organic. 

Inorganic fertilizers are manufactured primarily by global agrochemical companies. They are added to the soil for mostly direct and immediate uptake by plant roots, bypassing the symbiotic interactions that occur naturally between plant roots and soil biology. Direct uptake speeds up plant growth and may even be used to manage plant life cycle stages. Excess inorganic fertilizer that is not immediately taken up by plants can become a pollutant that becomes particularly troubling when it gets washed into waterways.

Organic fertilizers are not manufactured, they are harvested from natural materials that are continuously regenerated in the natural world. Organics are added to the soil for mostly indirect and long-term plant uptake through soil biology. Organics work over time to fuel plant growth through the symbiotic interactions between roots and microbes that convert the mineral nutrients of the soil into nutrients accessible to plants. Unlike inorganics, organics cannot pollute because there is never excess and there is never runoff. The biology of the soil ecosystem is frugal, only converting soil minerals into nutrients when the plants need them.

So the difference between inorganic and organic fertilizers is primarily in how they effect the natural soil ecosystem. Inorganics deplete the soil of biology to feed plants directly while bypassing natural ecological processes. Organics increase and diversify the soil biology while combining with natural ecological processes.

 

“Healthy soil stores carbon, stores water and feeds terrestrial plant life.”

THE STORY OF  WILD DIRT NATURE-BASED SOIL NUTRITION

 

020124 CDFA WILD DIRT LOGO 250In February 2019, the Wild Farmlands Foundation and Santa Barbara Blueberries collaborated on a three-year pilot project to transition established berry plants from organic and chemical fertilizers & supplements to natural biology-based nutrition, specifically vermicast. The pilot took place entirely on Restoration Oaks Ranch. Partners included the Community Environmental Council, Santa Barbara City College, Soil Life Services, LLC, Tritech Agriculture, Regenerative Soils LLC, New Frontiers Market, The Coffee Cabin and Gaviota Coast Conservancy (Funder). The pilot was called the Gaviota SOIL (Saving Organics Investing in Land) Project.

The project had many objectives, but a primary one was to see how healthy established perennial berry plants would fare after they stopped receiving the conventional & organic fertilizers & manufactured supplements they were raised on and started receiving only biology-based nutrition. The pilot’s nutrition program consisted of worm castings (vermicast) from organically fed worms raised on the Ranch. Biology-rich castings in bulk and as liquids were applied with discipline to the test field for three years. Click to learn more about the Gaviota SOIL Project.

The SOIL pilot project was a surprisingly simple-to-implement success. In April 2022, the berries and underlying soils in the pilot field were thriving, and the fruit yield was as good or better than the yet-to-be transitioned berry fields still receiving fertilizers and supplements. Science supported the observed evidence, with soil tests showing good levels of nutrients, beneficial biology and other indicators reflecting strong plants in a healthy soil habitat.

In June 2022, after learning how to raise worms and three nervous years of observation and testing, Santa Barbara Blueberries stopped applying inorganic fertilizers and supplements on all their berry fields. We were all thrilled about being another success story for nature-based solutions. The Gaviota SOIL Project was an excellent proof-of-concept for replacing fertilizers with nature-based soil nutrition on a prominent commercial farm. 

The associated food-growing, carbon storing, water storing, landfill, waste stream, pollution and ecosystem benefits of partially or completely replacing fertilizer with biology-based soil nutrition are immense. That’s why we executed the pilot project in the first place. Knowing this, our team also recognized that not everyone growing food or caring for plants is going to acquire and maintain worm bins and build compost windrows. Nor is everyone  going to take the time to completely transition away from traditional inorganic fertilizers and practices like Santa Barbara Blueberries and a few other local farmers and ranchers have done. The organic fertilizer products for sale on the market in 2023 were predominantly focused on chemical nutrients, not biology, and most were little more than expensive microbe food, devoid of meaningful levels of diverse or targeted soil biology. 

In 2023, Wild Dirt was established as a business entity in Santa Barbara County to provide the benefits of biology-based soil nutrition proven through the Gaviota SOIL Project to the South-Central Coast of California. Wild Dirt offers nature-based soil amendments, hands-on implementation assistance, advice and education. 

All Wild Dirt Nature-Based Soil Nutrition products include some combination of worm castings, organic plant-based finished compost, insect frass, biochar, beneficial microbiology feedstocks and wild harvested carbon. All Wild Dirt soil nutrition improves nutrition transfer and the soil building function of healthy soil habitats. 

 

“Healthy soil stores carbon, stores water and feeds terrestrial plant life.”

     
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