In the 9+ years I have been involved with Nigel, I have seen many changes around our farm. Much of the acreage around us has been converted to walnut orchard. I see plot after plot (ok probably not the farmer term, but after all I am really just a City kid) get ripped. "Ripping" iswhen they take the deep cultivators through the fields to turn up the soil and really dig in deep (I have learned a few things). After that long process, rows are put in, and next the trees are planted. One section down the road, on the nearest corner from us, they ran a ripper day and night for months. Seriously, at least two months, I can't imagine what their diesel bill was like! The sad thing is, this older idea of deeply breaking up the soil before planting trees is so disruptive, disastrous actually, to all of the biology in that soil. In the soil class I took a year ago, I learned how important it is to disturb the soil as little as possible. In doing so, you kill the bacteria, fungi, protozoa, worms, nematodes, etc. and that my friends, is your soil biology. This intricate web of soil life is one of the most interesting things I have ever studied (not claiming to be an expert, still very much a novice here). It is an excellent example of the incredible intelligence of Mother Nature. To explain it really simply, in healthy soil you will find an incredible variety of bacteria and fungi living close to the roots of a plant. Some actually bore into the roots and live in a symbiotic state with the plant, the plants will send sugars down into the roots to feed the bacteria and fungi. In the meantime, they attract protozoa and nematodes etc, which like to feed on them, but the protozoa and nematodes release nitrogen in the forms the plants require. The protozoa and nematodes also form a protective wall around the root system effectively keeping pests away. This is truly a very simplistic explanation of all that goes on, but even still, it is fascinating. And all of this fantastic biology that goes on in the soil creates microscopic pockets for water to be stored, it creates glue to hold soil structure together - humus -humic acid. The balance is truly mind blowing and it is all absolutely necessary for healthy top soil.
This is the true biology of life, the plant takes energy from the sun, sends energy to feed its friends down in the roots, the party goers playing around the roots system keep the bad guys out, sequester carbon, retain water, and feed the plant! So remember, when it is healthy, working the way nature intended, it isn't dirt, dirt is dead. It is beautiful living soil, and ultimately it is SOIL that Nigel and I are growing here on the farm - the produce we all enjoy every week, is the bonus reward.