Jun 15, 2018
Dr. Kris Nichols
has conducted innovative research on soil biology, understanding
how to regenerate soil health quickly. She is the founder and
principal scientist of KRIS (Knowledge for Regeneration In Soils)
Systems Education & Consulting Services. Dr. Nichols has also
been the Chief Scientist at Rodale Institute and a Research Soil
Microbiologist with the USDA.
In this episode, Kris and I
discuss how to harness the power of fungi to decrease the use of
synthetic fertilizers, the symbiosis between bacteria and water
retention, and climate-resilient crops.
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Episode 11 - Kris Nichols - Highlights
3:00 - What are some of the
highlights that have lead Kris to where she is today?
researched mycorrhizal fungi at the University of
worked with USDA and fell back in love with agriculture, especially
when seeing concepts from the lab being practically
7:00 - Not being able to
regenerate soil to full potential when using synthetic
- Organisms in the soil have huge potential to
resolve nutrient issues in plants
- In a
lab, Kris could see this to be true - but many growers were still
relying on synthetic fertilizers
- Need to
put the tools in place to optimize organisms in soil (mycorrhizal
fungi especially) to maximize effects on plants
10:10 - Applying soluble
phosphorus fertilizers removing the need for a symbiotic
relationship between plants and mycorrhizae
is very important when adding amendments - making sure the plant
needs are being met when it has those needs
times, plants are unable to make use of all the fertilizer
“outsource” the job of mycorrhizal fungi
17:10 - What other fertilizers
could have a damaging effect?
fertilizer does the most damage in “outsourcing” the jobs of the
fertilizers are broken down by the microbial communities, and so
they do not cause this same damage
19:20 - Plant and root absorption
of amino acids and proteins
untruth of using synthetic fertilizers to avoid “mining” the
27:10 - Water use
- We have
no idea how much water a plant actually needs!
are cellular water needs, but also in the rhizosphere around the
efficient mycorrhizal fungi (especially early on) allows the
creation of a network for water and nutrient delivery in
34:10 - Layers of efficiency from
- Able to
extend beyond the root system
- Phosphate soluble bacteria interactions with
analogy for how this bacteria helps: Plants are figuring out how to
get water “from the driveway to the house”, instead of “from the
neighboring town to the house”
- Nutrients moving between plants in a system
through mycorrhizal fungi
43:00 - What has been something
that has really surprised Kris?
experience with cancer lead her to think about how essential carbon
exchange was in plants
- Stopping the flow of carbon - “What is stopping
the payment from flowing?”
46:30 - What does Kris believe to
be true about modern agriculture that is not a mainstream
- Regenerative systems allow us to “have our cake,
and eat it too” - meaning are able to feed 14 billion people
nutrient dense food while having a high quality of life and while
maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services
- Incredible potential to do so much more than we
50:00 - What is the impact of
biology on producing higher levels of plant secondary
compounds are coming directly from soil compounds which find their
way to plants - which end up in the food chain
has been so much focus in plant nutrition on nitrogen, potassium,
- Building up a more resilient network - making
more soil aggregates
- Creating a mycorrhizosphere
a good network allows for making secondary compounds
59:20 - What are some resources
that Kris would recommend?
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